This article was written by Bruce Allardice
This article was published in the Spring 2016 Baseball Research Journal
Why did the Black Sox throw possibly a dozen games in 1920? The answer is simple. Money was the primary motive.
Entering the 1920 season, the defending American League champion Chicago White Sox were not favored to repeat. Almost all experts picked Cleveland, who’d finished second in 1919. The prognosticators cited Chicago’s poor performance in the 1919 Series, doubts about the team’s pitching depth, the retirement of first baseman Chick Gandil, and suspicions that the Sox had thrown the 1919 Series.[fn]See Bruce Allardice, “How Great were the 1919 White Sox?” SABR Black Sox Research Committee Newsletter (December 2015), 3–5, for a compilation of the preseason predictions for 1920. The betting odds also favored Cleveland.[/fn] Yet after a slow start (they were 29–25 on June 18) the Sox roared back and, by late August, nosed ahead of the Tribe. Loss of a three-game series to Boston at the end of August put the Sox back in second place. They battled the Indians throughout September, until the scandal over fixing the 1919 World Series exploded on September 27, after which the team faded.
Rumors of fixed games surrounded the Sox after the 1919 World Series, and the allegations of crooked play continued through 1920.[fn] For example, “Start Quiz to Save Baseball from Gamblers,” Chicago Tribune, September 5, 1920, which notes a “rumor … that three White Sox are under suspicion, yet are playing in the game regularly.”[/fn] Yet in all the oceans of ink spilled in discussing the 1919 Series, surprisingly little has been written on the possibility that the Sox threw the 1920 pennant as well. This article presents credible evidence, in testimony and in statistics, that the same players who threw the 1919 Series also threw games (and the pennant) in 1920. At one time or another every “Clean Sox” regular accused their “Black Sox” teammates of throwing games in 1920, and the statistical records back up these accusations.
THE SUSPECT BOSTON SERIES
It is an axiom of law enforcement that criminals exhibit a pattern of conduct — that they repeat their actions until caught. Viewed in this light, it should come as no surprise that the same players who threw a World Series would throw regular season games as well.
After defeating New York 16–4 on August 26, 1920, the red-hot White Sox had a 3 1/2-game lead over Cleveland, with New York four back, and to many observers it appeared that the Sox had the 1920 pennant cinched. Yet they promptly lost seven in a row, including two road games to the third-place Yankees, three straight to fifth-place Boston, and two home games against fourth-place St. Louis. The evidence suggests that the gamblers may have put pressure on the Sox to blow that lead. In 1919 and 1920, the Sox never lost more than four straight, except for this one stretch against mostly sub-.500 teams, and since the Sox were basically injury-free at that point, it’s hard to explain this slide.
Eddie Cicotte’s wildness and lack of clutch hitting cost the Sox the second New York game, while in the third, misplays by Swede Risberg and Buck Weaver let in all the Yankees runs. Regarding this game, Chicago Tribune sports reporter I.E. Sanborn sourly observed, “Risberg and Weaver were the best players New York had today,” while Joe Jackson, thrown out twice on the bases, “ran…like a high school boy.” The St. Louis losses featured a lack of clutch hitting, and Cicotte being knocked around.[fn]I. E. Sanborn, “Ruth-less Yankees Mop Up Sox, 3–0, for Record Mob,” Chicago Tribune, August 29, 1920. See the Tribune’s August 28– September 5 coverage of the Sox for game descriptions.[/fn]
“Clean” Sox players repeatedly cited the White Sox series with Boston — August 30–September 1, 1920, during that seven-game slide — as the set of games that the crooked players clearly tossed.
The White Sox certainly stunk in those three games at Boston. They lost to the below-.500 Red Sox, 4–0, 7–3, and 6–2, with Lefty Williams, Cicotte, and Dickey Kerr pitching. All contemporary newspaper accounts noted their poor play. In the opener, the Sox managed only five hits (three by “Clean” Eddie Collins) off Boston’s Sam Jones. In the second game, Cicotte got pounded, and Risberg muffed two plays that cost the Sox three runs. In the final game, Kerr was done in by three errors (all by the “Clean” Sox, although Eddie Collins asserted that the error given to Kerr should have been given to Buck Weaver) and lack of clutch hitting. In all, the Sox committed four errors in the three games, and scored only five runs.
Teams — even great teams — are capable of losing three in a row, without any suspicion of foul play. That’s baseball. Chicago Tribune sportswriter I.E. Sanborn admitted that “there was no accounting for their slump in New York and Boston on any rational basis,” but attributed the losses to an ordinary, run-ofthe-mill stretch.[fn] I. E. Sanborn, “Sox Back, Glum but Grim for Final Flag Dash,” Chicago Tribune, September 3, 1920.[/fn] The Boston newspapers were more critical. The Herald noted that “the Chicago club…did not look like a pennant-gaited combination.” James O’Leary of the Globe reported “some loose work on the part of the White Sox on a couple of occasions, decidedly out of harmony with their usual smoothrunning game.” But neither newspaper hinted at foul play. In fact, as the Boston Globe admitted a month later, while the White Sox made numerous errors and misplays in this series, “the games…did not create any great stir.”[fn]Ed Cunningham, “Red Sox Topple Chicago Hose from League Peak,” Boston Herald, September 2, 1920; James O’Leary, “Red Sox Topple the White Sox from Top,” Boston Globe, September 2, 1920; “White Sox Made Six Errors in Boston Games Which Two Players Say Were Thrown,” Boston Globe, October 4, 1920. Cf. Rick Huhn, Eddie Collins: A Baseball Biography (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2008), 171–72. Gary Webster, Tris Speaker and the 1920 Indians: Tragedy to Glory (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012), discusses at some length the charge that the White Sox threw this series, and other games.[/fn]
A three-game series provides too small a statistical sample to draw any definitive conclusions. However, the middle-of-the-order White Sox RBI men (“Black” Sox Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver, and Happy Felsch) went 8 for 34 in the series (.235) and drove in only one run with those eight hits. The same three players combined to average two RBIs per game that year, and in those three games they had plenty of opportunities to drive in runs — Eddie Collins, batting in front of them, had seven hits in the series. This would appear to justify comments made by “Clean” Sox players later in the season that the “Black” Sox hitters deliberately failed in the clutch in that series. What is more curious — in no other three-game series in 1920 did the White Sox score as few as five runs — less than two runs per game.
After the scandal broke, Boston sportswriter Jim O’Leary charged that Sox ace Eddie Cicotte threw the second game of the Boston series, under orders from gamblers.[fn]James C. O’Leary, “Recall Defeat Handed Cicotte on Last Visit. Story Circulated in Boston Says Gamblers Brought Pressure of White Sox Hurler to Lose Game to Red Sox in Fenway Park,” Boston Globe, October 1, 1920.[/fn] Modern Black Sox scholarship points to Cicotte and Chick Gandil as the ringleaders of the 1919 Series fix, conspiring with Boston gambler Sport Sullivan.[fn]For more on “Sport” Sullivan and the Sullivan-Gandil connection, see Bruce Allardice, “Out of the Shadows: Joseph ‘Sport’ Sullivan,” SABR Black Sox Research Committee Newsletter (June 2014), 9–14.[/fn] Cicotte and Sullivan had become friends years earlier when Cicotte pitched for the Boston Red Sox. If he chose, Sullivan could give direct testimony of Cicotte’s involvement in the 1919 fix. Thus, more than any other Sox player, Cicotte would be vulnerable if Sullivan exposed the 1919 fix. In addition, if Sullivan pressured Cicotte et al. to throw games, Sullivan could place large wagers on Chicago-Boston games more readily than he could Chicago’s games against non-Boston clubs.
Given this conjunction of player vulnerability and betting ease, Cicotte’s 1920 pitching record against Boston is particularly revealing. In six starts against fifth-place Boston, he went 1–4 and gave up 29 earned runs in 48 innings, for an ERA of 5.44. Against the rest of the league, Cicotte was 20-6 with an ERA of 2.85. Against Boston, his ERA, walk ratio, strikeouts and hits per inning were all far worse than when pitching to the rest of the league.[fn]All the statistics cited are from www.baseball-reference.com. Cicotte’s 1920 breakdown is as follows: .Season: 21–10, 3.26 ERA; vs. Boston, 1–4, 5.43 ERA; vs. other teams, 20–6, 2.85 ERA. By team, Cicotte’s won-loss breakdown was: Boston 1–4, Cleveland 0–2, New York 2–2, St. Louis 3–1, Washington 5–1, Detroit 5–0, and Philadelphia 5–0.[/fn] The White Sox had a winning record against the Red Sox that year in the other seventeen games. And since the Sox only lost the pennant by two games, Cicotte’s four losses against Boston may, by themselves, have cost the Chicago the pennant.
THE SEPTEMBER SLIDE
This Boston series remains part of a pattern of suspicious conduct by the White Sox in late August and early September. After their August 26 win against New York, they’d played 121 games and only been shut out three times. Yet in the next 19 games, they were shut out five times — more than in the first 121. The big three RBI men batted a combined 13 for 58 (.224) in those five games The pitchers who shut out the Sox during that stretch (Bob Shawkey, Sam Jones, Dutch Leonard, Harry Courtney, and Jose Acosta — not exactly a Hall of Fame set, though Shawkey led the league in ERA that year) had a combined record of 40–54 prior to those games, with three of the four teams being sub-.500. So it wasn’t as if the Sox lost to Lefty Grove or the 1927 Yankees.
Eddie Collins and Byrd Lynn later charged that the Black Sox players “tracked” Cleveland during (and after) the Boston series, winning only when Cleveland was winning, and losing when Cleveland lost, so as to not overtake the Tribe. The record bears this out. After the end of the Boston series (September 1), thru September 27, and excluding the three games Cleveland and Chicago played each other, the two teams played on 18 common days. Fifteen of those 18 days, both teams did the same, winning or losing in tandem. This could be some rare coincidence, or it could prove that Collins and Lynn were correct.[fn]Cleveland went 17–6 during this stretch, Chicago 18–7.[/fn]
Several September games raised some eyebrows. In a September 11 game against Boston, Chicago committed six errors (three by Buck Weaver and Risberg) behind Dickey Kerr, losing a game immediately after Cleveland had lost a game. The Chicago Tribune excoriated the Sox play: “”Kerr… was the victim of vile support by some of his teammates… the infield made enough errors… to have lost a world’s series…” [Emphasis added.] With perhaps unconscious irony, the same day the Tribune also ran an article urging baseball to take action against gamblers and clean up the game[fn]I. E. Sanborn, “Gambling Blot Smirches Game as Moguls Dally,” Chicago Tribune, September 12, 1920.[/fn] Shutout losses (at home) to the lowly Washington Nationals on September 12 and 14 raised further eyebrows. Lefty Williams was “wild and ineffective” in the former game, while in the latter game Washington’s runs were “outright gifts” due to three Sox errors. The Washington Star noted something more ominous: “The morale of the White Sox is not what it should be. … It is significant that after returning from the east, where they had lost seven straight games, they were speculating on how much money [they could make in a post-season city series with the Cubs, possible only if they lost the pennant].”[fn]I. E. Sanborn, “Tale of the Lost Home Run and Sox Defeat, 5-0,” Chicago Tribune, September 13, 1920. I. E. Sanborn, “Gift Tallies of Sox Hand Cinch to Griffs, 7–0,” Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1920. Denman Thompson, “Defeats of White Sox Make Griffs Chesty,” Washington Star, September 15, 1920.[/fn]
OTHER FIXED REGULAR SEASON GAMES?
Various sources have cited other games that the White Sox might have thrown in 1920. David Fleitz, in his book Shoeless, notes a July 25 game in which the Indians defeated the White Sox 7–2, largely due to several botched plays by “Black” Sox enforcer Swede Risberg.[fn] David L. Fleitz, Shoeless: The Life and Times of Joe Jackson (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001), 213. [/fn] Eliot Asinof, author of Eight Men Out, points to two earlier losses to Cleveland, on April 27 and May 9.[fn]Eliot Asinof, Eight Men Out (New York, Henry Holt, 1963), 145[/fn]In the former game, a 3–2 loss, Risberg’s late inning throwing error allowed the tying run to score. In the latter game, a 4–3 loss, errors by Risberg and Eddie Cicotte helped let in three runs, while lack of clutch hitting foiled their offense. The Chicago Tribune sourly commented that the Sox lost the game due to “comical fielding,” while the Cleveland Plain Dealer added that the Sox were “not at all particular about making their  hits produce something.”[fn] Irving Vaughan, “Sox Lose First Game of Season to Speakers, 3–2,” Chicago Tribune, April 28, 1920; Irving Vaughan, “Risberg Spiked as Careless Sox Drop 4–3 Clash,” Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1920. Irving Vaughan, “Tribe Trims White Sox 4–3 and Takes Undisputed Possession of First Place,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 10, 1920.[/fn]
There are even charges that Chicago threw regular season games in 1919. Later in his life, World Series hero Dickey Kerr charged that his teammates “didn’t wait until they got in the  Series to throw games….They threw ’em during the season whenever they got their price.”[fn]Joe Williams, “Yanks Have Won Enough Games to Take Pennant,” El Paso Herald-Post, September 29, 1949.[/fn] A modern study attempts, with mixed success, to prove a St. Louis-based 1919 regular season fix via statistical analysis, citing Lefty Williams as the prime 1919 game fixer.[fn] Timothy Newman and Bruce Stuckman, “They Were Black Sox Long Before the 1919 World Series,” Base Ball: A Journal of the Early Game 6 (Spring 2012): 75–85.[/fn]
TESTIMONY REGARDING THE 1920 FIX
What the players (and others) said — both at the time and later — pointed to a 1920 Fix. Every “Clean” Sox regular, as well as “Black” Soxers Happy Felsch and Eddie Cicotte, agreed that the Sox threw games in 1920.
1. Team star and future Hall of Famer Eddie Collins, on September 2, 1920, told Sox owner Charles Comiskey that pitcher Eddie Cicotte “wasn’t trying” and suggested Comiskey talk to the troubled hurler. To well-connected sportswriter Otto Floto of the Denver Post, Collins expanded on this, asserting he told Comiskey after the Boston series that “he was thru (sic) with [the] game if [the] crooks weren’t fired.”[fn]At the 1924 trial, Comiskey placed this Collins warning not on September 2, but rather the week after the indictments. See William Lamb, Black Sox in the Courtroom (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2013), 157.[/fn] Wrote Floto, “At Boston, Collin noticed for the first time that the scoreboard was the barometer by which the contest was waged. He noticed two outfielders [obviously, Jackson and Felsch] watch every inning and when Cleveland won the Sox would also win. When Cleveland lost the Sox would obligingly lose, for the crooked eight [actually, seven] of the Sox had entered into a combine with the gamblers not to win the pennant for Chicago.”
After the scandal broke, Collins said: “We’ve known something was wrong for a long time, but we felt that we had to keep silent because we were fighting for the pennant.”
A few days after the 1920 season ended, Collins charged that the Sox lost the pennant because “two players failed to put forth their best efforts,” and added that the two were among the seven indicted.[fn] Huhn, Eddie Collins, 172. Otto Floto, “Collins Told Comiskey He Was Thru With Game If Crooks Weren’t Fired,” Denver Post, October 15, 1920[/fn] In October, Collins told Collyer’s Eye that games in 1920 were fixed, and “if gamblers didn’t have Weaver and Cicotte in their pocket, then I don’t know anything about baseball.”[fn]“Collins Charges 1920 Games Fixed,” Collyer’s Eye, October 30, 1920.[/fn]
In a 1949 article, Collins was much more specific: “It was in Boston the incident happened that cost us the 1920 pennant. Some gamblers got panicky that we’d win again and they must have got to the players they had under their thumb and ordered the rest of the games thrown…We [the “Clean” Sox] knew something was wrong but we couldn’t put a finger on it.”[fn]Gerry Hern, “The Tipoff on the Black Sox,” Baseball Digest (June, 1949), 11–12. [/fn]
Collins also told sportswriter Joe Williams that the Black Sox “threw a dozen games in 1920, or tried to.” Williams wrote elsewhere that Collins seemed more bitter over the 1920 fix than the 1919 World Series, and that the 1920 team was so good that, even though “they practically lived with the gamblers,” they often won despite themselves.[fn]Joe Williams, “by Joe Williams,” Panama (FL) American, March 30, 1951. Seamheads website (www.seamheads.com), #356.[/fn]
2. In the Washington Times, September 30, 1920, ace pitcher Red Faber complained: “The playing of the Sox on the Eastern trip [i.e., the end of the August 14–September 1 road trip, where Chicago lost five in a row to New York and Boston] made some of the others believe that something was crooked. It looks like we were double-crossed in the World Series last year and in the pennant race this year…”[fn]“Umps Say Sox Threw 1920 Pennant,” Washington Times, September 30, 1920.[/fn]
Many years later, Faber told Asinof that in 1920 he never knew when some disaster might ruin one of his games. “The hoodlums had some of the boys in their pocket all through the 1920 season, too, throwing ball games right up to the last week of the pennant. I could feel it out there when I pitched — Risberg letting an easy ground ball go by, or Happy Felsch letting a runner take an extra base. You want to scream at them but you don’t because you can see how scared they are.”[fn]Eliot Asinof, Bleeding Between the Lines (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1979), 93.[/fn]
3. In the Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 29, 1920, John “Shano” Collins said: “We suspected some of them in the World Series, and we suspected them again because of the way of the play on the last eastern trip. Some of them not only didn’t try, but really acted as though they didn’t want to win.”[fn]“Sox Traitors Accused of Not Trying to Win ’20 Flag,” Canton Repository, September 29, 1920.[/fn]
He expanded on this in the Boston Post: “We fought a losing battle all this year. We had a fine team and we seldom were defeated by any wide margin. We had the strength to stay up there to win if everything had been right, and yet at the critical moment something would always happen. …
“You may remember our last visit this year to Boston. Just before we came there the Red Sox had started a spurt and were beating all comers.[fn]Not exactly true, if Collins is quoted correctly. While Boston had taken 4 of 5 from Cleveland early in the week, they’d lost 3 in a row to the Browns immediately prior to the White Sox series, and lost 2 of 3 to New York after the Sox left town. That quotation would better fit the White Sox[/fn] This allowed us to creep up to the top, or very near it, for we had been fattening at Cleveland’s and New York’s expense. And we reached the Hub with a splendid chance to go away out in front.
“Well, we lost all three games; Cicotte was batted out of the box. Our men were hopeless at the bat. The big stickers fell down miserably. I have heard a lot about certain players watching the score board while playing in the Hub and not trying as hard as they might. Well, I’m not going to discuss that. I only know that we lost three straight to the Red Sox, that our defeat put the Indians in first place and that we left Boston with every hope blasted.”[fn]Paul H. Shannon, “Collins Shows Crooks Fooled Fellow Players,” Boston Post, November 27, 1920.[/fn]
4. As recalled later by Eddie Collins, during that crucial Boston series, 1919 World Series hero Dickey Kerr blew up after an error by Buck Weaver, and a botched fly ball that fell between Felsch and Jackson. “When the inning was over Kerr scaled his glove across the diamond. He looks at Weaver and Risberg, who are standing together, and says ‘If you told me you wanted to lose this game, I could have done it a lot easier.’ There is almost a riot on the bench. Kid Gleason breaks up two fights. That was the end. We lose three or four more games the same way.”[fn]Huhn, Eddie Collins, 172[/fn]
5. Outfielder Eddie Murphy later said that during the 1920 season he suspected that the gamblers still held sway over the “Black” Sox, as the team “lost often enough, suspiciously, to cost us the flag.” “We knew something was wrong for a long time.”[fn] Paul Browne, “A Grandfather’s Tale: Interviewing Eddie Murphy III,” SABR Black Sox Research Committee Newsletter (June 2015), 13. John Heeg, “Eddie Murphy,” in Jacob Pomrenke (ed.), Scandal on the South Side: The 1919 Chicago White Sox (Phoenix, Society of American Baseball Research, 2015).[/fn]
6. Backup catcher Byrd Lynn, in October 1920, got specific: “We lost the pennant because certain players — they are among the eight indicted by the Cook Grand jury — didn’t want us to win. … We soon noticed how carefully they studied the scoreboard — more than even the average player does in a pennant race — and that they always made errors which lost us the game when Cleveland and New York were losing. If Cleveland won — we won. If Cleveland lost — we lost. The idea was to keep up the betting odds, but not to let us win the pennant.”[fn]Quoted widely. Cf “Sox Players Charge Mates Threw Games,” Idaho Statesman, October 4, 1920; “White Sox Players Accuse Teammates,” The New York Times, October 4, 1920.[/fn]
7. Utility infielder Hervey McClellan, in October 1920, charged that certain players (unnamed) threw the three-game series in Boston, and added, “Several of the players noticed how the score board affected the others, and we felt all along that these men were regulating their play according to the play of other teams.”[fn]“Sox Players Charge Mates Threw Games,” Idaho Statesman, October 4, 1920.[/fn]
8. In public, outfielder Nemo Leibold professed ignorance of the 1920 fix. He was quoted in 1921 as saying: “I roomed with Buck [Weaver] throughout the 1919 and 1920 seasons and never had an inkling there was anything wrong.” However, during the 1920 season, Leibold told his friend, New York shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh, that something was wrong. As Peckinpaugh later recalled, the clearly upset Leibold told him “Something screwy is going on here. I don’t know what it is, but it’s something screwy, all right. You guys bear down and you ought to take all four games.”[fn] Pomrenke, Scandal on the South Side, 107. Donald Honig, The Man in the Dugout (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1977), 216. The White Sox played two 4-game series with New York that year — June 16–19, and August 1–4.[/fn]
9. When interviewed by investigators after the 1920 season, Buck Weaver said “Black” Sox infielder Fred McMullin offered him a $500 bribe to “lay down” in a game in August of 1920, an offer Weaver refused but did not report to management at the time.[fn]Gene Carney, Burying the Black Sox: How Baseball’s Cover-Up of the 1919 World Series Fix Almost Succeeded (Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2006), 332[/fn]
10. Many years later, outfielder Happy Felsch, another of the 1919 fixers, admitted throwing games in 1920 as well, with the colorful observation “Playing rotten, it ain’t that hard to do…”[fn] Asinof, Bleeding Between the Lines, 117. Asinof Papers, Chicago History Museum, Box 4, Folder 2. In 1920 Felsch angrily denied throwing 1920 games, calling the charges “bunk.”[/fn]
11. Also years later, Red Sox pitcher Joe Wood recalled his friend Eddie Cicotte telling Wood, during the 1920 season, that “We don’t dare win” the 1920 pennant.[fn] Lawrence Ritter, The Glory of Their Times, audio version.[/fn]
12. Catcher Ray Schalk usually kept silent about the 1919 fix, but the Chicago Tribune on September 26, 1920, alleges Schalk “entertained doubts as to the honesty of two pitchers [obviously Cicotte and Williams] — especially during the last two months [of 1920].”[fn]“First Evidence of Money Paid to Sox Bared,” Chicago Tribune, September 26, 1920.[/fn]
13. Unidentified “Clean” Sox player, September 29, 1920, while celebrating the “Black” Sox grand jury confessions, told a reporter: “No one will ever know what we put up with all this summer. I don’t know how we ever got along.”[fn]“Shadow Lifted, ‘Square Guys’ of Sox Celebrate,” Chicago Tribune, September 29, 1920.[/fn]
14. Sox manager Kid Gleason, on September 29, 1920, the day after the Black Sox confessions, admitted, “I have felt for a long time that some of my players were not going at the speed they should be going.” A puzzled Gleason, suspecting another fix but not having proof, brought the players (one being Eddie Cicotte, whom Gleason benched in early September) in for extra workouts.[fn]“Gleason Welcomes Wreck of Team for Good of Baseball,” Chicago Tribune, September 29, 1920.[/fn]
15. Unidentified Sox players, to Collyer’s Eye, September 18, 1920 (prior to the confessions), say they’re “fed up” with their teammates’ “listless efforts.”[fn]“Sox Reveal Inside of Big Scandal?,” Collyer’s Eye, September 18, 1920.[/fn]
16. Unidentified Sox player to The Sporting News, October 7, 1920, about the 1920 season: “When we started on our last trip east we had every reason to believe we were on the way to win a pennant…. Then Cicotte and Williams seemed to go bad without reason; Jackson, Felsch and Risberg began dumping the ball to the infield every time we had a chance to score runs. Some of us always had believed we were sold out in the  World Series. When the [crooked] players showed they meant to beat us out of getting in on this one we decided to act. Cicotte was told that he would have to win a certain game or he would be mobbed on the field by the honest players on the team — he won it… Between double crossing his gambler partners and taking a licking from his team mates he decided, naturally, to double cross.”[fn]“When Baseball Gets Before the Grand Jury,” The Sporting News, October 7, 1920. See also “Believe Pennant Has Been Thrown,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 30, 1920. The game where the “Clean” Sox told Cicotte to win — or else be “mobbed’ — presumably occurred in September, after the Boston series. Of the three games he pitched and won that month, the September 19 game appears the most likely, given the timing of the testimony and the state of the pennant race. See “Pitcher Names Bribe Gamblers,” New Orleans States, September 29, 1920, for an earlier version of the “mobbed” story, which specifies that September 19 game.[/fn]
17. Unidentified Sox players, per The Sporting News, October 7, 1920: “Honest players on the White Sox team are practically unanimous in saying that the cheaters continued to throw down the team all this season. ‘We would have won the pennant in a walk,’ they say, ‘if those fellows had played fair.’”[fn]“When Baseball Gets Before the Grand Jury,” The Sporting News, October 7, 1920[/fn]
18. In the Washington Times, September 30, 1920, umpire Brick Owens “charged that Eddie Cicotte laid down in the series with Boston [that Owens umpired] a month ago… Cicotte would put lots of stuff on the ball up to the third strike … then he would send over a grooved fast ball without a thing on it. His work could scarcely be detected from the stands, but there was a lot of comment among the players.”[fn]“Umps Say Sox Threw 1920 Pennant,” Washington Times, September 30, 1920. Brick Owens and Ollie Chill umpired this series, and the later Cleveland-Sox series. None of this talk of throwing games surprised the newspaper. The next day the Times explained further: “Joining the Washington ball club last year, we found it common talk among the Griffmen that some of the Sox had thrown the Series of the year before. On occasion, some of the Chicago players were named as being in on the deal.” Louis Dougher, “Looking ‘Em Over,” Washington Times, October 1, 1920.[/fn] Manager Kid Gleason benched Cicotte for 10 days following this Boston start, and another poor performance. The reason the Sox gave for this extraordinary move — benching your ace starter during a hot pennant race — was that Cicotte needed to rest and regroup. However, it is likely Gleason saw the same pattern Owens did. Whatever the reason for the slump (blackmail, bribery, worry, fear that the gamblers would murder him, or just a tired arm), Cicotte won all three of his starts after returning to the rotation.
19. In the same newspaper, another umpire, who refused to be named, charged that the Sox threw a game in Cleveland “last week” that Duster Mails pitched. “Mails pitched for Cleveland,” this umpire said, “and he didn’t have a thing. But the Sox players didn’t hit him, and the Indians won the game.”[fn] “Umps Say Sox Threw 1920 Pennant,” Washington Times, September 30, 1920. “Jury Refuses to Halt Baseball Probe,” Denver Post, September 30, 1920. This undoubtedly refers to the September 24, 1920, game where Duster Mails of Cleveland blanked the White Sox 2-0. The White Sox managed only 3 hits (by Eddie Collins, Felsch and Jackson) off the brash southpaw, though Mails walked five. From the box score, it appears the “Clean” Sox also had trouble hitting Mails that day. Brick Owens and Ollie Chill umpired this game[/fn]
20. On October 1, 1920, Boston Globe sportswriter Jim O’Leary reported on “stories” circulating around Boston that “gamblers who had something on Cicotte” ordered Cicotte to lose the second game of the notorious Boston series, threatening to “break with him and show him up.” During that game, O’Leary blurted out: “Why, they’re playing just like they did in the World Series!” Chicago sportswriter Oscar Reichow responded: “That’s so.” O’Leary notes that at the time neither suspected any fix.[fn]James C. O’Leary, “Recall Defeat Handed Cicotte on Last Visit. Story Circulated in Boston Says Gamblers Brought Pressure of White Sox Hurler to Lose Game to Red Sox in Fenway Park,” Boston Globe, October 1, 1920.[/fn]
21. Roger Peckinpaugh, veteran Yankees shortstop: “You never knew when the White Sox were going to go out there and beat your brains out or roll over and play dead. Somebody was betting on those games [in 1920], that’s a cinch.”[fn]Honig, The Man in the Dugout, 216.[/fn]
22. American League president Ban Johnson, in September 1920, admitted that he had “heard statements that the White Sox would not dare to win the 1920 pennant because the managers of a gambling syndicate, alleged to have certain players in their power, had forbidden it.” In 1929 Johnson was even more specific: “The Sox would have walked into the 1920 pennant had they played ball, but they were at the mercy of the gamblers.”[fn] “Plan Probe of Cohan-Tennes Losses on Sox,” Chicago Tribune, September 24, 1920; Ban Johnson, “Thirty-Four Years in Baseball — The Story of Ban Johnson’s Life,” Chicago Tribune, March 10, 1929.[/fn]
In sum, every “Clean” Sox regular (Schalk, Shano Collins, Eddie Collins, Leibold, Murphy, Kerr, and Faber), at the time, or later, accused their teammates of laying down in 1920. Known fixer Hap Felsch later admitted as much. Add to that list of accusers two “Clean” Sox backups (Lynn and McClellan), the Sox’s manager (Kid Gleason), umpires, sportswriters, and American League president Ban Johnson, throw in the McMullin bribe attempt and Cicotte’s admission, and it becomes clear that once again the fix was in. The accusations focused on the same players that we now know threw the 1919 Series.
MOTIVES OF THE PLAYERS
It is likely the same motives that led to the 1919 scandal (money) also operated in 1920. Famed sportswriter Joe Williams, an intimate friend of Eddie Collins, offered an interesting take on the 1920 fix. He speculated that the “Black” Sox, shortchanged by the gamblers in 1919, “set out to clip the game for all they could before the inevitable [exposure].”[fn] Seamheads website, #356.[/fn]
In 1918 the notorious Hal Chase was accused of trying to bribe his Cincinnati teammates. Despite testimony of the players at a hearing conducted by the National League, Chase got off scot free. Two months after the Black Sox Scandal blew open, Chicago sportswriter Hugh Fullerton summed up what the crooked Chicago players thought: “The Chase case gave many players the idea that they could play dishonestly and not be discovered, or if discovered or suspected, would be cleared.”[fn] Hugh Fullerton, “Baseball on Trial,” The New Republic, October 20, 1920.[/fn]
The overwhelming testimony of “Clean” Sox, “Black” Sox, and neutral observers, is that the Sox threw games — at a minimum three, and perhaps as many as a dozen — in 1920. The statistics support this conclusion. Money was the primary motive, just as it was in 1919. Since they’d dumped the 1919 Series without suffering serious (any?) consequences, there was no reason not to cash in on 1920 as well. Considerable gambler money must have been involved, as low-paid backup Fred McMullin could toss around $500 bribe offers like popcorn. Fear of the gamblers exposing them likely also played a part.
BRUCE S. ALLARDICE is a Professor of History at South Suburban College, near Chicago, and has authored numerous articles on the Black Sox, along with biographies of the Black Sox gamblers for the SABR BioProject. His article on “The Spread of Baseball in the South Prior to 1870” received the McFarland-SABR Baseball Research Award in 2013.