Name given to eight players of the 1919 Chicago White Sox, a Major League Baseball team. They were:
Dissatisified with the low salaries given to them by the White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, they conspired to fix the 1919 World Series where they were heavily favored to beat the Cincinnati Reds. Bankrolled by underworld figure Arnold Rothstein, Gandil was the ringleader, but Cicotte was key player in the fix. The ace of the pitching staff (29-7 1.82 ERA), he asked for and received $10,000 in cash in advance to throw the first game of the series. The rest of the players would have to wait until the Sox lost their fourth game (it was a nine game series). But with Cicotte in on the fix, the other players agreed to go in on the deal.
In the first game, Cicotte hit the first batter to signal that the fix was in. With the score tied 1-1 In the fourth inning, he threw wildly to second on a easy double play ball, starting a five run rally. Cincinnati won going away 9-1.
In the top of the fourth inning of Game 2, Gandil weakly hit into a double play with one out and Joe Jackson on third. In the bottom of the inning Lefty Williams crossed future Hall of Fame catcher Ray Schalk repeatedly while loading the bases with three consecutive walks, then gave up a triple. The Reds won 4-2. Schalk was so angry he fought with Williams after the game.
Game 3 was played cleanly. Young pitcher Dickie Kerr threw a three hit shutout in a 3-0 win for the Sox.
Before Game 4, Gandil had gone to his funders and demanded money for the players for the fix to continue. With the Series stil very much up for grabs, he was given $20,000. In the game, Cicotte committed two key errors in the fifth allowing the Reds to win 2-0. Afterwards, Gandil passed out $5000 each to Swede Risberg, Happy Felsch, Williams, and Jackson. It was the only money the four would ever see, but it ensured the fix would continue to the critical fifth game.
In Game 5, the game was deadlocked at 0-0 in the sixth when a fly ball dropped between Felsch and Jackson, after which Felsch threw badly to Risberg who was covering second. Risberg misplayed the ball, allowing the runner to get all the way to third. Later in the inning, Felsch dropped another fly ball. The Reds won 5-0. The White Sox were one game away from losing the Series. An expected $20,000 payment to the players didn't arrive and the Black Sox players decided to double cross the gamblers.
In Game 6, Kerr pitched well again, while Gandil singled home Buck Weaver in the 10th inning to win the game for the White Sox 5-4.
In Game 7, Cicotte played to win and scattered 7 hits in a 4-1 win.
Williams was threatened by a thug before Game 8 and was told to insure a Cincinnati victory in the first inning. He folded. Throwing only 15 pitches, four of them going for hits, he gave up 3 runs and got only a single out. The Reds took the Series 5 games to 3 with a 10-5 win.
In the end, the gamblers who bankrolled Gandil didn't see the return on their investment that they had hoped for because of shifts in the odds after it became known in the underworld that the Sox were going to lose.
Rumors of the fix whirled around the team through the winter and into the following season. Charles Comisky publically offered an award to anyone providing proof that the Series was tainted, but ignored private complaints by some of the clean Sox. Gandil retired, taking his winnings and moving west to San Francisco, but the remaining players played the 1920 season with the White Sox. By September a grand jury was assembled and eventually Cicotte broke down and admitted what he had done. Jackson soon followed.
The eight players were put on trial in early 1921 but were acquitted after Cicotte and Jackson's confessions disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Despite this, the eight players were banned forever from baseball by its first commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. This harsh ruling, as well as the emergence of the Babe Ruth went a long way in preserving baseball as the national sport of choice in the United States for the next 40 years.
Weaver is the only somewhat sympathetic figure in this affair. He played well during the Series and received no money. He was only lumped in with the other seven because he attended meetings with them and did not rat them out. Jackson is often seen as a tragic figure. He hit well (.375, 6 RBI, the only home run of the series), but that fact that he took $5000 from Gandil was enough in Landis' mind to banish him and to keep him out of the Baseball Hall of Fame to this day.
The definitive book about the Black Sox scandal is Eight Men Out by Eliot Asinof. It was made into a film of the same name by John Sayles in 1988. The Black Sox also figure prominently in Field of Dreams.