Guide to the Black Sox Scandal (American League)

Collection Number

BA MSS 16
BL-3049.96

Title

Black Sox Scandal (American League Records)

Inclusive Dates

1914-1969; bulk 1919-1921

Abstract

To the top

Records and photographs from American League President Ban Johnson’s office relating to the Black Sox World Series Scandal in 1919, when eight players from Charles Comiskey’s White Sox were indicted for throwing games for financial gain. Other baseball gambling incidents discussed in the collection include the relationship between New York pitcher Carl Mays and Boston gambler “Pete the Greek,” and a 1917 incident in which the White Sox players took up a collection to pay pitchers from the Detroit club, who beat Boston at a crucial point in the pennant race, $200 each. The records consist primarily of Johnson’s correspondence but also include trial documents and exhibits, player interviews and depositions, the reports of private investigators hired by the League, and photocopies of period newspaper accounts of the scandal.

Preferred Citation

BA MSS 16, Black Sox Scandal (American League Records), 1914 – 1969, National Baseball Hall of Fame Library, Cooperstown, New York

Access

To the top

By appointment during regular business hours, email [email protected].
Available on microfilm and a user-copy has been created.

Separations

Two photographs, one of Arnold Rothstein and one of Joseph “Sport” Sullivan, were transferred to the Photograph Department. These are housed in a file labeled: Black Sox Scandal.

Provenance

The collection was donated to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 1995 by the Office of the Commissioner. Papers arranged and described by Anne McFarland in December 2001, with additional processing by Jonathan Nelson in January 2002 and Claudette Scrafford in June 2013.

Grants

CL-10021-01 (IMLS)

Restrictions

The material contained in this collection may not be photocopied, otherwise duplicated or published by request of the donor. A researcher may take notes and refer to this material in a publication if so desired. Written permission is required to copy, please contact [email protected] for further information.

History

To the top

Eight players from Charles Comiskey’s White Sox were indicted for throwing games in the 1919 World Series, which was the so-called Black Sox scandal. The indicted players from the White Sox were Eddie Cicotte, Oscar “Happy” Felsch, Arnold “Chick” Gandil, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Charles “Swede” Risberg, George “Buck” Weaver, and Claude “Lefty” Williams. The gamblers behind the scandal included Abe Attell, Bill Burns, Arnold Rothstein, Billy Maharg, and Joseph “Sport” Sullivan.

Jackson, Cicotte, and Williams confessed to the grand jury; Jackson and Williams would later retract these statements. Gambler Arnold Rothstein also testified before the grand jury, but his testimony was either lost or stolen not long after it was recorded. Eventually, the indictments against the players were lifted because of the lack of evidence about the identity of Abe Attell. There was also considerable speculation about whether Charles Comiskey was aware of the fix, but he was never brought to trial. After the court exonerated the players, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, acting as the first Commissioner of Baseball, banned all eight players from baseball for life. Landis ruled that throwing games and being aware that others on the team were throwing games were similar crimes against baseball. This judgement was handed down in 1921 after many of the White Sox players had continued to play during the 1920 season.

Gambling was not new to baseball. There is evidence that White Sox players, in 1917, paid pitchers from the Detroit club, who beat Boston during the pennant stretch run $200 each. It was also not uncommon for an owner to send a new suit as a gift to a pitcher who had won or lost a particular game. Although technically not gambling, the suggestion of impropriety is evident in these practices. In February 1921, Landis questioned White Sox players “Lefty” Williams and Eddie Collins, as well as Detroit pitcher George “Hooks” Dauss, about both the 1917 and 1919 seasons. The transcripts of these interviews are part of the collection.

Sources: Asinof, Eliot. Eight Men Out: The Black Sox Scandal and The 1919 World Series. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1963.

National Baseball Hall of Fame Library [Research File]: Gambling – “Black Sox” Scandal. Cooperstown, NY: National Baseball Hall of Fame Library, 2002.

Scope and Content

To the top

The records of the Black Sox Scandal (American League Records) are divided into four series, Investigation, Financial Records, Newspaper Clippings, and Miscellaneous.

Collection highlights include letters documenting the efforts of attorney James R. Price to have Abe Attell extradited to Illinois, and a transcript of his interview with former player Joe Gedeon; letters and telegrams showing Johnson’s extraordinary efforts to find and extradite Bill Burns; correspondence showing how closely certain members of the press, including J.G. Taylor Spink of The Sporting News and newspaperman Joe Vilas, worked with the League in investigating the scandal; and pages from the register of the Hotel Sinton in Cincinnati, Ohio showing the names of the White Sox players as well as Abe Attell and other gamblers.

Investigation (1919-1921) consists of four sub-series: correspondence, investigator’s reports, legal documents, and memoranda. The bulk of the series is comprised of the correspondence of American League President Ban Johnson. Most of the letters fall into two broad categories: letters about the logistics of the trial and letters to Johnson providing information and support for his efforts. In the first category are letters on the discovery and extradition of potential witnesses Abe Attell and Bill Burns; interview transcripts of players such as Eddie Collins, “Lefty” Williams, and Joe Gedeon; attorney James R. Price’s suggestions and potential questions for witnesses Attell and Rothstein; the attempt to obtain photographs of potential investigation targets such as “Sport” Sullivan; and witness expense reports. In the second category are letters sent to Johnson with tips about potential witnesses and information sources for the trial. Included are letters to Johnson stating that persons as diverse as Al Jolson and Miller Huggins may have useful information about gambling in baseball, and two letters from minor league manager Harry Neily recounting conversations with White Sox player “Chick” Gandil on the scandal. Other correspondence of interest includes a July 1921 letter from White Sox executive Harry Grabiner in which he charges that Johnson “did nothing when [he was] first notified” and that the trial is “for the sole and only purpose of advertising B.B. Johnson,” and a letter from Johnson in which he states that “personally, I would like to have spared Cicotte on account of his children.” Another topic covered in the correspondence sub-series is New York pitcher Carl Mays’ association with the Boston gambler “Pete the Greek.” Additional Johnson correspondents include Allen Pinkerton of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, club owners Frank J. Navin of Detroit and Thomas Shibe of Philadelphia, and The Sporting News executive J.G. Taylor Spink.

The investigator’s reports sub-series consists of over a dozen typed reports from the operatives of the Pinkerton and other detective agencies providing information on various parties involved in the Black Sox case including “Sport” Sullivan and Joe Gedeon, and several other reports on gambling issues. Also included is a photograph of “Sport” Sullivan taken during the course of the investigation, which has been separated to the Photography Department.

The legal documents sub-series consist of materials from the Black Sox trial, including a witness list and statement to the jury. Also included are defense and prosecution trial exhibits including: ledgers showing disbursements to “Chick” Gandil; the official box scores from each of the eight 1919 World Series games; the hotel register from the Hotel Sinton in Cincinnati showing the registrations of the White Sox players as well as Abe Attell and other gamblers; a photograph of Arnold Rothstein, which has been separated to the Photography Department; photostats of checks endorsed by Abe Attell; and the National Commission’s 1919 Brochure on the rules and regulations governing the World Series.

The final sub-series is memoranda, and it consists of several memorandums and other documents related to the Black Sox investigation including the text of the League’s official statement after the unsuccessful trial.

Financial Records (1919) is comprised of seven cancelled checks documenting the 1919 World Series payouts to the teams and leagues.

Newspaper Clippings (1920-1969) consists of photocopies of newspaper articles documenting the Black Sox scandal. Included are a number of 1920 and 1921 articles documenting the unfolding scandal. In addition, there are also several later newspaper articles that revisit the scandal through the years, including a 1929 article in which Comiskey defends himself against his detractors, including Ban Johnson, and a 1969 obituary of Eddie Cicotte.

Miscellaneous (1914-1921) consists of a 1914 letter and invitation addressed to M.J. “Nuf Ced” McGreevy inviting him to an event honoring the returning World’s Tourist Baseball Team, including Charles Comiskey and John J. McGraw. This may have become part of the collection because of the Comiskey connection, but it has no relationship to the Black Sox scandal. This series also includes two publications that provide background to the collection: the Constitution and Playing Rules of the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs 1921, and The Official 1919 Code of Playing Rules for Playing Base Ball.

Content List

To the top

Box 1

Investigation - Correspondence

Folder 1

1919

Folder 2

September 1920

Folder 3

October-November 1920

Folder 4

January-February 1921

Folder 5

March 1921

Folder 6

April 1921

Folder 7

May 1921

Folder 8

June 1-15, 1921

Folder 9

June 16-30, 1921

Folder 10

July 1-15, 1921

Folder 11

July 16-August, 1921

Folder 12

1922-1924

Folder 13

General, n.d.

Folder 14

James R. Price, n.d.

Investigation - Investigator’s Reports

Folder 15

Reports, 1920-1921, n.d.

Folder 16

Photograph, Joseph “Sport” Sullivan, [1921]

Investigation - Legal Documents

Folder 17

Trial documents, 1921

Investigation - Oversize
Trial exhibits, 1919

Folder 18

Trial exhibits, 1919-1921

Folder 19

Memoranda, n.d.

Financial Records

Folder 20

Cancelled checks, 1919

Newspaper Clippings

Folder 21

1920-1969, n.d.

Miscellaneous

Folder 22

M.J. “Nuf Ced” McGreevy, World’s Tourist Baseball Team, 1914
Official publications

Folder 23

Constitution and Playing Rules, National League, 1921

Folder 24

Official 1919 Code of Playing Rules, 1919

Folder 25

BL-3552.99 Index of papers prepared by Sam Stoloff, 1998
- detailed but not complete