Say It Ain’t So, Joe!

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The press and organized baseball were hardly as jubilant. The Associated Press reported that the news was received with “surprise, disappointment and chagrin” by sports editors and writers. The outcome of the trial was a “travesty” as “stunning and disturbing as the original disclosures.” The New York World asserted that “if the crooks who were acquitted try to show their faces in decent sporting circles, they should be boycotted and blackballed.”

As a matter of fact, Commissioner Landis had precisely that in mind. On the day after the verdict, the eight were suspended for life. Landis stated: Regardless of the verdict of juries, 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 games are planned and discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.

From that day on, organized baseball never retreated from this position.

It is no exaggeration to say that every one of the Black Sox bitterly regretted his role in the scandal. Although they had been held legally guiltless, they were nevertheless cut off from their livelihood—a livelihood that, at best, could offer relatively few working years. For a while, some of the Black Sox played exhibition baseball, but they found the public indifferent and their existence harassed by the hostility of the game’s rulers. Ball parks were closed to them, and other obstacles appeared in their path. Gradually, most of them turned to other fields.

In the years immediately following the scandal, several of them tried to obtain through the courts what they considered equitable redress. None succeeded. Perhaps the most persistent protester of his own innocence was Buck Weaver, who, while admitting that he knew of the plot, was adamant in asserting that he had had no part in it. From time to time he addressed appeals to Landis. They were never answered. From time to time, too, baseball fans signed petitions for the reinstatement of various of the players—particularly Jackson—but none was ever effective.

It is doubtful if the ultimate truth will ever be known. Some of those concerned—like Rothstein, Jackson, McMullin, Weaver, and Williams—are dead, and those who survive are at the mercy of their memories and their pride. Chick Gandil’s comment on his banishment may perhaps serve as a last word. “I felt it was unjust,” he said, “but I truthfully never resented it because, even though the series wasn’t thrown, we were guilty of a serious offense, and we knew it.”