, “Eight Men Out” Essay, Research Paper
In the golden age of baseball, where the heroes of the diamond
became gods, an incident that would scar baseball for life was committed in
the World Series of 1919. Eight men of the Chicago White Sox team
conceived a plot to throw the World Series for a sum of $80,000. A novel
written by Eliot Asinof, entitled Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919
World Series, examines the events leading up to the fix, well through the rest
of the players lives.
The players on the Chicago White Sox team of 1919 had many
reasons to believe they were being unfairly treated. One of which was their
poor salaries as compared to the rest of the league. Even though this team
was compiled of some the greatest players in the league, they were one of
the lowest paid franchises. Their owner, Charles Comiskey, was a man who
had no ideas of fair play in regards to his employees. He is comparable to a
robberbarron of the time, for he treated his players as less then human. He
provided them only $3 a day for food allowances when most other teams
allotted their players $4, and even reduced the frequency of cleaning the
players uniforms to save money to give examples.
Chicago’s number one pitcher in the rotation was Eddie Cicotte. He
was seemingly the most disrespected player on the team. He only received
an annual salary of $6,000 for his spectacular play. He was made promise of
a $10,000 bonus if he had achieved 30 wins, and was benched to prohibit
him from reaching this goal and acquiring his money. He was the first player
to go along with Gandil.
The treatment of their number won pitcher is a shining example of how
Comisky treated his player. And what made the matter even worse was that
Comisky treated the press as one would treat a dear friend. He went so far
as to have a chef at there disposal while at the ball park.
Asinof projects the impression that if the players had viewed
themselves as being fairly treated, or at least able to seek employment with
another team, which was prohibited through the reserve clause located within
every players contract, then this tragic story in baseball lore would have never
The second theme to which Asinof speaks is of the series itself.
Before the series ever even began the gamblers were seemingly stringing
the players along, all except for Arnold Rothstein. He was the only participant
in the fix to uphold his end of the deal, and give the players the money they
agreed upon. But as was the case so often, a fellow gambler, and the man
the players trusted skimmed money off the top and only delivered the players
$10,000 of the $40,000 provided up front.
When the series started, the players were prepared to fulfill their end of
the deal, even though they didn’t receive their payment in advance. In fact
the first two games of the series went exactly according to plan. The superior
White Sox team of Chicago successfully threw the first two games of the
series. The third game was a turning point for the player’s morale. After
being overly frustrated with the treatment they were receiving from their
partners in the fix, they decided to strike back. The third game was an
overwhelming victory for the White Sox. The interesting part of this is that the
players set out to lull the gamblers into a false sense of security by assuring
them the third game would go just as the first two.
This was the beginning of the players’ reluctance to go through with the
fall. This game started a chain of events that lead the players to win the sixth
and seventh games to bring the series record to 4-3 in favor of the Reds. And
if it had not been for the threat on Lefty Williams and his wife, the White Sox
quite possibly would have turned the series around and ended it with a world
championship. The White Sox lost the eighth game of the series, even
though their will to come out with a victory was great, the pitching of Williams
put them in a hole, that even for this great team, was impossible to climb out
In the process of exposing the fix, the wool was pulled over the players
eyes many of times. For example, when Cicotte came in to the grand jury to
confess, Comiskey’s lawyer Alfred Austrian tricked him into signing a waiver
of immunity. This type of trickery was also used on the illiterate Joe Jackson
and “Lefty” Williams. So in result of the manipulative efforts of the grand jury
and Comiskey, the players secret was finally disclosed to the public.
When each of these players were compelled to come forward and
express the details of their participation in this scandal, they were all told that
the state would take care of them. When in fact the state, the grand jury,
among others had no intention of taking care of them, they set out from the
beginning to crucify these ball players, and to do it through any means of
deception necessary. These men destroyed the integrity of a game, a game
that every man, woman, and child saw as part of them, and this could not go
So even though some of these players were seemingly regretful of
what they had done, it made no difference. Newspaper editors, reporters,
and such pressured these players to get the story, to give them guilt trips, or
just to see if there was anything they were leaving out of the fabled tale.
Overall this accusation of a thrown World Series would have never been able
to stick without a confession by the players. This confession was only
obtained through manipulation and lies, which should have never taken place.
During the trial of these eight men, two men seemingly backed them,
one being Charles Comiskey, the owner they betrayed, and Arnold Rothstein,
the millionaire gambler. But an even greater backer was that of professional
baseball, who didn’t want these men to be convicted because it would
damage the reputation of the game. Several peculiar things had happened,
to assure the men’s vindication.
The first is that through all of the deception and back stabbing, Charles
Comiskey was paying for the high priced attorneys to defend these players.
The players initiated contact with the lawyers, and paid them a meniscus
amount of money to retain their services. The players then learned that it was
Comiskey who was fronting the bill in exchange for a few minor details. One
is that his name was kept clean. Two is that he wanted baseball’s name kept
clean. And three is that he wanted the players to be acquitted so they could
continue to play for him, and he could remain the owner of the best team in
The second thing that helped propel the players to victory was that
mysteriously the confessions signed, and the waivers of immunity were stolen
from the court. Asinof believes that Arnold Rothstein had these
confessions stolen so that he could see how his named was mentioned in
these confessions. He was not necessarily incriminated by the confessions of
Cicotte, Williams or Jackson, so he had no real need for them, and seemingly
after attempts to sell them, got rid of the documents.
The third thing that is mysterious about the trial is this. Once the trial
was over and the jury’s verdict read, “not guilty” on all accounts of conspiracy,
the courtroom erupted. Asinof suggests that even the judge was smiling at
the players, and did not proceed in trying to silence the uproar. This suggests
a conspiracy, and that the trial was a fraud. However, nothing suggests this
as great as the fact that the 12 men of the jury were celebrating the players
acquittal in the same restaurant side by side with these eight players.
Asinof has written an excellent book that greatly depicts the events
leading up to this travesty of baseball history. He has presented his
information in a fair, objective way that helps shed light on the whole situation
that was going on between the White Sox and their many counter-parts in
crime. His opinion however is hidden. He hides his opinion regarding the
situation, to allow for a more objective presentation of the facts. He was on
the players side, yes he acknowledges their wrong doing, but he suggests the
punishment was quit harsh, and did not fit the crime. He passively tries to
justify the players wrong doing, and places more blame on Comiskey and the
I disagree, the players initiated the fix, and were prepared to sell out
there team members, the city of Chicago, and Baseball itself. The players
brought this all on themselves, and should be able to face the music.