New Light on an Old Scandal

This article was written by Gene Carney

This article was published in the 2006 Baseball Research Journal


My interest in the “Black Sox scandal” began at summer’s end in 2002, and by the following June, I was sufficiently addicted to the subject that I simply had to visit Milwaukee. Why Milwaukee? Because I had learned that in 1924 that city was the site of a trial that pitted Shoeless Joe Jackson against his old employer, the Chicago White Sox, who were incorporated in Wisconsin. For B-Sox addicts, it was the Trial of the Century.

Jackson had signed a three-year contract in 1920, and when he was suspended in September that year, he had two years left—that is, unless his contract contained the standard “ten days clause” (if it did, the Sox could release him on short notice without cause). Jackson contended that the clause had been negotiated out of his contract; his team said otherwise. Acquitted with seven other players of conspiracy charges in 1921, Jackson sued for back pay, forcing the Sox to prove that he had done something, on the field or off, to deserve termination.

It seemed only Donald Gropman, a sympathetic biographer of Jackson, and Jerome Holtzman, a most unsympathetic historian, used the material from the 1924 trial in their writings. While Gropman thought this information exonerated Jackson, Holtzman believed it condemned him. I had to see for myself.

Jackson was not, however, my main interest. I was focused on the cover-up of the Fix, and how it finally came undone, almost a year later. My Milwaukee research in June 2003  into “the trial nobody noticed” became the first chapter of Burying the Black Sox: How Baseball’s Cover-Up of the 1919 World Series Fix Almost Succeeded, released in March 2006 by Potomac.

But the B-Sox story is a cold case, not a closed case. Since June 2003 I have learned a lot more, and am still learning. I have often wondered what I missed in Milwaukee on that first visit. How many more pieces to this giant puzzle remained in that treasure trove? So when SABR offered me the chance to return and do more digging (via a Yoseloff grant), I could not resist. Here is what I found, the secondtime around.

Surveying the Terrain

On my first visit I had set the goal of trying to read through the nearly 1,700 pages of trial transcripts. Skimming here and there, I did that, and I also mapped the three volumes that contain the proceedings.

This time I wanted to go through all of the other material, mostly depositions but also the exhibits: reports from Comiskey’s detectives, some newspaper clippings, and handwriting samples used by the experts who testified. This trial hinged on the circumstances under which Jackson had signed his 1920 contract—did the illiterate plaintiff sign in his house, with his wife handy to read it and check for the ten-days clause that Jackson believed was not in the contract? Or did he sign in his car, with only team secretary Harry Grabiner present?

Incidentally, among the treasures in Milwaukee is a kind of “Rosetta Stone.” Attached to the pretrial depositions of Sox owner Charles Comiskey and Grabiner are “photostatic copies” of Jackson’s 1919 and 1920 contracts. In 1919 (and previous years), Kate Jackson signed for her husband; in 1920, Joe signed himself. This document enables us to distinguish between the signatures when Jackson’s autograph appears.

Lawyer Ray Cannon had filed three different lawsuits, on behalf of Oscar “Happy” Felsch, Joe Jackson, and Charles “Swede” Risberg. Their cases were numbered 64442, 64771, and 64772 respectively, indicating that his first client was Felsch. Cannon then contacted Jackson and Risberg, who both agreed to file similar suits. Jackson’s went to trial first, in January 1924. The material that was collected in preparation for all three suits was used. A former ballplayer, Cannon was hoping that these cases would attract more players to another cause, a players union that would enable them to battle the reserve clause, which bound players to their teams.

The Risberg and Felsch Cases

All three cases were prepared along the same lines. Each player asked for $1,500 they felt was owed them from 1917; they said that Comiskey had promised each player would receive $5,000 for winning the pennant, no matter what the Series gate receipts turned out to be. When the players’ shares turned out to be around $3,500, they all expected another $1,500. In the Jackson trial, the jury said they believed that the promise was made, but they awarded no money, because there was nothing in writing—no contract. This prompted Commy’s lawyers to get Schalk, Collins, and Faber on record, stating that their manager in 1917, Pants Rowland, had made no such promise to the team.

The players also asked for the balance due from the contracts they claimed were breached when they were suspended in 1920 and later released. (Monies due from the Sox’s second-place finish in 1920 was mentioned, but that was a bone to pick with the league or Commissioner Landis, so it was not featured in these suits.)

Initially, the players also asked for $100,000 in damages to their reputations and careers. In Felsch’s suit, filed first, another $100,000 was asked for, because Happy had been blacklisted and unable to play ball in any professional league. These items were eventually removed from each suit when the plaintiffs were unable to substantiate the charges with facts.

Risberg’s case is the easiest to summarize. He asked for $750 still due from his 1920 salary; for a $1,500 bonus that he said he was promised in 1920 for “good and efficient baseball”; for the $1,500 from 1917; and (initially) $100,000 because his reputation and career had been “annihilated.” Risberg settled out of court in February 1925 for $288.88 plus interest ($75.23) and court costs ($37.20), or a total of $401.31.

Felsch had asked for $1,120 from 1920 (he claimed a paycheck had been missed), the 1917 bonus, and initially those large damages, which were later dropped. In his initial suit, we get a hint of where Ray Cannon was heading. Comiskey’s lawyers succeeded in having the following removed, because it was “a sham, frivolous, irrelevant and scandalous”: The Sox had been guilty of a cover-up

in order to prevent the American public from discovering and learning the true facts about the deception, trickery and fraud that had been practiced by the defendant [the Sox] . . . in fooling and deceiving the public as to the baseball games and in-deliberately causing games to be lost and won by certain clubs or teams as the defendant . . . desired.

Cannon had intended to complicate things for Comiskey and his lawyers by bringing up three different “scandals” from 1917 involving the White Sox and the Detroit team. Detroit lost back-to-back doubleheaders to the Sox around Labor Day; they also beat the Sox’s rival, Boston, later in the pennant race; then, after the pennant was clinched, the Sox lost three games to Detroit. The Sox had taken up a collection and paid off the Detroit pitchers that month. Was it a bribe, for tossing games to the Sox? Or a reward, for knocking off Boston? Did the Sox then pay back the favor by helping Detroit get closer to third-place money? These were old questions—Ban Johnson, American League czar, knew all about them, and Landis had looked into them soon after taking office in 1921. But they were ammunition for Cannon. The loose ends would not betied up in these cases, however, and became front-page news in 1927, after Swede Risberg went public with the charges when the Cobb–Speaker allegations were in the news.

Felsch’s case was settled in February 1925, too, for the two 1920 paychecks ($583.33 each, plus 6% interest, or $1,470.15), and court costs of $105.20.

Among the fascinating items in the Felsch material is a note from Ray Cannon to Comiskey’s lawyers when he was preparing thecomplaint. This laundry list of questions that he wanted to ask appeared in the papers—Cannon was knowledgeable about using the press. It appears that Cannon had picked up from some player(s) a story that he asked the Sox about:

  1. What steps were taken and what threatened through Louis Comiskey [Commy’s son and team officer], with the aid of a battery of detectives in the spring of 1920, to scare and intimidate the players . . . to admit connection with the framing of the 1919 World Series, and against what players were the threats made, and by what persons were they made, and what statements were made by Louis Comiskey and others, to the effect that all members of the Chicago White Sox baseball team who were connected to the 1919 World Series scandal, were to be handcuffed together on the opening day of the 1920 pennant race in Chicago, and displayed before the large audience in the grandstand and bleachers, and then led away to jail? [Emphasis added]

This could be sheer and unfounded bluff on the part of Cannon, but it’s nevertheless a striking image. He was sending the Sox a message that he knew what they knew on Opening Day, that they had signed seven of eight players who had been publicly accused (in the press, not by baseball) of suspicious play the previous October, and of at least plotting with known gamblers.

How the Plot Thickened . . . Then Fizzled

The gambling–fixing side of the B-Sox story is by far the murkiest, where little is certain—something I tried to convey in my book by a Who’s on First? sketch which would be comic relief if only the subject were not so sad. The 1920 grand jury seemed ready to indict gamblers from several syndicates and a roster of cities that stretched from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. But most of those fellows vanished along with Hal Chase (after California refused to extradite him). So the main impression we have today of what happened is from Eight Men Out, a version heavily colored by interviews with Abe Attell and by newspaper accounts of the 1921 trial, focused on just one syndicate.

In the Milwaukee depositions of Bill Burns and Billy Maharg, we get—in the words of those two go-betweens—an account of events in unprecedented detail. This may or may not be the way things unfolded, but it’s a fascinating tale.

The testimonies of Burns and Maharg agree substantially with those they gave at the 1921 trial, but there are some differences, and a comparison of the two versions is another project.

When he was deposed on October 5, 1922, Bill Burns was a confectioner, running a chocolate shop in Texas. But in 1919 he sold oil leases, and his sales route took him to Cincinnati, Chicago, New York, Montreal, and Philadelphia. Here is Burns’ story, along with that of Maharg (whose role in this seems to be that of Burns’ bodyguard):

With three weeks to go in the season, before the Sox had clinched the pennant, Eddie Cicotte told Burns in the Ansonia Hotel in New York that “something good was coming up,” and if it went through—if the Sox got into the Series—Burns would be informed. A few dayslater at the same spot, Burns saw Cicotte again, this time with Chick Gandil. Billy Maharg, visiting Burns from Philadelphia, was also present.

Burns had known Maharg for years; they often hunted and fished together near Burns’ Texas home. Burns had wired Maharg an invitation to come to New York for a social visit. Maharg stayed at the Ansonia several days, seeing most of the Sox. But what he overheard atthe Ansonia that day would change his life.

Burns was told that six were willing to deal: Cicotte, Gandil (“the chief spokesman”), Risberg, McMullin, Williams, and Felsch. When Burns testified at the 1921 trial that the players initiated the Fix, some who had been sympathetic (thinking that vulnerable, gullible, underpaid athletes had been victimized) were shocked. The asking price was $100,000. Maharg recalled just five names (not McMullin), but also recalled that the players “would throw the first two, or all five in a row—whichever way the financiers wanted it.”

Burns left New York City for a ten-day stop in Montreal, and Maharg returned to Philadelphia. There, a gambler friend called “Chrissy” or “Rossy” said “only one man” had the funding for such a project. Rossy gave Maharg a letter of introduction to Arnold Rothstein, then called The Big Bankroll on the phone and told him Maharg was coming over to Considine’s, a 42nd Street saloon. But Rothstein was a no-show, and Maharg left.

Burns sent Maharg a telegram from Canada. He’d be back in New York in a few days and would call. Burns met with Maharg in Philadelphia, and this time they made an appointment to see Rothstein, traveling together to the Aqueduct race track on Long Island. But “A.R.” was busy “making book,” so they agreed to meet at the Astor at 9:00 p.m. Rothstein listened to the scheme, then “said he would not handle it.”

Four or five days later, Burns ran into Hal Chase. What seemed a poor risk to Rothstein looked like “a sure shot” to Chase. Burns had received a letter from a Sox player, from St Louis, saying that now eight Sox were in the deal, and that is what Burns told Chase.

Within three or four days Burns and Chase met again, at the Ansonia. Enter Abe Attell and a fellow who went by “Bennett”—as it turned out, this was David Zelcer. Attell claimed to be representing Rothstein, and said A.R. was backing The Big Fix.

Burns remained in New York until two days before the Series, then bought a train ticket to Cincinnati. Before he left, he telegrammed Maharg again, telling him to meet him on the 4:30 train, that the fix was in, and Rothstein was backing it.

With “financiers” lined up, Burns still had to make the connection between the fixers and the players. The day before the Series started, in Cincinnati, Burns met with Attell and Zelcer at the Gibson Hotel, then walked them over to the Sinton, where the White Sox werestaying. Seven players were waiting in 708 [Gandil and Risberg’s room]; Joe Jackson was not present. Burns announced that Arnold Rothstein was behind the plan.

Burns then introduced the players all around to Attell, “the Little Champ,” and “Bennett.” Burns recalled that the door to 708 was partly open, and Weaver checked constantly so that manager Kid Gleason would not join the meeting. The negotiation went on until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. Gandil insisted on $20,000 before Game One … then the players insisted that their $100,000 be held by someone. Finally, the deal was made: $20,000 paid after each loss. The money would be divided nine ways, eight players—and Bill Burns. Burns had the impression that Lefty Williams was “kind of representing Jackson,” and that anything Williams OK’d would be OK with the star outfielder.

Maharg was not in Cincinnati yet. He arrived the morning of Game One. Burns said he saw the players that morning again, in the Sinton lobby. He saw Attell again, too, in the Haviland Hotel.

Neither Burns nor Maharg attended Game One. After the game, which the Reds won 9–1, Maharg caught up with Burns, and they went to a hotel (it’s not clear which, the Haviland or the Gibson or the Sinton) looking for Attell and the pay- off. When they caught up with him, Attell said the money was “out on bets.”

Burns delivered the bad news to the players at the Sinton. He met with Risberg, McMullin, Cicotte, Gandil, and Williams, telling them that Attell was collecting money and they’d have to wait till the morning. Gandil was angry and said Attell was “not living up to his agreement.” Burns saw Williams and Gandil again after dinner, and there was a meeting with Attell and Zelcer on a side street. Abe was upbeat, and the conversation was all about tossing game two.

On the next morning Burns and Maharg saw Attell again, at the Haviland, but instead of show- ing him the money, Attell showed him a telegram, saying that Rothstein had wired him cash. Maharg recalled the message: “Have wired you 20 grands. Waived identification. A.R.” Burns was skeptical and took the telegram, with Attell in tow, to the nearest telegraph office. There was no sign of it in the log. Attell said the office “must’ve lost or misplaced the record.” Then Attell said that he would go and get the money due, and Maharg could come with him. Maharg could then give the cash to Burns, who would signal the players that all was going smoothly.

But, as Maharg put it, it “never came off that way.” “I told him that I thought he [Attell] was a liar, myself,” Maharg said. Burns took the telegram—it was all he had—to the Sinton, and went to Room 708. It was about 10:00 a.m. The two pitchers were present, along with the three pals, Gandil, Risberg, and McMullin. Gandil was now sure Attell was double-crossing them. Chick and Swede did all the talking. Burns held out hope that the $20,000 would still appear before game time. Attell would get it to Burns, and Burns would signal the players “in the lines”—that is, from the front row of thestands.

Burns received no cash, gave no signal. He did not go to the park.

After game two, Attell and his men were jubilant and flush with winnings. Burns and Maharg “had a date” to meet Attell at the Haviland. They waited, and Attell no-showed. But they caught up with him at the Sinton; he was in his room [660] with the Levi Brothers, Ben and Lou, and Zelcer (whom Maharg described as “Rothstein’s First Lieutenant”). Burns told Attell that the players were “sore” and asked for the $40,000 they were due. Attell reached under a mattressand extracted a roll of money—$10,000—and lobbed it to Burns. Attell and Zelcer then complained that “everybody in the East and West” knew about the fix, and it was really hard to make anything in the betting.

Burns took the ten grand to the players by himself, while Maharg waited with Attell. It was about 9:00 p.m. Risberg, McMullin, and Cicotte were there, and Burns also thought Weaver was present. Then Gandil and Felsch came in and the counting commenced. It was done on a bed, with all of the players standing around, watching: 10G—not 40. Burns reported, “One of the boys put it under his pillow”—if they were in 710, that would have been Cicotte’s pillow, but Burns didn’t say. Gandil and Risberg again were noisy about the double-crossing going on. Burns said maybe Attell was swindling them. “I was not.” Burns said the meeting then amounted to a lot of swearing.

Burns was upset and returned to Attell, telling him that he was “jamming the whole thing up.” Maharg recalled that while Burns was gone (about thirty minutes), someone said Rothstein had bet “about 300 G” ($300,000) on the Series. Attell was sorry about the shortfall, but it couldn’t be helped. “Another ring is in on it.” The players would have to wait until the Series was over to get the rest. “They asked Burns to ask the players if they would try to win the next game, so they could get better odds for their money. Burns said he would ask them.”

Burns left again, then came back. The players had said no, they would not win for “a Busher” (Dickey Kerr, a rookie in 1919; it “was generally known,” according to Maharg, that Kerr was getting the start in Game Three). “The same way tomorrow.” Maharg: “Burns said the players were not satisfied, and they hollered like hell.” Burns set a date to meet with them again the next day, in Chicago. The trains left Cincinnati about midnight.

The morning of Game Three, Maharg and Burns saw Attell at the Sherman Hotel. Attell asked Burns to phone Gandil. Chick told him it was “going the same way.” Burns relayed the message to Attell.

But Game Three did not “go the same way”— Kerr pitched brilliantly, and the Sox won, 3–0. Gandil knocked in two runs.

Burns and Maharg went to Zelcer’s room at the Astor (next to the Sherman Hotel) after the game. Attell was there, too. Zelcer wanted Burns to go to the players and talk to them about Game Four, but Burns protested that they would not trust him. Zelcer understood, and said he’d put up $20,000 of his own money, give it to Burns to hold as a bet— if the Sox lost, Burns would turn the money over to the players. Burns could bet the money on the Reds. Burns agreed to take the offer to the players, and hailed a cab.

Burns found Gandil at his apartment. Chick said they won Game Three because they had been double-crossed. The fix was off, the players were through. Burns ran into Risberg and McMullin on the street later, and Swede confirmed that the players had met by themselves before Game Three and decided to win it. But Swede added that he “was going through with it.” [There is some evidence that Swede Risberg was the most sensitive about the dangerous position the players put themselves in; crossing Arnold Rothstein could indeed be hazardous to one’s health. If Burns’ recollection is accurate, Swede may have been sending A.R. the message that he, at least, was keeping his part of the bargain.] McMullin said nothing; he was riding the bench in this Series.

Burns returned to the Sherman Hotel and told Attell and Zelcer—no deal. Maharg’s glum comment: “The next day, Cincinnati won anyway.” Attell was disappointed. It was just hard luck that the money was out on bets; it would be there after the Series was lost. Too bad the players couldn’t wait.

This is where Maharg’s story ends. He left Chicago for Cincinnati, but had no further doings with the plot. He said he never saw Attell again; and he next saw Zelcer at the 1921 trial. When he read about the 1920 grand jury looking into the Fix, he went to “Jimmie Isaminger,” a personal friend and reporter on a Philadelphia newspaper. Why? I “wanted his opinion of it more than anything else, of what they would do with me when this thing came up.”

Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

But for Bill Burns there was one more meeting. It was arranged by Abe Attell, and there Burns was introduced to a group of gamblers from St Louis, including a “short, red-complected man”—Carl Zork. They wanted to offer more money to the players, put the fix back in.

Burns went to the players one more time and made the offer. They rejected it. Burns gave Attell the information. To the best of Bill Burns’ knowledge, no more money was exchanged between the gamblers and the players. He did not speak with the players again. 

In the Wake of the Fix

Bill Burns lived in Texas. He did not travel to Chicago to give this deposition because he was anxious to tell his story. No, he was asked to make the trip by Ban Johnson, at the suggestion of Alfred Austrian, Comiskey’s lawyer—for Buck Weaver’s suit against the Sox. As in 1921, when Burns came north for the trial, the American League paid his expenses.

Burns was questioned about why he had not come forth sooner with the tale. He said that right after the Series, he went to New York, then right back to Texas. He spoke with “several private men down there” about the fix but no reporters. When his name popped up in one of Hugh Fullerton’s articles about the rumors (in December 1919), he did nothing.

During the 1920 season, Burns said that he did speak with several ballplayers and a manager about the fix. But he refused to name anyone else. After Landis’ edict banning anyone connected in any way to fixing games, implicating more men could ruin their careers.

Burns did not mention that he had received a telegram from Judge McDonald, inviting him to come and talk to the grand jury in September 1920. McDonald said that he invited Maharg, Attell, and Rothstein, too, but couldn’t force anyone from another state to testify. (Rothstein did come, voluntarily.)

Asked why he did not go for the $10,000 reward that Comiskey had offered, Burns replied, “Well, I didn’t want that kind of money …I didn’t want to bring the ballplayers out.” Asked if his motive now was “solely revenge,” Burns repeated that he did not want to harm any players. Why then, did he tell all (in the trial) in 1921? “They had it planned to lay everything on me.” Maharg, when he tracked Burns down in Texas, had told him that unless he came north to defend himself, he’d be “the fall guy” in the trial. “So you didn’t do it for revenge?” Burns: “Well, I did to a certain extent, yes sir.”

Burns seemed upset that Cicotte, Jackson, and Williams “started the whole thing”—the unraveling of the cover-up—by going to the 1920 grand jury. He recalled that when he came to Chicago and told his story to Hartley Replogle (the assistant state’s attorney), Replogle told him that his account of things “dovetailed” with the versions the players gave the grand jury.

Judge McDonald’s Recollection

The Cook County grand jury had been called together in September 1920 by Judge Charles A. McDonald. Ban Johnson said that he had given McDonald the green light to hand the grand jury the duty to investigate the ties between gambling and baseball. When the focus fell on the 1919 World Series, McDonald had a problem. He was a baseball fan, and his team, the White Sox, were in another dandy pennant race. He discussed this with Alfred Austrian, and they agreed that no Sox would be subpoenaed until the race had been decided. So the appearance of Cicotte and Jackson on September 28 must have been upsetting.

McDonald had known Comiskey “very well and very favorably” for about 25 years. In the 1924 trial he appeared for the defense (Comiskey). He was quizzed about his meeting with JoeJackson on September 28, 1920.

Earlier, McDonald had spoken with Eddie Cicotte, then accompanied him for moral support to the grand jury chamber. Cicotte had mentioned Jackson as one of the players involved in the plot. So when Jackson phoned McDonald, from Austrian’s office, to say that he wanted to clear his name, McDonald told him it was too late, that Cicotte had given him up, along with six others.

McDonald had no notes from the meeting that followed. Austrian brought Jackson to the courthouse, introduced him to McDonald, and left. The judge said that he did not go with Jackson to the grand jury after their talk.

And that is significant, because McDonald and Jackson sparred in the press after some reporters characterized his grand jury statement as a confession—to throwing games. Jackson disputed that he said that, and the statement we have from the grand jury seems to bear that out. McDonald, recalling only what Jackson had told him earlier (that he might have played harder) and what Cicotte had told him, concluded that Jackson had helped throw the Series. McDonald never heard Jackson tell the grand jury that he played every game to win.

What Did Eddie Say?

The statements made by the three players were among the documents that vanished the winter after the grand jury. But they were reconstructed from stenographer’s notes for the 1921 trial. Ray Cannon,  deposing Charles Comiskey in March 1923, had pressed Commy’s lawyers for a copy of Jackson’s grand jury statement. George Hudnall, the Sox’s lead lawyer in the 1924 trial, objected when Cannon asked Comiskey if the team had a copy. He instructed Commy not to answer, because “the grand jury proceeding is supposed to be secret. If he got it, he has no business to it.”

When Cicotte and Williams were first deposed in 1923, neither were cooperative. But apparently sometime later that year the grand jury statements were deemed admissible evidence, and in January 1924, just weeks before the Jackson case went to trial, Cicotte and Williams were deposed again (separately). This time their grand jury statements were read into the record.

Joe Jackson’s testimony from 1920 did not appear until the trial in Milwaukee was under way. George Hudnall produced it from his briefcase. Jackson had given a different version of events in 1924 (for example, he said he received the $5,000 from Williams after the Series, instead of after Game Four), so his 1920 grand jury statement meant that he was guilty of perjury, either in 1920 or 1924; that fact ruined his case and caused the judge to set aside the jury’s verdict, which had gone for Jackson on every count by 11–1.

It is not clear that the Milwaukee trial depositions contain every word from the 1920 statements, but they contain a substantial amount of fascinating material, in Q and A format, embedded in the “live” questioning. This is especially important for Cicotte, because we have little from his 1920 statement today (unlike Jackson and Williams), and it is not clear that what we have is reliable, or whether it was embellished by the press.

And the Cicotte grand jury testimony for the 1924 trial has more information than that which was read into the 1921 trial, because many names of players and gamblers were omitted in 1921 at the direction of the judge.

Before Cicotte was deposed, his lawyer advised him not to say anything that might incriminate himself. Cicotte wound up saying very little. When his grand jury testimony was read, he did not disagree with anything he had said in 1920. “What I told the grand jury was the truth.” Some highlights of what he said:

  • Cicotte indeed named all of the players later banished to the grand jury. He said the idea of the fix had originated in a conversation with Gandil and McMullin, and maybe one other teammate. Gandil: “We ain’t getting a devil of a lot of money, and it looks like we could make a big thing.” Asked how much it would take for Cicotte to join in, he replied, $10,000.
  • He recalled a pre-Series meeting in his room at the Warner Hotel that  followed  soon after, with Gandil, Felsch, Weaver, and perhaps McMullin and Williams. “I was the first one that spoke about the money end of it. I says, there is so much double-crossing stuff, if I went in the Series [“to throw ball games”] I wanted the money put in my hand.” Gandil assured him that he’d get his money in advance. Cicotte left his room to visit with teammates Red Faber and Shano Collins, while the other players left, one by one, to avoid the appearance of having been in a meeting. When he later returned to his room, about 11:30 p.m., there was $10,000 under his pillow. He pocketed the cash and took it to Cincinnati.
  • After the Series, he said he took the money home to Detroit and hid it. Four thousand dollars paid off the mortgage on his farm; the rest went to put in new floors in the barn and house and to buy livestock and feed. Cicotte didn’t know where the money had come from: “I never asked them” [his teammates]. Some gamblers, he supposed.
  • Cicotte admitted that he put on base the first batter he faced in Game One, Morrie Rath. He tried to walk him, but instead hit him. He made no mention that this was a signal that the fix was in. “You wanted Rath to get on base?” “Yes. But after he passed, after he was on there, I don’t know, I guess I believe I tried too hard. I didn’t care, they could have had my heart and soul out there. That is the way I felt. I felt—I didn’t want to be that way after I had taken the money.”
  • Cicotte spoke at some length about a play in the fourth inning that started his undoing. “That’s the play they incriminate me on, but I was absolutely honest on that play.” With a runner on first, Cicotte stopped Kopf’s smash up the middle and threw to Risberg for the force-out at second. Swede stumbled or threw slowly to first, and the runner beat it out, keeping the inning alive. “Everybody saw me make that play,” Cicotte insisted. All of the hits that inning “was clean base hits.” Cicotte did not think Swede intended to miss the runner on that play.
  • After the 9–1 loss, “I went up in the room. I was too ill, I had the headache after the game. I stayed in my room and was sick all night long. I couldn’t hit in St Louis.” [The lawyers were puzzled by this phrase, and Cicotte did not offer to explain it.] His roommate, Felsch, offered him some aspirin tablets. “Happy, this will never be done again.”
  • According to Cicotte, the players did not discuss the fix after Game One, “because we didn’t trust nobody.”
  • Cicotte said he saw nothing fishy in game two, except that Williams was wild. Asked if he thought the walks were intentional, he said,“Sure, that is the way I thought.”
  • Back in Chicago for Game Three, Cicotte did not tell his brother about the fix or the money. His wife was in Detroit, and he didn’t tell her, either. “She don’t know I paid off the mortgage,” he told the grand jury. In Game Three, “Kerr pitched great.”
  • The next game Cicotte pitched, Game Four, “I tried to make good but I made two errors. I was very anxious to get the ball and I didn’t make any runs. [The Sox lost, 2–0.] If we could make four or five runs—I would have won that game.” Asked if he had tried to make a bad throw in that game, Cicotte said, “No sir, I didn’t, I tried to get my man.” “I tried to win [Game Four].”

Cicotte said in effect that he had played the Series to win, “I was going to take a chance, I wanted to win. I could have given [the money] back with interest, if they only let me win the game that day.” Tris Speaker consoled Cicotte after the Game Four loss (Spoke was covering the Series for a Cleveland paper).

Asked by someone in the grand jury how he could win with seven players on his own team against him, Cicotte said, “They never talked to me at all. If they talked to me, I was deaf ears. I was a man of another country.”

Cicotte said that he never saw any other players receive any money. Asked by Replogle if he would come back to the grand jury if they wanted to hear more from him, he replied, “Yes, sir.” He was not asked back.

The newspapers had their story: Cicotte confirmed that the fix had been in: the Sox sold out the Series for $100,000. Never mind that Cicotte and Jackson both said they played the Series to win. Their admission that some players had plotted with gamblers was immediately translated into eight Sox playing crooked for the entire eight-game series. Down in history.

Historian Harold Seymour thinks that the spin given to the players’ stories may have been for their protection—that is, for the consumption of the gamblers. See, they tried to lose. Victor Luhrs in his 1966 The Great Baseball Mystery argued that Cicotte played to win. But Eight Men Out had appeared in 1963, and the film version would color perceptions even more.

The material from the 1924 Milwaukee trial suggests that the fix was in—but not for very long. And that even players assumed tobe committed to the fix—like Cicotte—may have played to win.

A SABR member since 1991, GENE CARNEY is the author of  Burying the Black Sox: How Baseball’s Cover- Up of the 1919 World Series Fix Almost Succeeded (Potomac, 2006). He has addressed the topic at the last three SABR national conventions. Gene has edited Notes from the Shadows of Cooperstown since 1993.

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