Black Sox on Film

By Rob Edelman

This article was published in the 2015 The National Pastime.

Eight Men Out and Field of Dreams are not the only films to feature the “Black Sox.”

Major League Baseball’s historian, John Thorn, posted this on Facebook in December 2014: “I did not know that as early as October 1920 a film about the Black Sox Scandal was in circulation.”

Indeed, an ad in the October 30, 1920, issue of Exhibitors Herald, a motion picture industry trade publication, advertises The Great Baseball Scandal, produced by the short-lived Celebrated Players Film Corporation and distributed by the equally obscure Federated Film Exchanges of America, Inc.

The ad, which encourages exhibitors to book the film, hypes it as “A Slow Motion Picture Expose” and “THE BIGGEST ONE REEL FEATURE EVER OFFERED.” While the Black Sox aren’t cited by name, the ad announces that the “speed camera used in photographing this picture shows the trickery of crooked baseball players in dishonoring America’s national pastime.” It also notes that the film was “EDITED BY THE WORLD’S GREATEST BASE BALL AUTHORITY” (who also is unnamed).

Regrettably, like too many films of the silent era, The Great Baseball Scandal is long-lost.

ROB EDELMAN teaches film history at the University at Albany. He authored "Great Baseball Films" and "Baseball on the Web," and, with his wife Audrey Kupferberg, "Meet the Mertzes," a double biography of I Love Lucy ’s Vivian Vance and famed baseball fan William Frawley. A frequent contributor to "Base Ball: A Journal of the Early Game," he has written articles on baseball and pop culture for many publications.