THE BETRAYAL:How the 1919 Black Sox scandal changed baseball

THE BETRAYAL                 CHARLES FOUNTAIN
         
        In the most famous scandal of sports history, eight Chicago White Sox players―including Shoeless Joe Jackson―agreed to throw the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for the promise of $20,000 each from gamblers reportedly working for New York mobster Arnold Rothstein. Heavily favored, Chicago lost the Series five games to three. Although rumors of a fix flew while the series was being played, they were largely disregarded by players and the public at large. It wasn't until a year later that a general investigation into baseball gambling reopened the case, an a nationwide scandal emerged. 

In this book, Charles Fountain offers a full and engaging history of one of baseball's true moments of crisis and hand-wringing, and shows how the scandal changed the way American baseball was both managed and perceived. After an extensive investigation and a trial that became a national morality play, the jury returned not-guilty verdicts for all of the White Sox players in August of 1921. The following day, Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, baseball's new commissioner, "regardless of the verdicts of juries," banned the eight players for life. And thus the Black Sox entered into American mythology. Guilty or innocent? Guilty and innocent? The country wasn't sure in 1921, and as Fountain shows, we still aren't sure today. But we are continually pulled to the story, because so much of modern sport, and our attitude towards it, springs from the scandal.

Fountain traces the Black Sox story from its roots in the gambling culture that pervaded the game in the years surrounding World War I, through the confusing events of the 1919 World Series itself, to the noisy aftermath and trial, and illuminates the moment as baseball's tipping point. Despite the clumsy unfolding of the scandal and trial and the callous treatment of the players involved, the Black Sox saga was a cleansing moment for the sport. It launched the age of the baseball commissioner, as baseball owners hired Landis and surrendered to him the control of their game. Fountain shows how sweeping changes in 1920s triggered by the scandal moved baseball away from its association with gamblers and fixers, and details how American's attitude toward the pastime shifted as they entered into "The Golden Age of Sport."
Situating the Black Sox events in the context of later scandals, including those involving Reds manager and player Pete Rose, and the ongoing use of steroids in the game up through the present, Fountain illuminates America's near century-long fascination with the story, and its continuing relevance today.         

PAT'S REVIEW:
Mr. Fountain takes you back in time to the scandal of baseball that changed a team, a generation, and for some the idea that the game was on the up and up. He begins with going back into the 1880’s and bringing you up to 1919, and the gambling, and players known at those times to change a game. One of the most egregious was Hal Chase. He was brought up quite a bit and discussed about plays and throws. I must say I have read in other books about baseball that he was someone that was not thought highly of after having high praise as a fielder and hitter. In other books it was mentioned about him throwing a game but this author goes into more detail. He also goes into how once, or more than once he admitted to just that when it was brought to owners, and Johnson who was the President of the American league nothing was done, so this was allowed to go on just like steroid use was decades later. You get a look at Johnson, Cominsky, and the players. He also takes a look or tries to at the men or gamblers that were accused of meeting with a few of the players to begin the whole scandal. He then takes you through the hiring of Judge Landis, and the back story behind that. I do agree with the author on point that if Joe Jackson was not part of this we would not be talking about it here almost 100 years later. His name being attached has made this still to this day a big story. I do think the players had the intention of losing but then got shafted. Also I think after reading this book I think they felt nothing would happen because of the men who had done it before them. Landis would change the game forever and the way he worded his statement after the jury found the men innocent, meant that they were out of baseball for life. There is one part that Joe Jackson did go to try to see Cominsky and tell him about it but was turned away. That Cominsky knew and didn’t want to hear it. Then later it all blew up. Don’t know how true but if it is once again the owners get away at the players expense. It should be noted that the author takes you negotiations and how each player was stuck to a team and what the team offered to play. That they could play in expeditions, but in a few years’ teams were having them play in expeditions and not paying them. This does not justify, but this is what led to free agency in the 1970’s, and how many years it took. I also liked the end where the author goes into Joe Jackson’s career that was fascinating since I remember my father telling me how good he was but reading about it was something else. Overall a very good baseball book and the history of the game. I got this book from netgalley.com. I gave it 5 stars. Follow us at www.1rad-readerreviews.com

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