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1919 Project – Game 8

Whatever Lefty Williams had been told by the mysterious “Harry” made its impression. In the first inning, throwing nothing but mediocre fastballs, Williams gave up four straight one-out hits. He allowed three runs before Kid Gleason relieved him with “Big” Bill James, who allowed one more of Williams’ baserunners to score. It was 4-0 after the 1st inning.

“Shoeless” Joe Jackson hit the only homer of the Series in the third inning, but it came after the Reds had built a 5–0 lead. Jackson led all players with his .375 average, but most of his offensive potency came in games that weren’t fixed, or when the game seemed out of reach. Jackson had 12 hits overall, which was a World Series record at that time.

Although the Sox rallied in the 8th inning, the Reds came away with a 10–5 victory for a 5-games-to-3 Series win.

The Cincinnati Reds had won their first World Championship in their very first Fall Classic appearance.

Immediately after the Series ended, rumors were rife from coast to coast that the games had been thrown.

Journalist Hugh Fullerton of the Chicago Herald and Examiner, disgusted by the display of ineptitude with which the White Sox had “thrown” the series, wrote that no World Series should ever be played again.

An investigation into the Series resulted in several of the “Black Sox” publicly admitting their roles in fixing the games.

The public’s trust in the game was eroding, and the owners knew they had to take a decisive action. They soon hired respected federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis to become the first commissioner of baseball.

Although a jury acquitted the players of any wrongdoing (mostly because of evidence that mysteriously disappeared), Commissioner Landis issued the following statement:

Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player that throws a ball game; no player that undertakes or promises to throw a ball game; no player that sits in a conference with a bunch of crooked players and
gamblers where the ways and means of throwing ball games are planned and discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.”

– Kenesaw Mountain Landis

The infamous “Eight Men Out” – Eddie Cicotte, Chick Gandil, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver, Lefty Williams, Hap Felsch, Swede Risberg, and Fred McMullin – would never play in the major leagues again.

In 1920, Cincinnati finished the season with a record of 82-71, finishing in third place in the National League. They wouldn’t win another World Series until 1940.

I’d like to thank everyone who’s been reading along with these day-by-day reports on the 100th anniversary of this scandalous World Series. I’d especially like to thank the members of Facebook’s Custom Baseball Cards Group. They provided valuable feedback on the original card designs and encouraged me to dive deeper into this Reds team. I thoroughly enjoyed digging up more info on the 1919 Series and the players involved, and I hope you enjoyed it, too.

1919 Project – Game 7

Despite the rumors already circulating about Cicotte’s erratic performances in Games 1 and 4, White Sox manager Kid Gleason showed faith in his ace for Game 7. This time, the knuckleballer did not let him down.

Chicago scored early and, for once, it was Cincinnati that committed the errors. The Reds threatened only briefly in the sixth before losing 4–1, and suddenly the Series was relatively close again. This did not go unnoticed by gamblers Sullivan and Rothstein, who were suddenly very worried about their investments.

Before the Series started, the Sox had been strong favorites and few doubted they could win two games in a row—presuming that they were trying to win. Rothstein had been too smart to bet on individual games, but had about $270,000 riding on Cincinnati to win the Series.

The night before Game 8, Lefty Williams—the scheduled starter—was supposedly visited by an associate of Sullivan’s known only as “Harry.” Harry left no doubt that if Williams failed to blow the game in the first inning, he and his wife would be in serious danger.

1919 Project – Game 6

The Series reverted to Cincinnati for Game 6. Dickie Kerr, starting again for the White Sox, was less dominant than he had been in Game 3.

With the help of three Chicago errors, the Reds jumped out to a 4–0 lead before Chicago fought back. The Sox tied the game at 4–4 in the sixth, and that remained the score into extra innings. In the top of the tenth, scandal architect Chick Gandil drove in Buck Weaver to make it 5–4. Kerr closed it out to record his—and Chicago’s—second win.

For the Reds, Greasy Neale went 3-for-4 and pitcher Jimmy Ring game up only 1 run in 5 innings. The Reds’ Dutch Reuther, the hero of Game 1, gave up 4 earned runs in only 5 innings.

1919 Project – Game 5

Game 5 was postponed by rain for a day. Both starters, Lefty Williams and Cincinnati’s Hod Eller, pitched well at first – neither allowed a runner past first until the top of the sixth. That’s when Eller himself hit a blooper that fell between Felsch and Jackson. Felsch’s throw was off-line, sending Eller all the way to third.

Leadoff hitter Morrie Rath then hit a single over the drawn-in infield, scoring Eller. Heinie Groh walked before Edd Roush’s double—the result of more suspicious defense from Felsch—brought home two more runs, with Roush scoring next.

Eller pitched well enough (he struck out nine batters, including a then-World Series record six in a row) for the four runs to stand up. The Reds had now won 4 games.

In any other year, this would have ended the series. But 1919 was different. Due to the intense post-war interest, the commissioner of baseball had decided to extend this Fall Classic to a best-of-nine affair.

Even with this being a 9-game series, the Reds were only one game away from their first world championship.

1919 Project – Game 4

On October 4, the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox played Game 4 of the 1919 World Series at Comiskey Park in front of 34,363 fans.

Eddie Cicotte, the Game 4 White Sox starter, was determined not to look as bad as he had in Game 1. For the first four innings, he and Reds pitcher Jimmy Ring matched zeroes. With one out in the fifth, Cicotte fielded a slow roller by Pat Duncan but threw wildly to first for a two-base error. The next man up, Larry Kopf, singled to left; Cicotte cut off the throw from Jackson and fumbled the ball, allowing Duncan to score.

The home crowd was stunned by the veteran pitcher’s obvious mistake, and those who were wondering if the series was crooked now had more evidence.

Next, Cicotte gave up a double to Greasy Neale. This scored Kopf to make it 2–0. The Reds had scored 2 runs in the inning off 2 errors by Cicotte. That was enough of a lead for Ring, who threw a three-hit shutout of his own to match Kerr’s gem in Game 3. The Reds now led the Series 3–1.

Chicago manager Kid Gleason was stunned by his team’s loss. “Itwas nothing but hard luck that beat the White Sox,” he said. “I don’t believe that all of the luck in the Series can be on one side.”

Later that evening, gambler “Sport” Sullivan came through with $20,000 for the Black Sox players, which Gandil split equally among Risberg, Felsch, and Williams, who was due to start Game 5 the next day.

Pat Duncan is credited with hitting the first home run to go out of the park at Redland Field, but John Beckwith of the Negro National League’s Chicago Giants hit one out a month earlier.

Ring & Neale were both traded to the Phillies after the 1920 season in the deal that brought Eppa Rixey to the Reds.

1919 Project – Game 3

The third game of the 1919 World Series took place on October 3rd at Comiskey Park in Chicago. 29,126 fans attended the game, and were able to see the White Sox snag one of their few victories in the series.

Prior to Game 3, some of the Black Sox promised the gamblers they wouldn’t win behind rookie Dickie Kerr – they’d save their wins for vets like Cicotte and Williams. The plan was for the Black Sox conspirators, who disliked Kerr, to lose this game.

Kerr, however, was clearly not in on the fix. But because many players had not yet received any money, the whole scheme was in disarray. One of Rothstein’s men gathered the last of his resources to bet on Cincinnati. It was a decision that would leave him broke.

Chicago scored early when primary conspirator Chick Gandil drove in two runs. The tough lefty Kerr was masterful, holding the Reds to only three hits as he pitched a 3–0 complete game shutout.

The Reds’ Ray Fisher was credited with the loss, despite giving up only 2 earned runs in 7 innings. Cuban-born Adolfo Domingo De Guzmán “Dolf” Luque pitched a masterful inning of relief, but it was too little, too late. As a blue-eyed, fair-skinned, white Cuban, Luque was one of several white Cubans to make it in Major League Baseball at a time when non-whites were excluded. He would later be enshrined in the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame, the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame, and the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame.

The White Sox had finally won a game, but the plan to throw the series was in disarray. The players themselves weren’t sure who was trying to win and who wasn’t, and nobody really knew what would happen next.

1919 Project – Game 2

White Sox manager Kid Gleason didn’t have to look far for reasons why his ace, Eddie Cicotte, would have thrown Game 1. The $10,000 Cicotte received from Rothstein’s men was almost double the paltry salary he received from the White Sox in 1919. Cicotte’s salary was also barely half that of Reds starter Dutch Reuther. 

Two days before the Series, the odds were 8-5 in favor of the White Sox. By the start of Game 1, the odds were even. By the start of Game 2, the odds were 5-7 against the Sox.

There were 800 fewer attendees for the second game. This was blamed on Reds fans who had stayed up too late and drank too much the night before. 

Game 2 of the 1919 World Series took place on October 2nd. Cincinnati’s starting pitcher, Slim Sallee, tossed a 4-2 Game 2 victory that was sealed by Larry Kopf’s two-run triple in the fourth. The victory was especially gratifying for Sallee, who had lost two World Series games to the White Sox just two years earlier as a member of the New York Giants.

Game 2 was a typical game of the Reds’ “small ball” approach – they managed to turn 4 hits into 4 runs. Their efforts were aided by Chicago’s starting pitcher, Lefty Williams, giving up 6 walks in 8 innings.

Although the Black Sox had not received their money (except for Cicotte), the players were still willing to go through with the fix. Lefty Williams wasn’t quite as obvious about the fix as Cicotte, though. After a slightly shaky start, Williams pitched well until the fourth inning, when he walked three and gave up as many runs.

After that rough inning Williams became virtually unhittable again, giving up only one more run. A lack of clutch-hitting (with Chick Gandil a particularly guilty party) led to a 4–2 White Sox loss.

After losing Game 2, White Sox catcher Ray Schalke attacked pitcher Lefty Williams beneath the stands. Schalke kept punching Williams until other players eventually pulled him off. Schalke had seen exactly what Williams had done from the mound to throw the game.

Rothstein’s intermediaries were still in no mood to pay up afterwards, but Gandil managed to get $10,000 from them and distributed it among the conspirators.

These Black Sox were no strangers to scandal. In 1917, the White Sox participated in another, lesser-known game-fixing arrangement. The Chicago players paid $45 each to a pair of Detroit Tigers pitchers to throw a crucial series against Boston.

It’s somewhat ironic that the Black Sox scandal involved this particular Reds squad. Just a year earlier, in 1918, Reds manager Christy Mathewson played a large role in getting rid of the notorious game fixer Hal Chase. 

Following Game 2, the teams boarded trains headed to Chicago’s Comiskey Park for Game 3 the next day. This train ride included journalist Ring Laudner’s infamous rendition of “I’m Forever Blowing Ballgames”, which was immortalized in the movie “Eight Men Out.”

1919 Project – Game 1

Exactly 100 years ago today, the 1919 World Series began. The underdog Cincinnati Reds upset the Chicago White Sox to claim the first championship in franchise history.

Unfortunately, their victory would forever be overshadowed when it was learned that eight White Sox players (later nicknamed the “Black Sox”), had arranged a deal with gambler Arnold Rothstein to intentionally lose the series.

Over the next few days, I’ll be posting details about the team and each game of that series, along with custom cards I created to honor each member of the 1919 Reds. Hope you enjoy.

The Cincinnati Reds had never finished higher than third since 1900, but surprised almost everyone by winning the National League pennant in 1919. The Reds didn’t just win the pennant – they finished nine games in front of the New York Giants with a record of 96–44. In the second half of the season, the Reds were an outstanding 47-19. In fact, no team would have a higher winning percentage until the 1927 Yankees, a team considered by many historians to be the greatest ever assembled.

History has painted the 1919 World Series as a “sure thing” for the White Sox – with most people today believing the Sox would have won easily if a few of their players hadn’t accepted money to fix the series. We’ll never know for sure, of course, but it’s unfair to say that the 1919 Reds had no chance of winning a level series. Many baseball “experts” also said the 1990 Reds had no chance of winning that Series … and then they swept the A’s.

Just as there was a plot for the Black Sox to throw the series, another group of gamblers was plotting to get the Reds to lose. This group targeted several Reds pitchers, trying to get them drunk before their games. Reds ace Dutch Reuther, a noted drinker, was caught drinking on the eve of Game 1 by Reds manager Pat Moran.  (Reuther would later be part of the legendary 1927 Yankees lineup.)

The 1919 Reds were masters of the type of “small ball” that was typical in this era – few homers and a big emphasis on drawing walks, stealing bases, and bunting runners over to produce runs. The Reds hit only twenty home runs as a team in 1919, but managed to score the second highest number of runs in the National League. The Reds drew 50 more walks and had 32 more sacrifices than anyone else.

Center fielder Edd Roush led the league in hitting at .321 and was in the top five of most important hitting categories. Third baseman Heinie Groh was the other big bat in the lineup with a .310 average. First baseman Jake Daubert was a two-time National League batting champion with Brooklyn and hit .276 in 1919. Catcher Ivey Wingo also hit .273.

The Reds’ pitching was their real strength, though. The team’s big three included Hod Eller (20–9, 2.39), the heavy-drinking Ruether (19–6, 1.82) and Slim Sallee (21–7, 2.06), and all three were among the league’s best. This stellar trio was backed by three other pitchers who were almost as formidable: Ray Fisher went 14–5 with a 2.17 ERA and five shutouts. Cuban Dolf Luque went 10–3 with a 2.63 ERA. Jimmy Ring’s record was only 10–9, but his ERA was an impressive 2.26. This was an incredibly deep and talented staff – a definite advantage in a best-of-nine series.

The White Sox pitching staff, on the other hand, simply wasn’t as strong. The Reds’ pitching staff topped the Sox in ERA, WHIP, and FIP (Fielding-Independent Pitching). Eddie Cicotte was a 29-game winner, but future Hall of Famer Red Faber was ill and unable to pitch in the Series. This limited the Sox to only three reliable starters for what could be a nine-game series.

The Reds also had the best defense in baseball in 1919. Gold Glove Awards weren’t presented until 1957, but the 1919 Reds could safely argue that at least three of the team’s eight starters had a strong claim to such an award (and a fourth was at least in the discussion). If defense wins championships, as they say, then the Reds were going to be a tough team to beat.

The night before the 1919 World Series started, reporter Hugh S. Fullerton wired an article to all of the forty newspapers in which he was syndicated:

The first game began at 3 p.m. on October 1st at Cincinnati’s Redland Field, with 30,511 fans in the stands. Ticket scalpers outside the park were raking in at least $50 per ticket. Huge crowds in New York’s Times Square gathered to get “live” updates on a scoreboard.

In the bottom of the first inning, Cicotte (who received his $10,000 payoff the night before the series began) hit the Reds’ leadoff hitter, Morrie Rath, with his second pitch. This was a signal to gambler Arnold Rothstein that the fix was on. A base hit and sacrifice fly later, Rath scored Cincinnati’s first run.

The game remained close for a while, though. The Black Sox didn’t want to look bad and made several excellent defensive plays. In the fourth, however, Cicotte decided it was time to earn his money. The Sox ace allowed a number of hits, including a two-out triple to the Reds’ pitcher. The Reds scored five runs in that inning to break the 1–1 tie. Cicotte was relieved at that point, but the damage was done. The Reds went on to win 9–1.

This first Game of the 1919 series featured an outstanding performance by Reds starter Dutch Ruether. In addition to going the distance in a six-hitter, the World War I veteran also went 3-for-3 with two triples and 3 RBI.

The Reds’ offense was ignited by Greasy Neale, who went 3-for-4 with 2 runs scored. Neale would go on to lead the Reds in hitting with a .351 average for the Series. 1919 ended up being Neale’s only full season with the Reds – when football season came around, Neale would usually leave baseball and play pro football. He earned the nickname “Greasy” because of his elusiveness on the football field.

During this first game of the series, sportswriters noted that a bad throw by Cicotte to Swede Risberg, which prevented a possible double play, looked suspicious. By that evening, there already were signs that things were going wrong for the Black Sox. Only Cicotte, who had shrewdly demanded his $10,000 in advance, had been paid. Rothstein’s intermediary withheld the players’ next installment ($20,000) to bet on the next game.

The information for this post, and all 1919 Project posts to follow, was gathered from the following sources:
– The book “Eight Men Out” by Eliot Asinof

The 1919 Project (preview)

In 1919, the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series. For some reason, though, that series is best remembered as the series the White Sox lost. (You can Google “1919 World Series” if you don’t already know why.)

People seem to forget that the Reds had a better record than the Sox in 1919. The Reds were 96-44 that year, while the Sox were just 88-52. The White Sox were favored in the series because the American League was viewed as the stronger league, having won 8 of the 9 previous championships.

But I don’t think it’s fair to say that the Reds couldn’t have won it without the whole Black Sox affair.

So…to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Reds’ 1919 World Series victory, I’m creating a card for each member of the team (plus one for manager Pat Moran).

I’ll be writing up the cards with a few details about the players and 1919 Series, which is going to take a while, but I’m posting a few of the cards here as a sneak preview.