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Every month, Professor Douglas Linder of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, developer of the Famous American Trials website, introduces JURIST readers to one of legal history's famous trials. This month...
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The Black Sox Trial

Eighty years ago this month, a Chicago grand jury indicted eight members of the Chicago White Sox baseball team on charges of conspiring to fix the 1919 World Series. A few months later, the trial would end in a "not guilty" verdict and the spectacle of the White Sox defendants being paraded around the courtroom on the backs of jurors. But the story of the greatest scandal in sports history does not end there. The day after the Chicago jury's verdict, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis banished from baseball the eight indicted players--including the great "Shoeless Joe" Jackson. Read now, as another season opens for the boys of summer, the account of the scandal and trial that forever changed our national pasttime.

Douglas Linder
University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
linderd@umkc.edu
April, 2001

* * *

As Jackson departed from the Grand Jury room, a small boy clutched at his sleeve and tagged along after him.
"Say it ain't so, Joe," he pleaded.  "Say it ain't so."
"Yes kid, I'm afraid it is," Jackson replied.
"Well, I never would've thought it," the boy said.
                                                         .
                                                    --Chicago Herald and Examiner (9/30/1920)

The players on the Charles Comiskey's 1919 Chicago White Sox team had plenty to complain about.  Together they formed the best team in baseball--perhaps one of the best teams that ever played the game--, yet they were paid a fraction of what many players on other teams received.  Comiskey's contributions to baseball were beyond question, but he was both a tightwad and a tyrant.  The White Sox owner paid two of his greatest stars, outfielder "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and third baseman Buck Weaver $6000 a year, despite the fact that players on other teams with half their talent were getting $10,000 or more.  On road trips, Sox players received a $3 a day allowance, even though almost all other teams gave their players $4.  For Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte, there was another source of irritation: in the fall of 1917, when Cicotte approached a 30-win season that would win him a promised $10,000 bonus, Comiskey had his star pitcher benched rather than be forced to come up with the extra cash. The players had few options in dealing with their penurious owner.  Because of baseball's famous reserve clause, any player who refused to accept a contract was prohibited from playing baseball on any other professional team.

The bitterness Sox players felt for their owner led eight members of the team to enter into a conspiracy that would forever change the game of baseball and be remembered as the greatest scandal in the history of professional sports.  They would agree to throw the World Series.

The Fix

According to Eliot Asinof, author of Eight Men Out (the best of the books about the 1919 scandal), the idea of fixing the Series sprang into the mind of a tough thirty-one-year-old Sox pitcher named Chick Gandil.  Asinof's places the beginning of the fix in Boston, about three weeks before the end of the 1919 season.  Gandil asked an acquaintance and professional gambler named "Sport" Sullivan to stop by his hotel room.  After a few minutes of small talk, Gandil told Sullivan, "I think we can put it [the Series] in the bag."  He demanded $80,000 in cash for himself and whatever other players he might recruit. (In 1950, Gandil would offer his own--somewhat different--account, crediting Sullivan and not himself for the idea.  Gandil claims he initially told Sullivan a fix involving seven or eight players was impossible. Sullivan replied, "Don't be silly.  It's been pulled before and it can be again.")

Gandil knew that the Chicago's ace pitcher, Eddie Cicotte, had no love for Charles Comiskey.  Moreover, Cicotte had money troubles, having bought a farm in Michigan that came with high mortgage payments.  Cicotte at first resisted Gandil's suggestion that he join in a fix of the Series, but eventually his scruples gave way.  He told Gandil, "I'll do it for $10,000--before the Series begins."

With Cicotte on board, Gandil's efforts to recruit additional Sox players took off.  Shortstop "Swede" Risberg and utility infielder Fred McMullin said that they were in.  Starting pitchers would be critical in any successful fix, so Gandil went after--and soon convinced--Claude "Lefty" Williams.  To round out the fix, Gandil approached three of the teams best hitters, Buck Weaver, Joe Jackson, and and outfielder Oscar "Happy" Felsch.  The three agreed to meet with the other five players the next night, September 21, at Gandil's room at the Ansonia Hotel in New York.  It was a meeting that would eventually shatter the careers of each ballplayer in attendance.

In his 1950 article in Sport Magazine, Gandil offers this account of the September 21 meeting:

They all were interested and thought we should reconnoiter to see if the dough would really be put on the line.  Weaver suggested we get paid in advance; then if things got too hot, we could double-cross the gambler, keep the cash and take the big end of the Series by beating the [Cincinnati] Reds.  We agreed this was a hell of a brainy plan.
Gandil met with Sport Sullivan the next morning to tell him the fix was on, provided that he could come up with $80,000 for the players before the Series began.  Sullivan indicated that he might be difficult to raise that much cash so quickly, but promised to meet with Gandil when the team got back to Chicago for the final games of the regular season.

Then things started to get complicated.  Another gambler, "Sleepy" Bill Burns, having heard talk of a possible fix, approached Cicotte and offered to top any offer Sullivan might make.  Gandil, meeting with Cicotte and Burns, announced that they would work a fix with Burns for an upfront $100,000.  Burns and an associate, Billy Maharg, set off for New York to meet with the most prominent gambler-sportsman in America, Arnold "Big Bankroll" Rothstein.

On September 23, Burns and Maharg approached Rothstein as he watched horses at Jamaica Race Track.  Rothstein told the two men that he was busy, and that they should wait in the track restaurant, where he might get to them later.  Instead, Rothstein dispatched his right-hand man, Abe Attell, to meet with Burns and Maharg and find out what they had in mind.  When Rothstein reported back that night about the plan to fix the Series, Rothstein was skeptical.  He didn't think it could work.  Attell relayed the news to a disappointed Burns. Undeterred, Burns and Maharg cornered Rothstein later that night in the lobby of the Astor Hotel in Times Square and pressed their plan to fix the Series.  Rothstein told the two men, for "whatever my opinion is worth,"  to forget it, and Burns and Maharg did--for awhile.

Abe Attell, or the "Little Champ" as ex-prize fighter was called, saw an opportunity to make some big bucks, and he decided to take it.  Unbeknownst to Rothstein, Attell contacted Burns and told him that Rothstein had reconsidered their proposition and had now agreed to put up the $100,000 to fund the fix.  Burns whirled into motion, calling Cicotte and wiring Maharg to tell them the fix was on.

Sport Sullivan, meanwhile, continued independently to pursue his own fix plans.  He also contacted Rothstein.  Sullivan, unlike Burns and Maharg, was known and respected by Rothstein.  When Sullivan laid out his plans for the fix, Rothstein expressed an interest in the scheme he had previously withheld.  Rothstein saw the widespread talk of a fix as a blessing, not a problem: "If nine guys go to bed with a girl, she'll have a tough time proving the tenth is the father!"  He decided to sent a partner of his, Nat Evans, to Chicago with Sullivan to meet with the players.

On September 29, the day before the Sox were to leave for Cincinnati to begin the Series, Sullivan and Evans (introduced as "Brown").  Evans listened to the players' demand for $80,000 in advance, then told them he would talk to his "associates" and get back to them.  When Evans reported back, Rothstein agreed to give him $40,000 to pass on to Sullivan, who would presumably distribute the cash to the players.  The other $40,000, Rothstein said, would be held in a safe in Chicago, to be paid to the players if the Series went as planned.  Rothstein then got busy, quickly laying at least $270,000 on the Reds to win the Series.

With forty $1,000 bills in his pocket, Sullivan decided to bet nearly $30,000 on the Reds instead of giving it to the players as planned.  They could get the money later, he thought.  Odds were dropping quickly on the once heavy underdog Reds team--the best Sullivan could do was get even money.  Sullivan passed the other $10,000 to Gandil, who put the money under the pillow of the starting pitcher for game one of the Series, Eddie Cicotte.  Cicotte sewed the money into the lining of his jacket.

Frustrated and angry at getting only $10,000 from Sullivan, seven of the players (only Joe Jackson was absent) met on the day before the Series opener at the Sinton Hotel in Cincinnati with Abe Attell.  Attell refused to pay the players any cash in advance, offering instead $20,000 for each loss in the best-of-nine Series.  The players complained, but decided to throw the first two games with Cicotte and Williams as the scheduled starting pitchers.

The Series

October 1, 1919, Opening Day, was sunny and warm.  The game was a sell-out, with scalpers getting the unheard of price of $50 a ticket.  At the Ansonia Hotel in New York, Arnold Rothstein strode into the lobby just before the scheduled opening pitch.  For Rothstein and the several hundred other persons gathered in the lobby, a reporter would read telegraphed play-by-play accounts of the game as baseball figures would be moved around a large diamond-shaped chart on the wall.  Rothstein had sent word that Eddie Cicotte was to hit the first Reds batter with a pitch, as a sign that the fix was on.  The first pitch to lead-off batter Maurice Rath was a called strike.  Cicotte's second pitch hit Rath in the back.  Arnold Rothstein walked out of the Ansonia into a New York rain.

The game stood 1 to 1 with one out in the fourth when the Red's Pat Duncan lined a hanging curve to right for a single.  The next batter, Larry Kopf, hit an easy doubleplay ball to Cicotte, but the Sox pitcher hesitated, then threw high to second.  The runner at second was out, but no doubleplay was possible.  Greasy Neale and Ivy Wingo followed with singles, scoring the Reds' second run.  Then the Reds' pitcher, Dutch Reuther, drove a triple to left, scoring two more.  The bottom of the Cincinnati order was teeing off on the Sox's ace.  The game ended with the Reds winning 9 to 1 [game stats link].  Meeting later that night with Charles Comiskey, Sox manager Kid Gleason was asked whether he thought his team was throwing the Series.  Gleason hesitated, then said he thought something was wrong, but didn't know for certain.

The fourth inning turned out to be determinative in game two as well.  Lefty Williams, renown for his control, walked three Cincinnati batters, all of whom scored.  Final: Cincinnati 4, Chicago 2.  Sox catcher Ray Schalk, furious, complained to Gleason after the came: "The sonofabitch! Williams kept crossing me.  In that lousy fourth inning, he crossed me three times!  He wouldn't throw a curve."  After the game, Sleepy Burns left $10,000 in Gandil's room.

Before game three in Chicago, Burns asked Gandil what the players were planning.  Gandil lied.  He told Burns they were going to throw the game, when in fact they hadn't yet decided what to do.  Gandil and the rest of players in on the fix were angry at so far receiving only a fraction of their promised money.  He saw no reason to do Burns any favors.  Burns and Maharg, on Gandil's word, bet a bundle on the Reds to win game three.  The Sox won the game, 3 to 0, with Gandil driving in two of his team's runs.

Gandil told Sullivan that he needed $20,000 before game four, or the fix was over.  Sullivan made the deadline--barely.  The Reds broke a scoreless tie in the fifth when pitcher Eddie Cicotte managed to make two fielding errors.  After the 2-0 game, Gandil passed out $5000 each to Risberg, Felsch, Williams, and Jackson.  He gave nothing to Weaver.  It was clear by this time that the Sox third baseman was not participating in the conspiracy.

In the sixth inning of game five, Felsch misplayed a fly ball, then threw poorly to Risberg at second, who allowed the ball to get away from him.  Before the inning was over, Felsch would misplay a second ball, hit by Edd Roush, allowing three runs to score.  Chicago sportswriter Hugh Fullerton, watching from the press box commented on the disaster: "When Felsch misses a fly ball like Roush's--and the one before from Eller--then, well, what's the use?"

When gamblers failed to produce the promised additional $20,000 after the loss in game five, the Sox players decided they'd had enough.  It would be the old Sox again--the Sox that won the American League pennant going away.  They took game six  5 to 4, then won again in game seven, 4 to 1.  With a win in game eight, the best-of-nine Series would be tied.

Rothstein told Sullivan in no uncertain terms that he did not want the Series to go to nine games.  Make sure it doesn't, he told Sullivan.  Sullivan contacted a Chicago thug known as "Harry F."  Sullivan told "Harry" to pay a visit to the starting Sox pitcher in game eight, Lefty Williams, and make sure that the game is to be thrown--in the first inning.  At 7:30 on the evening before the game, Williams was greeted by a cigar-smoking man in a bowler hat when he and his wife were returning home from dinner.  The man asked to have a word with Williams in private.  He did.

Williams threw only fifteen pitches in the eighth and final game.  He pitched hurriedly, allowing four hits and three runs, before being taken out of the game with only one out.  Cincinnati win go on to win the game and the Series, 10 to 5.

The Trial

Charles Comiskey tried to discourage talk of a fix, brought on by his team's dismal performance in the Series, by issuing a statement to the press.  Comiskey told reporters, " I believe my boys fought the battle of the recent World Series on the level, as they have always done.  And I would be the first to want information to the contrary--if there be any.  I would give $20,000 to anyone unearthing information to that effect."  Meanwhile, Comiskey hired a private detective to investigate the finances of seven of the eight men who were part of the original conspiracy.  (Weaver was the player not under suspicion.)

A bombshell was thrown into the winter baseball meetings on December 15, 1919, when Hugh Fullerton, a Chicago sportswriter, published in New York World a story headlined IS BIG LEAGUE BASEBALL BEING RUN FOR GAMBLERS, WITH BALLPLAYERS IN THE DEAL?  Fullerton angrily demanded that baseball confront its gambling problem.  He suggested that Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a federal judge, be appointed to head a special investigation into gambling's influence on the national pastime.

Talk of a possible fix in the 1919 Series continued through the winter months into the 1920 season.  In July, Sox manager Kid Gleason ran into Abe Attell at a New York bar.  The Little Champ confirmed Gleason's suspicions about the fix.  "You know, Kid, I hated to do that to you," Attell told Gleason, "but I thought I was going to make a bundle, and I needed it."  Attell revealed that Arnold Rothstein was the big money man behind the fix.  Gleason went to the press with the story, but was unable to convince anyone--because of fear of libel suits--to print it.

Exposure of the Series fix finally came from an unexpected source--just as the Sox were in a close fight for the 1920 American League pennant.  Reports on another fix, this one involving a Cubs-Phillies game on August 31, led to the convening of the Grand Jury of Cook County.  Assistant State Attorney Hartley Replogle sent out dozens of subpoenas to baseball personalities.  One of those called to testify was New York Giants pitcher Rube Benton.  Benton told the grand jury that he saw a telegram sent in late September to a Giants teammate from Sleepy Burns, stating that the Sox would lose the 1919 Series.  He also revealed that he later learned that Gandil, Felsch, Williams, and Cicotte were among those in on the fix.

News of Benton's revelations was leaked to Cicotte within hours of his testimony.  A couple of days later, the Philadelphia North American ran an interview with gambler Billy Maharg, providing the public for the first time with many of the shocking details of the scandal. Cicotte regretted his participation in the fix.  He seemed to Gleason and others to have been stewing over something all summer.  Cicotte decided to talk.

"I don't know why I did it," Cicotte told the grand jury.  "I must have been crazy. Risberg, Gandil, and McMullin were at me for a week before the Series began.  They wanted me to go crooked.  I don't know.  I needed the money.  I had the wife and the kids.  The wife and the kids don't know about this.  I don't know what they'll think."  Tears came to Cicotte's eyes as he continued talking.  "I've lived a thousand years in the last twelve months.  I would have not done that thing for a million dollars.  Now I've lost everything, job, reputation, everything.  My friends all bet on the Sox.  I knew, but I couldn't tell them."

Within hours, the other Sox players learned that Cicotte had talked.  Who would be next?  It was Joe Jackson that turned up, unshaven and smelling of alcohol, in the chambers of presiding judge, Charles McDonald.  Two hours after he began testifying, Jackson walked out of the jury room, telling two bailiffs, "I got a big load off my chest!" [link to Jackson confession]

That same day, in his office at Comiskey park, Charles Comiskey dictated a telegram that would be sent to eight of his players and then made public: YOU AND EACH OF YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED OF YOUR INDEFINITE SUSPENSION AS A MEMBER OF THE CHICAGO AMERICAN LEAGUE BASEBALL CLUB.  With those words, the hopes of Sox fans for the 1920 championship came to an end.  The final games in St. Louis would still be played--Comiskey said "We'll play out the schedule if we have to get Chinamen to replace the suspended players"--but the results were predictable.

Arnold Rothstein's attorney,William Fallon, knew that to protect his client he would have to keep Abe Attell and Sport Sullivan away from the Chicago Grand Jury.  The two gamblers were called to Rothstein's apartment, where Fallon announced that Sullivan would go to Mexico and Attell to Canada.  Vacation with pay, Fallon said, as Rothstein pulled out his wallet.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, more details about the fix were coming out. Lefty Williams became the third White Sox player to tell his story to the Jury.  Then Oscar Felsch told his version of events in an interview that ran in the Chicago American.  "Well, the beans are spilled and I think I'm through with baseball," Felsch said.  "I got $5000.  I could have got just about that much by being on the level if the Sox had won the Series.  And now I'm out of baseball--the only profession I know anything about, and a lot of gamblers have gotten rich.  The joke seems to be on us."

Fallon decided to adopt a bold strategy for his client.  With Sullivan and Attell out of the country, he would bring Arnold Rothstein to Chicago to testify before the Grand Jury.  (Fallon had a second reason for heading west: he understood that Comiskey hated the investigation, and believed that a meeting with the Sox owner might be mutually beneficial.)  Rothstein told the jury that he came to Chicago because he was "sick and tired" of all of the talk about his involvement in the fix.  "I've come here to vindicate myself....The whole thing started when Attell and some other cheap gamblers decided to frame the Series and make a killing.  The world knows I was asked in on the deal and my friends know how I turned it down flat.  I don't doubt that Attell used my name to put it over."  Fallon's strategy worked. After his testimony, Assistant State Attorney Maclay Hoyne declared, "I don't think Rothstein was involved in it."

On October 22, 1920, the Grand Jury handed down its indictments, naming the eight Chicago players and five gamblers, including Bill Burns, Sport Sullivan, and Abe Attell.  Rothstein was not indicted.  The indictments included nine counts of conspiracy to defraud various individuals and institutions.

Shortly after the indictments came down, as the old staff of the Office of State's Attorney was ready to be replaced by the newly elected Robert Crowe (the same man who prosecuted the Leopold and Loeb case), some important papers walked out of the office.  Henry Berger, probably at the instigation of Rothstein or Comiskey (or both men), had lifted the confessions and waivers of immunity of Cicotte, Jackson, and Williams.

Fallon begin to gather, for the players, some of the best and most expensive defense attorneys in Illinois. Clearly, the impoverished Sox players weren't going to be footing the legal bills--so who was paying for them? Comiskey? Rothstein? No one who knew talked.

The defendants were arraigned on February 14, 1921.  All the ballplayers were present, but none of the gamblers.  Defense lawyers presented Judge William Dever with a petition for a bill of particulars, a statement that would specify the charges against their clients with more specificity than the indictments contained. George Gorman, for the State, then announced the shocking news that the players' confessions had been stolen, and asked for the reconvening of the Grand Jury.

On June 27, 1921, the case of State of Illinois vs Eddie Cicotte et al opened in the Chicago courtroom of Judge Hugo Friend.  The players faced charges of (1) conspiring to defraud the public, (2) conspiring to defraud Sox pitcher Ray Schalk, (3) conspiring to commit a confidence game, (4) conspiring to injure the business of the American League, and (5) conspiring to injure the business of Charles Comiskey.  With the confessions still missing, George Gorman knew he faced a difficult fight.  He did, however, have one key witness who could tie the players to the fix: Sleepy Burns.  American League President Ban Johnson had found Burns, with the help of Billy Maharg, fishing in the Rio Grande in the small Texas border town of Del Rio. Promised immunity from prosecution, Burns reluctantly agreed to testify.

By July 5, with the defense's motion to quash the indictments having been rejected, jury selection began.  Over 600 prospective jurors were questioned about their support of the White Sox, their betting habits, and their views of baseball before a final jury of twelve was seated.

On July 18, George Gorman delivered the prosecution's opening statement.  When he began to quote from a copy of Cicotte's confession, defense attorney Michael Ahearn objected, saying "You won't get to first base with those confessions!"  Gorman countered, "We'll hit a home run with them!" "You may get a long hit," Ahearn acknowledged, "but you'll be thrown out at the plate."  Ahearn proved to be the better predictor.  Judge Friendly did indeed call any mention of the confessions out of bounds.

The first witness for the prosecution was Charles Comiskey.  On cross-examination, defense attorneys tried to show that Comiskey had made more money in 1920 than any previous year, thus undercutting the State's theory that Comiskey had been financially injured by the alleged conspiracy.  Judge Friendly cut off this line of questioning, causing Ben Short to complain, "This man is getting richer all the time and my clients are charged with conspiracy to injure his business."

The following day saw Sleepy Burns, dressed in a green checkered suit with a lavender shirt and bow tie, take the stand. Under questioning from prosecutor Edward Prindeville, Burns identified Eddie Cicotte as the man with whom he had met at the Hotel Ansonia in September of 1919.  When Prindeville asked about his conversation with Cicotte, however, the defense objected and their objection was sustained by Judge Friendly.  Burns then proceeded to describe his meetings with Attell, Maharg, Rothstein, and seven of the Sox players:

Q. Who was there [at the meeting at the Hotel Sinton]?
A. There was Gandil, McMullin, Williams, Felsch, Cicotte, and Buck Weaver.
Q. What about Jackson?
A. I didn't see him there.
Q. Did you have any conversation with them?
A. I told them I had a $100,000 to handle the throwing of the World Series.  I also told them that I had the names of the men who were going to finance it.
Q. Who were the financiers?
A. They were Arnold Rothstein, Attell, and Bennett [alias of Nat Evans].
Q. Did the players make any statements concerning the order of the games to be thrown?
A. Gandil and Cicotte said the first two games should be thrown. They said,however, that it didn't matter to them.  They would throw them in any order the financiers wished. Cicotte said he'd throw the first game if had to throw the ball clear out of Cincinnati park....

For three days, Burns remained on the stand, recounting the many trials and tribulations of the fix.  On cross-examination, defense attorneys tried unsuccessfully to shake Burns' assertion that it was the players, and not him, that came up with the idea of throwing the Series.  The prosecution's star witness turned in a superb performance.

The big battle of the trial was over the issue of how to handle the missing confessions and immunity waivers.  Judge Friendly ruled that no evidence of the confessions could be introduced under the State could prove that they were made voluntarily and without duress.  Former State's Attorney testified that the statements were made voluntarily and without any offer of reward.  Cicotte testified that Replogle had promised him that in return for his statement "I would be taken care of," which he assumed meant not prosecuted.  Asked whether he was told that the statement he was about to make could be used against him, Cicotte said, "I don't remember."  Joe Jackson took the stand to offer a similar story.  Jackson said that he was told that "after confessing I could go anywhere--all the way to the Portuguese Islands."  Asked whether he read the document he signed before offering his statement, Jackson replied: "No.  They'd given me their promise.  I'd've signed my death warrant if they asked me to."  After listening to this testimony, Judge Friendly ruled that the confessions could be part of the State's case--but only to prove the guilt of the players giving the statements.

The defense presented few witnesses. The first witness for the defense was Sox manager Kid Gleason.  Gleason testified that the indicted Sox players were practicing at the Cincinnati ballpark at the time Burns alleged he was meeting with them in a hotel room.  A series of Sox players not involved in the fix were called and asked whether they thought the indicted players played the Series to the best of their ability.  Inexplicably, the prosecution shouted its objections to each of these questions.  The judge sustained the objections, as calling for opinions. Later, Comiskey's chief financial officer was called to show that the Sox gate receipts in 1920 were well above those in 1919, when the players allegedly defrauded Comiskey of his property.  The jury seemed intensely interested in the financial testimony.

On July 29, Edward Prindeville summed up the case first for the prosecution.  He told the jury that "Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, and Claude Williams sold out the American public for a paltry $20,000.  This game, gentleman, has been the subject of a crime.  The public, the club owners, even the small boys on the sandlots have been swindled."  He asked the jury to return a "verdict of guilty with five years in the penitentiary and a fine of $2000 for each defendant."  Gorman followed Prindeville.  He asked the jury to remember the fans:

Thousands of men throughout the chilly hours of the night, crouched in line waiting for the opening of the first World Series game.  All morning they waited, eating a sandwich perhaps, never daring to leave their places for a moment.  There they waited to see the great Cicotte pitch a ballgame.  Gentleman, they went to see a ballgame.  But all they saw was a con game!"
Ben Short, for the defense, told the jury that "there may have been an agreement entered into by the defendants to take the gamblers' money, but it has not been shown that the players had any intention of defrauding the public or bringing the game into ill repute. They believed that any arrangement they may have made was a secret one and would, therefore, reflect no discredit on the national pastime of injure the business of their employer as it would never be detected."  Anther defense attorney, Morgan Frumberg, said the real guilty party, Arnold Rothstein, was not in the courtroom.  "Why was he not indicted?....Why were these underpaid ballplayers, these penny-ante gamblers who may have bet a few nickels on the World Series brought here to be the goats in this case?"

The outcome of the trial may have been sealed when Judge Friendly charged the jury.  He told them that to return a guilty verdict they must find the players conspired "to defraud the public and others, and not merely throw ballgames."

The jury deliberated only two hours.  When the Chief Clerk read the jury's first verdict, finding Claude Williams not guilty, a huge roar went up in the courtroom.  As the string of not guilty verdicts continued, the cheers increased.  Soon hats and confetti were flying in the air and players and spectators pounding the backs of jurors in approval.  Several jurors lifted players to their shoulders and paraded them around the courtroom.

The Epilogue

The players joy was short-lived.  The day after the jury's verdict, the new Commissioner of Baseball, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, released a statement to the press:

"Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ballgame, no player that undertakes or promises to throw a ballgame, no player that sits in conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball."
Landis was true to his word.  Despite the best efforts of some of the players, especially Buck Weaver, to gain reinstatement, none of the Eight Men Out would ever again put on a major league uniform.

Douglas Linder
University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
linderd@umkc.edu

For further information and documentation, see Professor Linder's Web site on The Black Sox Trial.

© 2001 by Douglas Linder. All rights reserved.