1918: Babe Ruth and the World Champion Boston Red Sox by Allan Wood(Reviews)

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Was the 1918 World Series Fixed?

In the wake of the scandal over the discovery that the Chicago White Sox had intentionally lost the 1919 World Series, White Sox secretary Harry Grabiner began writing a journal, outlining what the team’s management had known and done during and after that Series.

Grabiner also listed 27 players he believed were crooked or were suspected of crooked play, and he gave that list to Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. On that list, next to the name Eugene Packard, Grabiner wrote: “1918 World Series fixer.”

After reading that — and knowing that much of the other information in the journal was true — I took a second look at the newspaper accounts of the 1918 World Series, with an eye toward whether the sportswriters had noticed any suspicious play. Their accounts — written for evening and morning papers — offered a running narrative of the six-game series.

In his review of 1918, Camden Joy notes: “Wood’s evidence, though entirely circumstantial, is persuasive. Boston came into the series exhausted, having concluded their season a day earlier with three straight doubleheaders. To the acknowledgment of all observers, they won the World Series against the Chicago Cubs only by “luck.” The Cubs muffed routine plays and experienced uncharacteristic lapses on the basepaths. Chicago’s most reliable runners were picked off and their fine outfielders dropped fly balls.

“Inning after inning, they stranded men in scoring position, behaving altogether unlike themselves. A fair number of ballplayers associated with both clubs were later tainted by gambling scandals; some were banned from baseball, others were quietly blacklisted from the game. As Wood writes:

‘In the late 1800s and early 1900s, gambling and baseball were as inseparable as peanuts and Cracker Jacks. Admission to a game was first charged around 1860; reports of suspected corruption surfaced about two years later. The National League was plagued by a game-throwing scandal in its second year of existence, when four Louisville players conspired to lose the 1877 pennant. An umpire was banished in 1882 for advising gamblers how to bet in games he worked.

‘During the deadball era, suspicions about the integrity of the pennant races and the World Series were practically an annual occurrence. In 1903, Boston’s Cy Young refused a bribe of about nine times his annual salary to throw a crucial World Series game. Two years later, gamblers got to Philadelphia pitcher Rube Waddell, who missed the entire Series because he had supposedly tripped over a suitcase. Gamblers tried fixing the National League pennant race in 1908. There were serious doubts about the honesty of the 1914 World Series, in which the Boston Braves swept the heavily favored Athletics, as well as the 1915 and 1916 National League races. In 1917, the Chicago White Sox gave money and gifts to players on both Detroit and St. Louis for tanking in games against them in September.

‘Whenever a new allegation or rumor came to light, it was either hushed up or flatly denied, depending on who was making the accusation. When umpire Bill Klem, known for his upstanding reputation, revealed that he had been offered $3000 to make sure the New York Giants won their 1908 playoff game against the Chicago Cubs, the National League appointed a committee to investigate. The inquiry was supervised by John T. Brush — the owner of the Giants. Unsurprisingly, Brush recommended that no further action be taken. (It was later discovered that the Giants’ trainer, who had political connections in New York, had bribed Klem.)

‘In 1918, when the government closed the nation’s racetracks, gamblers swarmed to the ballparks to set up shop. Many of them were intimate with both players and club owners; some gamblers even kept a few players on weekly salaries.

‘That year, there were ample motives for a fix. The World Series shares would be the smallest ever. No one knew if or when baseball would be played again and players were worried about money and their families’ security. On top of that, the Red Sox and Cubs felt cheated by the National Commission, which had unilaterally decided to share their World Series revenue with six other teams. Combined with the players’ well-justified antagonism towards their employers and the legions of gamblers working in nearly every ballpark, the situation was ripe for exploitation and dishonesty. All of this was happening at the end of a decade soaked with greed, betrayal and anger, one of the most wretchedly disorganized eras in baseball history. Given the circumstances, it is easy to understand how some players could have been willing to entertain the idea of a fix…”

This page will include some of the information I found.