100 years later, legend of 1919 Chicago Black Sox lives on

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Joseph "Shoeless Joe" Jackson is shown in action during his heyday in an undated photo. He was one of the key figurtes in the infamous "Black Sox" scandal, which rocked baseball and caused the introduction of a baseball commissioner. He ended his 14 seasons in the majors with a lifetime batting average of .356 and was an outfielder. He played in the majors from 1908 to 1920.

    Joseph "Shoeless Joe" Jackson is shown in action during his heyday in an undated photo. He was one of the key figurtes in the infamous "Black Sox" scandal, which rocked baseball and caused the introduction of a baseball commissioner. He ended his 14 seasons in the majors with a lifetime batting average of .356 and was an outfielder. He played in the majors from 1908 to 1920.

 
 
Updated 9/21/2019 7:22 PM

Come for the promotions, stay for the baseball.

Like most major-league teams looking to pack as many people into the seats as possible, the Chicago White Sox find something to entice the paying public during the majority of the home schedule.

 

Dog Day, Elvis Night, Southpaw's Birthday, Christmas in July. It's a lengthy list.

Anniversaries also are big draws, be it the 10-year celebration of the 2005 World Series champions, Mark Buehrle's 2009 perfect game or the 25-year remembrance of the 1993 Sox, who finished first in the old AL West.

This season marks the 100-year anniversary of the infamous "Black Sox," but there has been no formal recognition at Guaranteed Rate Field.

"We tend to celebrate anniversaries that our fans enjoy," said Scott Reifert, the White Sox's senior vice president of communications. "We just had a 112-year-old fan (CP Crawford) out here. He actually might remember it, otherwise there just aren't that many fans running around.

"It's more of a moment in the history books."

In 1919, the Cincinnati Reds beat the White Sox in the World Series. The following year, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver and six other Sox players were charged with conspiring with gamblers and losing to the Reds on purpose. They were all hit with lifetime bans from major-league baseball.

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"You certainly don't celebrate it," Reifert said. "You don't necessarily embrace it, but you acknowledge it. We've done that, the (1919) pennant is up in the outfield, and it's not something we run from. It's a moment in baseball history that still kind of resonates through generations."

In 1963, Eliot Asinof's book "Eight Men Out" helped bring back interest in the Black Sox, and W.P. Kinsella's novel "Shoeless Joe" was published in 1982.

In 1988, "Eight Men Out' was released as a movie, and "Field of Dreams," based on "Shoeless Joe," came out the following year with blockbuster reviews.

In high school, Atlanta native Jacob Pomrenke read "Eight Men Out" and was instantly hooked.

"I've been interested in baseball history for as long as I can remember," Pomrenke said. "I read the book 'Eight Men Out' just like everyone else and I was fascinated by the story. I wanted to learn more. I read the book and I had more questions than answers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I joined SABR when I was 16 and found other people who are interested in diving deeper and finding out more about this story. As we went down the rabbit hole, we kept learning more and more, and it kept challenging our assumptions about what we know about this whole story. All these years later, we continue to learn more. It's a fascinating story and it never seems to die."

Through the years, Black Sox researchers and writers have looked hard at whether players such as Jackson and Weaver really were on the take, and they've shed some harsh light on how the game was run a century ago.

"Baseball looked the other way for a long, long time, before the 1919 World Series," Pomrenke said. "They had many opportunities to clean up the game and protect the integrity of the game before the Black Sox scandal. They always chose to look the other way; they always chose to sweep it under the rug."

Published this spring, SABR's "Eight Myths Out" project helped debunk some interesting beliefs about the 1919 White Sox.

One thought was that the eight banned players accepted payoffs because owner Charles Comiskey was a cheapskate.

"The White Sox had one of the highest payrolls in baseball, and most players were paid better than their peers in the American League," SABR reported.

Another common storyline was that gamblers approached Sox players about throwing the World Series.

"Led by (first baseman) Chick Gandil and (pitcher) Eddie Cicotte, the players approached gamblers with the idea," SABR reported.

This Saturday, Pomrenke and SABR will host the Black Sox Scandal Centennial Symposium at the Chicago History Museum.

"Obviously, it was a sad moment, a sad chapter," Reifert said. "But there is something about it that connects with people. It's what makes the 'Field of Dreams' movie kind of what it is. It's what made 'Eight Men Out.' It's almost like a Shakespearean tragedy, a Greek tragedy.

"There's a lot of drama to it, the characters are very rich. Their motivations are interesting, what actually happened? Who was really involved? I think it's a compelling story for people."

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