April 21, 2008

Black Sox Pitcher Says 1918 World Series Was Fixed

In my book on the 1918 Red Sox, I explore the possibility that the World Series that fall between Boston and the Chicago Cubs was crooked.

I could not offer definitive proof that the series had been tainted, but it was obvious that there was no shortage of financial incentive for players on both teams. Additionally, the Cubs mystified many sportswriters with their mistakes in the field, at the plate and on the bases. Two days ago, some news surfaced that may move the 1918 mystery closer to being solved.

First, I started my "investigation" based on notes written after the the 1919 World Series by White Sox secretary Harry Grabiner, Charles Comiskey's right-hand man. The notes were discovered in 1963, resting in -- literally -- a hole in the wall in a storage room in Comiskey Park.

Ed Linn quoted extensively from them in "The Hustler's Handbook", a book he wrote with Bill Veeck. The notes mostly dealt with what White Sox management knew about the 1919 World Series -- they knew a lot, by the way, and they knew it before the series even began -- but Grabiner also listed 27 players he believed were crooked -- Hall of Famers Grover Cleveland Alexander and Rabbit Maranville, among them. Grabiner also wrote this:
Gene Packard: 1918 Series fixer
I spoke with Linn during my research, but I was unable to track down the notes. Well, Grabiner's diary has been found!

The Sporting News reported on Saturday that the Chicago Historical Society won an auction last December for the rights to documents pertaining to the 1919 White Sox. Grabiner's notes are in those papers. But that's not all!

Check out this paragraph from TSN:
Now, it cannot be said for certain that gamblers got to the '18 Cubs. But Eddie Cicotte, pitcher and one of the eight White Sox outcasts from the '19 World Series, did say in a newly found affidavit he gave to the 1920 Cook County grand jury that the Cubs influenced the Black Sox. Cicotte said the notion of throwing a World Series first came up when the White Sox were on a train to New York. The team was discussing the previous year's World Series, which had been fixed, according to players. Some members of the Sox tried to figure how many players it would take to throw a Series. From that conversation, Cicotte said, a scandal was born.
Cicotte says the White Sox got the idea to throw the 1919 World Series from the Cubs, who had thrown the 1918 World Series to the Red Sox!

Having spent six years researching and writing my book, that's a "HOLY SHIT" moment if there ever was one.

A reporter from the Boston Herald told me this afternoon that the Cicotte affidavit is only two pages long. She was unable to get a picture of the document.

Packard played with the 1916 Cubs and some of his former teammates were still with the team in 1918. He also seems to have crossed paths with many players who were either suspected of being crooked or were banned from the game. However, considering the depth of corruption in baseball at that time, Packard may not have been unique in that regard.

There was also a huge incentive for the players to get as much money as they could during the Series. No one knew that World War I would end two months after the Red Sox clinched the series. It was all but certain that there would be no major league baseball in 1919. Every player would be losing a significant portion of his income and they had no idea when they might be playing ball again. In addition, the players felt they had been screwed over by the National Commission regarding their winning and losing shares. With attendance down in 1918, the shares were roughly one-quarter of what they had been the previous year. Both teams delayed the start of Game 5, hoping to get a resolution to the matter.

29 comments:

L-girl said...

This is wild! Very exciting. I look forward to seeing your name out there in connection with this.

redsock said...

The White Sox got the idea to throw the 1919 Series from the Cubs, who had thrown the 1918 Series to the Red Sox!

...

HOLY MOTHERFUCKING SHIT!

Zenslinger said...

What a kick in the nuts.

johngoldfine said...

It's valiant and generous of you to explain the economic and political conditions which might have led to a fixed 1918 Series and which might partially extenuate the players, but it's not really necessary.

We like to fantasize about the innocence of sport, and it's pretty to imagine that some aspect of human struggle is somehow pure and beyond the reach of our darker natures. It's pretty, but that's all it is.

Zenslinger said...

All right, enough with that Laird photo as avatar. It worked today but might turn sour as things go.

Does this, uh, change your feelings about your book? Do you feel like your book is slightly less legitimate now -- or slightly less complete?

It's still on my list.

Jere said...

I'd guess Allan would take the 1918 World Series being in the news over it not being in the news. It's not like they're gonna strip us of the title or anything. And, wait, if it really was fixed, that doesn't say anything bad about our team, right? No worse than winning, say, a strike-season championship. (Hey, it was a shortened season anyway.) Besides, we coulda taken the Cubbies even if they were going all out...

Jere said...

Oh, also, the host on EEI mentioned this, quoting the Sporting News story, a few minutes ago.

ish said...

Well, the Bruins season ends right here and right now. Habs win, 4-0. Meh.

But we were persevere. This isn't like a Red Sox postseason loss because we're not looking towards a deep, dark winter. We're still looking forward into a bright summer with the Red Sox flying high.

And perhaps a new story here, about the 1918 World Series. Very, very interesting stuff.

tim said...

Dammmmn, interesting stuff here. Keep us posted....

*tear* it was fun while it lasted.

im a one sport man now. baseball until late october!

redsock said...

It's valiant and generous of you to explain the economic and political conditions which might have led to a fixed 1918 Series

Actually, it's neither. It's simply the facts of history.

We like to fantasize about the innocence of sport, and it's pretty to imagine that some aspect of human struggle is somehow pure and beyond the reach of our darker natures. It's pretty, but that's all it is.

Yes, it is a fantasy. I'm sure some players during the Deadball Era believed in the purity of the national game. Many more saw it as a job -- a better job than working in the coal mines -- but a job nonetheless. And they tried to get as much money from it as they could -- while they could.

Does this, uh, change your feelings about your book?

No. I still love the book! (I did an interview with the Herald reporter I mentioned in the post. She emailed me at about the 7th inning of today's game and I talked with her for 30 minutes after the game ended. Her story should run tomorrow.)

During my research, I was intrgiued by the possibility that the series could have been crooked. As far as the story was concerned, I was probably hoping it was true. I told her it was too long ago to have any personal meaning for me as a Red Sox fan.

I'm more fascinated by the history. She told me that in these documents there are telegrams from club management (White Sox) to private detectives that were hired to follow players around and spy on them and their mistresses and gather dirt. I love that stuff. I wish we knew so much more about that time and what really went on. But we will never know enough.

Boston was declared the winner in 1918 -- and for me, that is that. In the corrupt 1910s, that is all we can go on, since the truth will never be fully known.

There are serious questions about the Red Sox titles in 1903 and 1912too. Same thing with the crazy NL pennant race of 1908 and the Braves sweep in 1914. And there were plenty of rumours about other World Series, pennant races and lots of regular season games too. Professional gamblers had players on salary in the late 1910s.

It's the same as the steroid era. We will never know everyone who was juicing, so we have to accept the results as the results.

Do you feel like your book is slightly less legitimate now -- or slightly less complete?

No. I went with the information I had at the time. I never expected to find definitive evidence. And I never said there was evidence that the 1918 WS was fixed -- and I don't think Cicotte's affidavit proves it.

But his statement -- along with what was reporting from the games and the general crookedness of the game at the time -- makes a decent case that it COULD have been fixed. Maybe with the insane amount of corruption, that is enough to say it was. I don't know.

I wanna see that affidvait, though!

The 1919 Series was not an aberration. It was the very tiny tip of a giganticly huge iceberg.

ish said...

im a one sport man now. baseball until late october!

I'll still be following the Celtics and the rest of the hockey playoffs, but baseball will trump all. I have a hard time watching an entire basketball game. Go Celtics anyway.

Interestingly enough, it was actually as recent as 2004 - the last time all 4 Boston area sports teams made it to their playoffs.

- Sox won the WS.
- Bruins lost to Montreal in the 1st round.
- Celtics lost to Indiana in the 1st round.
- Patriots won the Superbowl.

Is it tomorrow night yet?

Jere said...

Fred Merkle, after his famous boner in 1908, went on to play in five World Series and lose them all. That includes three against the Red Sox--1912, 1916, and 1918. And then he lost another as a Yankee coach in 1926. The boner seems innocent enough, but then going on to lose over and over, and the fact that he was in Chicago from '17 to '19...I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Okay, before posting this, I decided to do a news search on Merkle to see why he left the game at age 31 during the 1920 season, and I see he was implicated in a 1919 scandal along with 3 other Cubs in 1920, one that was wiped off the front pages when the Black Sox thing hit.... (I haven't read Allan's book yet so I apologize if he's covered all of this....)

Jere said...

Okay, I see now the Cubs-Phillies fixed game is kind of what led to looking into gambling in baseball. This was probably even in the 8 Men Out book/movie, then, I don't remember....

But I don't see anything about Merkle being in on anything, except that one article that says he was one of the four suspected in that game.

Jere said...

This guy talks about Allan Wood possibly having come up with the "fix" theory in an attempt to sell books! Then he says you may be "rehabilitated."

redsock said...

Thanks for that link, Jere.

Let's look at Don Ehrke's first 2 sentences:

In 2003 Allan Wood wrote Babe Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox.

It was 2001. (And that was not the book's original title, though I'll give him a pass on that one.)

In the final chapter he suggests that the Chicago Cubs threw the 1918 World Series to the Boston Red Sox.

In the final paragraph of that chapter, I write: "From the available evidence, it cannot be determined whether or not the 1918 World Series between the Red Sox and Cubs was fixed."

Okay, Ehrke is clearly 0-for-2.

Let's keep reading.

Admittedly, I haven’t read the book

Excellent! That puts you in an ideal position to judge my research.

reviews, however, explain that Wood offers insufficient evidence to implicate the Cubs.

Though, if you had bothered to read the book, you would have learned that I did not implicate the Cubs.

More, Wood's book is self-published and his allegation may be more an attempt to increase sales than a serious investigative effort.

More, if that was my intent, I failed miserably. However, my book was my first self-published book to be reviewed by Library Journal and it received a glowing review in Sports Illustrated.

Now on Monday Don will "look at the likelihood that individual games were fixed".

I can't wait.

redsock said...

I left a comment there, pretty much what I posted above (it's awaiting moderation).

I hope this guy did his homework!

redsock said...

Here is his Part II. I'll look at it more closely tomorrow, but a quick glance shows that he agrees with what I wrote in the book.

Steve9955 said...

Interesting, for sure. However, I don't think that we can ever prove (or disprove) allegations from 90 years ago.

Don't read too much into it.

tim said...

I'll still be following the Celtics and the rest of the hockey playoffs, but baseball will trump all. I have a hard time watching an entire basketball game. Go Celtics anyway.

Yeah, same. But by "following the Celtics" I mean looking at the score and seeing if they're won/are winning the series. I just can't get into that sport at all.

Of course I'll be watching and following hockey, but Red Sox definitely first and foremost!

(Going into a semi-large hockey rant now, as it'll be the last of the summer.)

I was hoping for a 2004 reversal in the hockey series but not this year. Oh well, they got a great young team and I'm still proud of what they did this year...for a team that was supposed to be in the draft lottery...and be swept once they made it and were facing the habs...this is still an accomplishment. They were in it tonight until habs got 2 and 3...then it was basically lights out. Price was amazing. Next year will be great, with Bergeron back and everyone else who really contributed down the stretch.

And yeah, definitely not like a Sox postseason loss for ish's reasons above - and the fact that I really expected the Bs to be gone in 4 or 5...as i said in an earlier gamethread, i would be shocked if it went to 5, awed if it went to 6 and if they won...my head would explode. thankfully my head is still in tact, and we can get on with BASEBALL SEASON!!!

(end hockey rant)


Back to the point of this thread tho - this is a good story developing, loved redsock's FJM-esque post above in rebuttal to Don's interesting post. "I didn't read the book" - way to build credibility on that one, pal!

tim said...

I think we should have a caption contest!

Jack Marshall said...

Redsock, this is great research and a fascinating insight.

I think the 1918 Sox were clearly better than the Cubs anyway, which may be one reason a fix wasn't immediately suggested. The Reds were supposed to roll over for the Black Sox...it was as if the Yankees had lost to the '61 Reds.

Congratulations on your part in this, and also for keeping the assumptions in check.

L-girl said...

I don't think that we can ever prove (or disprove) allegations from 90 years ago.

These are not actually "allegations". The affidavit is more like a confession.

But historians certainly can provide credible theories of events that happened 90 years ago, depending on what evidence is available.

There will always be disagreement, but there is disagreement about events that happened 5 years ago, and last week, and things that are happening right now.

L-girl said...

I think the 1918 Sox were clearly better than the Cubs anyway

Jack, I'm curious what that is based on? Are you a big deadball era guy?

L-girl said...

Do you feel like your book is slightly less legitimate now -- or slightly less complete?

No. I went with the information I had at the time. I never expected to find definitive evidence.


I also wanted to add that the possibility of the fix is a minor part of Allan's book. Most of the book is about Babe Ruth and the 1918 season itself, all the turmoil and the issues involved.

Jack Marshall said...

I am tempted to say, "I saw them play," but you probably wouldn't believe me. I'm not a big dead-ball guy, but I know my early Sox teams, have read your book, and know the period and the personnel pretty well. No question that the Cubs dominated the NL more than the Sox did the AL...I think the Cubs offense was inflated by a weaker league and Wrigley, and the Sox pitching was much deeper and better (and I'm a long-time Hippo Vaughn fan!). I probably over-stated the disparity a bit: I know a lot of people favored the Cubs, but it was hard to compare the leagues then.

Zenslinger said...

It's valiant and generous of you to explain the economic and political conditions which might have led to a fixed 1918 Series

Actually, it's neither. It's simply the facts of history.


C'mon, Allan, you can take a compliment!

redsock said...

The Sox's rotation was definitely deeper, but the Cubs were picked by most writers to win the series.

Looking at the scores and assuming the games were on the level, the final result was really a toss-up.

Jack Marshall said...

Allan: I am not so foolish as to challenge your expertise on the subject of the 1918 season, that's for sure.

I do believe that the sportswriters had a pro-National League bias in that period that was out of date with the facts, much as the writers in the '70s underestimated the American League because it had been inferior in the 60's. And it is so hard to know how to measure teams of the past when we know how the careers wound up. I look at the 1918 Sox roster and I see more key players who ended up with Hall of Fame or just below careers and reps, but I didn't see them on the field. I think about the '75 Sox and Reds--the writers all said, "Bench, Rose, Morgan, Foster, Perez, Gullett: How can the Red Sox compete with those guys?" The Reds were huge favorites. But when we look at the Sox and Reds rosters today, the Sox---Rice, Lynn, Yaz, Cooper, Fisk, Evans, Tiant---seem like an even match, as indeed they were. When I look at the rosters of the Cubs and the Sox from 90 years away, the Sox seem clearly superior to me. But what's that opinion worth? Not much!

redsock said...

Challenge away! Seriously! I admit I did not do a whole lot of research into the NL for the book.

The Red Sox hitting was a hair below average for the league.

Ruth was great, Hooper was good, and then ....

McInnis (1B) had his worse season, Strunk (CF) didn't want to be in Boston and did poorly, Agnew (C) never hit, Shean (2B) was good (for him), same thing for Scott (SS), Thomas (3B) was a rookie, Whiteman (LF) was 35 YO and got hot during the series. They had no bench, outside of Schang. Hell, Mays was one of their better hitters!

Of course, all teams got hit by the draft and players leaving for war-related jobs. So most teams had a few scrubs playing at the end of the year.

Boston got by on pitching. And in the series, a boatload of Cubs gaffes -- intentional or not -- helped tremendously.

...

I will contest your suggestion of pro-NL bias, however. The AL won the World Series in 1917 (White Sox), 1916 (Red Sox), 1915 (Red Sox), 1913 (A's), 1912 (Red Sox), 1911 (A's), 1910 (A's). The one missing year -- 1914 when the Boston Braves swept the A's -- was likely crooked to some degree.

(Actually, most of the WS were probably crooked to some extent. There are doubts about the honesty of the Red Sox's 1903 and 1912 titles.)

At least one writer (likely in jest) said the World Series should be eliminated because the AL always won.