Chicago History Museum holds Black Sox Scandal Centennial Symposium

The 1919 World Series was started exactly 100 years ago. Eddie Cicotte, the pitcher of the Chicago White Sox, plunked the leadoff hitter for the Cincinnati Reds. The fix was on as the gamblers got a signal from there. It was later reported that the seven members of the White Sox took money from the gamblers and fixed the match against the Cincinnati Reds.

It was an audacious scandal that continues to fascinate the sports fans around the world. Arnold Rothstein, a real-life gambler, was the key figure of the fix. Nick Carraway and Meyer Wolfscheim were the title characters. Carraway wrote, “I remembered, of course, that the World’s Series had been fixed in 1919.” The Society for American Baseball Research organized a Black Sox Scandal Centennial Symposium at the Chicago History Museum.

Jacob Pomrenke is the chairman of the Black Sox Scandal Research Committee of SABR and he is also the editor of the Scandal on the South Pole, a SABR publication. Pomrenke said, “This story is not just a baseball story.” David Nathan called the scandal ‘the sports crime of the 20th century’. Bill Savage, a professor at Northwestern University and a Cub fan, replied to Pomrenke, “It never is.”

Bruce Allardice, a professor of history at South Suburban College, said that the scandal was a modern fall from grace. Some people raised their voice that the players were poorly paid that is why they fixed the World Series. Michael Haupert, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s professor, presented that the players were not paid poorly. Haupert said, “The Sox had the highest payroll in the American League.” The league average in terms of salary was $3200 per player while the White Sox players got a salary of $3700 per player.

Nathan said, “These guys made good money by 1919 standards.” Eliot Asinof wrote a book about the scandal in 1963 with the title “Eight Men Out”. David Pietrusza said that it was a very good book but it did not make sense if you read it paragraph by paragraph. Bill Lamb also said that the book was not of credible history. There are still a lot of questions that are unanswered about the scandal.

Senior editor of the Chicago Morning Star

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