Eight Sox Blacken Baseball
The 1919 Chicago White Sox The infamous 1919 Chicago White Sox. Commissioner Landis banned eight member of the team (circled) for throwing the 1919 World Series.
     In 1919, a scandal rocked America's game. Eight members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series. After careless errors and timely strikeouts piqued public suspicion that the series was fixed, Chuck Gandil, Claude "Lefty" Williams, Eddie Cicotte, Happy Felsch, Buck Weaver, Swede Risberg, Fred McMullin and the biggest baseball star in the Midwest, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson were tried in court. Although the courts found them innocent, the newly appointed Commissioner, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, was not as lenient. The eight men were out of Major League Baseball.

     Before news broke that the World Series was fixed, baseball was more popular than ever. It was becoming more and more deeply embedded in America's popular lexicon. A "Home Run" meant success. If an idea "came out of left field," it came out of nowhere. If it was "off-base," it was incorrect. Baseball had become America's game. Baseball is "a clean, straight game, [which] summons to its presence everybody who enjoys clean, straight athletics," President William Howard Taft said in 1910.

     But as the World War I stained the innocence of America, the Black Sox scandal shattered the innocence of America's Pastime. The scandal, however, was not unforeseeable given the strained relationship between many penny-pinching owners and their player. Throwing games was also not uncommon as the poorly paid players tried to make as much money as they could. Nonetheless, the news that the World Series left a cragged scar on the face of Baseball. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby that Arnold Rothstein, the gambler that set the fix, tampered with "the faith of fifty million people." Sportswriter Hugh Fullerton proposed in the The New York World that the World Series never be played again if owners wanted to preserve the sanctity of the game.

     Fans turned away from the game because they began to suspect corruptions in the past. According to The Sporting News, "the general effect is to wrinkle the noses of fans who will quit going to ball games if they get the impression that this sort of thing has been going on underground for years." Although Commissioner Landis tried his best to purge baseball of its corrupt elements, the damage had been done. Professional baseball committed virtual suicide once its life reached a new high. Only a hero could resuscitate the game from its deathbed.

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