World Series Scandal: Eight ‘Black Sox’ Indicted

The 28th of September 1920 was a dark day in the history of baseball. The sport was enjoying a revival in fans’ interest after the disruption of WWI, and two of the premier teams – the Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians – were going down to the wire in a tight pennant race as the season neared its end. Meanwhile, a grand jury in Chicago’s Cook County was investigating rumors of corruption in the national pastime, and that morning two famous players, pitcher Eddie Cicotte and outfielder “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, admitted the 1919 World Series had been fixed.

Photo: 1919 Chicago White Sox
Photo: 1919 Chicago White Sox. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

That afternoon, the grand jury handed down indictments against eight of the Chicago White Sox players; the “Black Sox” scandal was now public knowledge, and would forever be a blight on the sport’s reputation.

Photo: “Fix These Faces in Your Memory.”
Photo: “Fix These Faces in Your Memory.” Credit: The Sporting News (7 October 1920); Wikimedia Commons.

During the players’ month-long trial the following summer, Cicotte and Jackson’s signed confessions had mysteriously disappeared, other evidence was lacking, and a jury deliberated less than three hours before deciding all eight players were innocent. However, baseball knew it had a problem, and the team owners created the office of baseball commissioner so that someone would have the authority to clean up the game.

The first man appointed to that role, federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, immediately exerted his authority the day after the trial ended by banning all eight “Black Sox” players from the game for life.

Commissioner Landis’s judgment was firm and left no room for doubt: “Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked ballplayers and gamblers, where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.”

An article about the 1919 World Series Chicago White Sox scandal, Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper article 28 September 1920
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, Texas), 28 September 1920, page 1

Here is a transcription of this article:


By International News Service.

CHICAGO, Sept. 28. – Indictments against eight members of the Chicago White Sox for alleged crookedness in the 1919 World Series were voted by the Cook County grand jury, which has been probing conditions in organized baseball, this afternoon. The men indicted are:

Chick Gandil, former first baseman; Fred McMullin, utility infielder; “Happy” Felsch, center fielder; “Swede” Risberg, shortstop; Eddie Cicotte, pitcher; Claude Williams, pitcher; Joe Jackson, left fielder; and “Buck” Weaver, third baseman.

The true bills charge conspiracy to commit an illegal act.

Charles A. Comiskey, owner of the White Sox, announced immediately after he heard of the voting of the indictments by the grand jury, that all eight of the players would stand suspended from the White Sox. This is virtually the elimination of the White Sox from the pennant race as none of the eight men, several of whom are bulwarks of the club, will be permitted to play in any of the remaining games of the season.

The action of Comiskey in suspending those indicted leaves Eddie Collins, Ray Schalk, John Collins and Amos Strunk as the only regular fielders in good standing, and Dick Kerr and Red Faber as the only regular pitchers.

Comiskey issued the following statement, addressed to each of the indicted players:

“You and each of you are hereby notified of your indefinite suspension as a member of the Chicago American League Baseball Club. If you can prove your innocence you will be returned to the team in good standing. If you are found guilty you are out of organized baseball for the rest of your lives.”

Eddie Cicotte was immediately taken into custody by an officer and taken to the criminal court building.

Eddie Cicotte, star pitcher, was one of the first witnesses before the grand jury today and his testimony is believed to have been one of the factors that induced the grand jury to return the indictments. He is said to have made a complete confession and to have signed an immunity waiver. His admissions are declared to have verified the statement of “Billy” Mahart, Philadelphia pugilist, who accused Cicotte of having been the principal in the promotion of the “fixed” series.

The men indicted are the eight men said to have been implicated in the $100,000 bribe to throw the series and whose bonus checks were held up by the White Sox management while an investigation was made after the series closed last Fall.

McMullin, Gandil and Cicotte were mentioned in several stories as the principals in the arrangements for the huge bribe which Abe Attell, former featherweight champion, is alleged to have undertaken to raise.

McMullin had been named as the chief paymaster for the gambling clique.

Note: An online collection of newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, is not only a great way to learn about the lives of your ancestors – the old newspaper articles also help you understand American history and the times your ancestors lived in, and the news they talked about and read in their local papers.

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