Sadly, sports have been linked to corruption, from time to time, for centuries. As long as money is involved in a sport, someone will be looking for ways to get their hands on it.
Sometimes it isn’t so much corruption as a scandal. In Japan in recent years, their beloved Sumo wrestlers have become embroiled in allegations of gambling on baseball through the Yakuza. Not only have Sumo become linked to the Japanese underworld, but they have also committed a crime as sports betting is strictly controlled in the country.
Could Something Like the Black Sox Baseball Scandal Ever Happen Again?
Baseball seems to have had more than its fair share of scandals, steroids, the Pete Rose betting scandal that saw him thrown out of baseball, and of course, the Black Sox World Series scandal of 1919.
It was more than a hundred years ago, but with so much money involved in modern sports today, the question lingers, could something like that happen again?
What causes a sporting scandal of the magnitude of the Black Sox?
Sportswriters, fans, team staff, and players, all had an opinion on the World Series scandal. While some sympathized with the players, especially the ones who appeared not to have fully participated in the match throwing, others had a different view.
One person’s view that the players were underpaid could easily be offset by someone else who believed that the players were both greedy and lucky to have the chance to play professionally. The World Series is the pinnacle of Baseball events, and the Chicago White Sox threw it away.
The accepted reason for throwing, or attempting to throw matches was to make money. Whether that was because they were underpaid, or through greed is up to opinion, but money was the ultimate reason.
How did the scandal come about?
One of the top 10 best baseball movies of all time is Eight Men Out. This movie tells the tale of the Black Sox scandal, in Hollywood style of course. It shows a Cincinnati Reds player comparing playing against the White Sox to General Custer’s last stand.
It seems that the accepted wisdom is that the White Sox were ready to walk right over the Reds. However, this might not be strictly true. While it is probably true that the scandal happened because a gambler by the name of Joseph Sullivan approached Chuck Gindil with the proposition, the team might have lost anyway.
The conspiracy was apparently endorsed by none other than Arnold Rothstein, who managed to avoid trial completely. The players, as is well documented, were found innocent but then banned from playing ever again.
What happened to the men involved?
The owner Charles Comiskey lost the respect of other franchise owners due to his handling of the scandal but was later elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Something that never happened for the eight men removed from the sport.
Arnold Rothstein was a businessman, racketeer, and gambler, who loved casino games. Craps and poker were favorite games of his, and in 1928, the latter saw the end of him.
Rothstein lost $320,000 in a poker game but refused to pay up, ironically stating that the game was fixed. Two months later at another card game, he was shot dead.
Shoeless Joe Jackson was a hero to many in Chicago, and although it is believed he took some of the bribe money, it is hard to say he threw a single game. He had a higher batting average than any player on either team in the World Series.
Jackson played and managed in semi-pro leagues, owned a restaurant, then a liquor store, before passing away in 1951.
Buck Weaver was the only player out of the eight not to have taken any money. He believed in the sport and tried six times to get reinstated. He passed away in 1956 at the age of 65.
Has there been as big a scandal in another sport?
After Joe Jackson was banned, he had to sue Charles Comiskey for unpaid wages. This gave more weight to the belief that the Black Sox were treated poorly and underpaid. Comiskey was said to be fond of keeping a tight rein on his cash and found ways to avoid paying promised bonuses and pay rises.
However, in today’s sport, players often receive very high salaries compared to regular folk. This doesn’t mean that corruption and scandal couldn’t happen though. To pay high salaries, clubs need to make money, and this means staying in the top leagues and winning.
Back in 2006, Juventus, one of the most famous names in Italian, and world football, were relegated for match-fixing. The scandal engulfed the top division, and to some degree, the next tier also. It involved clubs, management, and referees. Some players were named but cleared of involvement.
Just like the Black Sox, the punishment was severe. Juventus were relegated and had to start the next season with a 30 point deficit.
Although players may be less inclined to fix matches, it doesn’t mean that it is impossible for a club owner, desperate for results, not to try.
Could it happen again?
Well, as Juventus and other Italian clubs have proven, the potential is there. However, there is so much more scrutiny now. A series of strange and large sports bets would be noticed easily. Casinos and sportsbooks watch out for patterns and rumors of fixes These days people are more likely to enjoy poker or baccarat online than try to fix the World Series.
If a heavyweight boxing match was going down in Vegas, the casinos might expect to take heavy money, but a surge in bets at lots of locations would be picked up. The mafia no longer controls Sin City, and these days sports fans can enjoy games in casinos and gamble safely, knowing the games aren’t fixed. There are even slot machines for sports enthusiasts as well as virtual baseball to bet on.
Sports and gambling are interlinked, although betting is illegal in many countries and regions, it is still enjoyed by many. It is often in places where sports betting is difficult that corruption is more likely to happen, such as with the Japanese Sumo wrestlers.
Fortunately, the Black Sox Scandal is unlikely to happen again in baseball, but sadly no one will ever know if they could have won the World Series, or if they really did throw it all away.