At SABR 49 on June 27, 2019, in San Diego, the SABR Black Sox Scandal Research Committee hosted a special Eight Myths Out panel discussion to discuss the most common misconceptions about “baseball’s darkest hour” on the 100th anniversary of the fixed 1919 World Series.
Earlier this year, the Black Sox Scandal committee published the Eight Myths Out project at SABR.org to help shed new light and debunk many common misconceptions about the Black Sox Scandal.
Panelists included Jacob Pomrenke, editor of Scandal on the South Side: The 1919 Chicago White Sox; Rick Huhn, author of Eddie Collins: A Baseball Biography; Bill Felber, author of Under Pallor, Under Shadow: The 1920 American League Pennant Race That Rattled and Rebuilt Baseball; and Bruce Allardice, Black Sox Scandal researcher and Professor of History at South Suburban College near Chicago.
- Audio: Click here to listen to the Eight Myths Out panel at SABR 49 (MP3; 57:10)
Here are some highlights:
On the legacy of Eight Men Out
- Pomrenke: “Eight Men Out was published in 1963 and it was written by Eliot Asinof, who was a former minor-league baseball player and a TV screenwriter. When he wrote Eight Men Out, he did not have access to much in the way of documentation or sources that we have today about the 1919 World Series. … Unfortunately, as we’ve learned in the last 50 or so years since Eight Men Out was published, a lot of that story was fiction.”
On the myth of the underpaid White Sox players
- Pomrenke: “The biggest myth, the No. 1 myth that we portrayed in our Eight Myths Out project, was this idea that Charles Comiskey was this Scrooge character and he was the supervillain of the story. That’s the myth that these White Sox players were underpaid and they were very disgruntled at management and this is said to be the reason why they threw the World Series. This is kind of the central thesis of Eight Men Out.”
- Huhn: “[We know now] the Black Sox … were the third-highest salaried team in the American League. And what was amazing to me was, when you look at the performance bonuses and what was actually paid out during the year, they may have actually been No. 1. … Even though we have been working to disprove it, even last week another article came out front and center talking about how [Charles] Comiskey had mistreated the players when it came to their salaries and how this was a linchpin for what came about in the scandal. And the amazing thing is, the more we try to do this it’s like [Sisyphus] going up that hill. We’re not quite there yet.”
On the gambler Sport Sullivan
- Allardice: ““The myth that the gamblers initiated the fix is of course ridiculous. It was the players specifically Gandil and Cicotte who approached Sport Sullivan. … The gamblers were relatively unknown other than maybe Arnold Rothstein — the big fixer. In Asinof’s book, he talks about Sport Sullivan, who more than anyone else in my opinion was the key to this whole Black Sox Scandal. [Asinof] says he was a man of mystery. As a historian … that was appalling to me. So I went out and did the research. And found out … that he was almost as prominent as Arnold Rothstein.”
On the influence of author Gene Carney, the late founding chairman of the SABR Black Sox Committee
- Huhn: “What was great about Gene was that he was into finding out what we didn’t know (about the Black Sox Scandal) as opposed to just relaying what we already knew. He was questioning a lot about the Asinof book. He had met Eliot Asinof, so he started formulating questions and we’d go back and forth and over the years. That has inspired me to continue my interest.”
On Shoeless Joe Jackson’s Hall of Fame chances
- Felber: “With respect to Joe Jackson, I have never been a supporter of the movement to either restore Joe Jackson’s good name, get him into the Hall (of Fame), get him eligible for the Hall of Fame or get any … exoneration of him for this reason: Whatever one believes about Jackson’s play, about his alertness, about his mental understanding of what was going on, one thing I think we all agree on: Joe Jackson got paid to throw the World Series.”
For more coverage of SABR 49, visit SABR.org/convention.
Originally published: August 4, 2019. Last Updated: July 27, 2020.