Simply Baseball Notebook's Forgotten In Time

1920 Chicago White Sox

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96-58, 2nd in the American League

While the Pete Rose fiasco continues to rear it's ugly head, the biggest scandal in baseball history occurred 84 years ago when eight members of the Chicago White Sox conspired to fix the 1919 World Series. The events surrounding baseball's biggest black eye have since spawned several books, Internet sites, and even a major motion picture. What many people don't know however, is that the White Sox came back in 1920, with virtually the same roster. They nearly became American League Champions once again.

While rumors swirled about a possible fix of the Series during the winter of 1919-1920, nothing was concrete. Sox' owner Charles Comiskey even did his best to downplay the rumors, fearing such a large scandal would destroy his investment. As a result seven of the eight players involved in the fix reported to Spring Training in Waco, TX ready for business as usual.

Only the group's ringleader, first baseman Chick Gandil, was not in attendance. Gandil, who moved to California in the off season, actually requested a $10,000 salary for the 1920 season. Comiskey denied his petition, and the 33-year-old retired. Gandil reportedly spent the season living it up on the West Coast.

Shano Collins, who platooned with Nemo Leibold in right field in 1919, stepped in for Gandil at first base, rounding out the infield that included returning starters, Eddie Collins at second, Swede Risberg at shortstop, and Buck Weaver at third. The fiery Ray Schalk returned behind the plate, and the outfield remained in tact with Joe Jackson in left, Happy Felsch in center, and Leibold in right.

Virtually the entire pitching staff of 1919 returned as well. Staff ace Eddie Cicotte, the crafty Lefty Williams, the emerging Urban "Red" Faber, and the versatile Dickie Kerr made up the starting rotation. The bullpen was led by right-handers Roy Wilkinson and George Payne.

The defending American League Champions began the season at home against the Detroit Tigers on April 14. Lefty Williams responded with a gem, defeating Ty Cobb's crew 1-0. The Sox remained hot for the next week, racing out to 6-0 start. On May 3, they stood on top of the AL with a 10-2 mark.

The team eventually cooled off and settled into third place for most of May. On June 1, their record stood at 20-18, fourth in the AL, 6.5 games back. Although the Sox played better in June, they were still 5 games out of first place on July 1 with a 39-26 mark. A six game winning streak in early July shaved the deficit to 3 games, but the inconsistent club hit another dry spell and on July 21, they were again 6 games back.

By August the White Sox were ready to make a move. After a seven game winning streak that ended on August 14, the Sox were just 2 games back of the back with a 71-41 record. A week later they took over first place, with a 5-2 win over Washington. Their reign at the top would not last however, due to a 7 game losing streak that ended on September 5, knocked the defending champs out of first place for good.

The Sox managed to make it interesting the rest of the way and seemed primed for one final push when disaster struck. On September, after a 2-0 victory over the Tigers which pulled them within 1.5 games of first place with, 3 games to go, the victorious White Sox headed to the locker room. When they arrived they were greeted with the news that the fix had been exposed. The eight players involved were indicted, along with several gamblers. Charles Comiskey sent the implicated players a telegram informing them that they were indefinitely suspended, but added "If you are innocent of any wrongdoing, each of you with be reinstated."

With the heart of their lineup and two best pitchers suspended, the Sox lost two of three to the St. Louis Browns. They finished the season with a 96-58 record, just two games behind Cleveland. The 1920 Chicago White Sox roster included three 20 game winners (Cicotte, Faber, and Williams) and five .300 hitters (Eddie Collins, Shano Collins, Felsch, Jackson, and Weaver). Red Faber paced the pitching staff with a 23-13 record and 2.99 ERA, and Joe Jackson led the club with .382 average and 121 RBI.

On March 12, 1921, newly appointed commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis placed the indicted players on the "ineligible list," for the 1921 season. He also said the players would "not necessarily" be reinstated if they were acquitted, refuting Comiskey's earlier statement.

On August 2, the players were acquitted on all charges, and assumed they would be allowed to rejoin the team. Landis, however, had other ideas. Given absolute power by the owners, he looked to make an example out of the eight men, as well as flex his newfound power.

On August 3, the Commissioner issued this statement, "Regardless of the verdicts of juries, no player who entertains proposals or promises to throw a game, no player who sits in conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing games are discussed and does not promptly tell the club about it, will ever play professional baseball."

As a result, Eddie Cicotte, Oscar "Happy" Felsch, Arnold "Chick" Gandil, Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Charles "Swede" Risberg, George "Buck" Weaver, and Claude "Lefty" Williams never played another inning of major league baseball. All eight men remain on the banned list to this day.

-David Zingler, September 2003


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