The 1919 World Series should have been remembered as one of the biggest Cinderella stories in early baseball, with the underdog Cincinnati Reds topping the star-laden Chicago White Sox by winning fives games to three in a best-of-nine series. However, the 1919 World Series is far more well known for the losing team than the winning team, as the White Sox would become notorious as the only team in U.S. professional sports history to be implicated in throwing a championship game. The Black Sox would become an infamous part of baseball and enter the sports lexicon as a symbol of disrepute.
The idea to fix the 1919 World Series was the brainchild of White Sox first baseman Chick Gandil, who had several connections with serious sports gamblers. He eventually worked with New York gangster Arnold Rothstein to secure the money to bet against the White Sox and to recruit other players into his scheme. Many Chicago players were already upset with the perceived cheapness of White Sox owner Charles Comiskey and were willing to go along with the fix.
Gandil was able to convince several key White Sox players to help him throw the World Series. This included star pitcher Eddie Ciocotte, who signaled his intention to throw Game 1 by hitting the first batter of the game. Another player implicated was “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, one of the greatest hitters of his day. Supporters later claimed that Jackson was illiterate and not smart enough to know what the fix meant and point to his .375 batting average during the series; detractors note that Jackson only hit .286 in Chicago’s losses. Jackson spent the last 30 years of his life proclaiming his innocence and minutes before dying told his brother, “I’m going to meet the greatest umpire of all—and he knows I’m innocent.”
Eventually, eight players were found not guilty of fixing the World Series by a jury in 1921, but were still banned for life by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. These players included Buck Weaver, who didn’t participate in the fix but knew of it and failed to report it to authorities. The fallout has kept Jackson out of the Hall of Fame and prematurely end the careers of several other star players.