Baseball Vice: Gambling and Scandal
"Any professional base ball club will 'throw' a game if there is money in it. A horse
race is a pretty safe thing to speculate on in comparison with the average ball
-- Beadle's Dime Base Ball Player, 1875
Artemus Ward
Dep. of Political Science
Northern Illinois University
[email protected]
• Why have baseball and gambling been linked from the
sport’s beginnings?
• Why are baseball officials so sensitive to gambling
• Is there a relationship between money in terms of player
salaries and team revenues (or lack thereof) and
• Should baseball punish individuals for being involved
with gambling? If so what should be the penalty?
New York Mutuals (1865)
• As with all contests, gambling has been
associated with baseball from the
• At the end of the Civil War, a betting
scandal nearly destroyed the Mutuals, a
professional team organized by corrupt
Tammany Hall boss William Marcy
• The catcher, third baseman and
shortstop, who claimed they were
victimized by a "wicked conspiracy",
were all banned from baseball for
accepting $100 apiece to throw a game.
Ken Burns’ Baseball Clip:
Gambling Synonymous
With Baseball
The National League and
the 1877 Conspiracy
Ken Burns’ Baseball Clip:
National League Survives
First Gambling Scandal
One reason the National League was
founded was because there was a lucrative
market for exhibiting baseball games that
were free from vices such as gambling.
In 1877, after a great run early in the
season, the Louisville Grays mysteriously
lost seven games in a row.
Four players were found to have thrown
games in exchange for bribes from
gamblers, or had knowledge of such
transactions and would not cooperate.
The players (Jim Devlin [left], George
Hall, Al Nichols and Bill Craver) were
suspended by their clubs, later supported by
National League President William Hulbert.
The players claimed they threw the games
because their owner had failed to meet
payroll obligations and begged for
forgiveness, but Hulbert would hear none of
it and the players were never reinstated.
Louisville dropped out of the circuit and St.
Louis followed, partly in consequence.
World Series
• John McGraw, manager of the National League's New York Giants, won
$400 betting on his team to win the 1905 World Series.
• McGraw had held his team out of the 1904 Series against Boston
because of a grudge against American League president Ban Johnson,
who had suspended and publicly ripped McGraw for his boorish on-field
behavior during McGraw's tenure as an American League manager.
• But McGraw agreed to take on Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's following
the 1905 season.
• Led by Christy Mathewson's three shutouts (thrown in a span of six days),
the Giants beat the A's in five games and McGraw got his money and his
revenge on Johnson. The winnings were known to the public, and would
have almost certainly gotten McGraw banned from baseball in a later day.
1908 Bribery Attempt
• On the eve of the one-game playoff between
the Chicago Cubs and the New York Giants that
resulted from the Merkle boner and would decide
the National League championship, an umpire
refused an attempted bribe intended to help the
Giants win.
• The Giants lost to the Cubs, and the matter was kept
fairly quiet. But the story came out the following
spring, an official inquiry was launched by the
National League but the results were kept secret.
• The Giants' team physician for 1908 was reportedly
the culprit and was banned for life.
• Recent research has suggested that the team
physician was allowed to be the "scapegoat"; some
baseball historians now suspect that the Giants'
manager, John McGraw, was behind the physician's
bribe attempt, or that it may in fact have been
McGraw himself who approached the umpire. If true,
and had it become known, it could have been
disastrous, as McGraw was such a prominent figure
in the game.
The O’Connor-Howell Conspiracy (1910)
On the last day of the regular season in 1910, the St. Louis
Browns were scheduled to play a doubleheader against
Cleveland at Sportsman’s Park. Cleveland star Napolean
Lajoie was hitting .376 going into the final two games, but
was losing in the batting title to Detroit Tigers outfielder Ty
Cobb, who was hitting .385.
Because Cobb was so hated at the time, Browns manager
Jack O’Connor told his third baseman, Red Corriden, to
position himself in shallow left field. Every time Lajoie came
up to bat against the Browns, he bunted successfully down
the third base time five consecutive times. During the sixth atbat, reached base on an error, which lowered his average.
O’Connor and his coach, Harry Howell, sought to change the
error to a hit by attempting to bribe the official scorer with a
new wardrobe. Their efforts were reported to American
League President Ban Johnson, who immediately ordered
Browns owner Robert Hedges to fire both O’Connor and
Howell, and then awarded the batting to title to Cobb.
Both O’Connor and Howell were effectively banned from
baseball for life.
1914 World Series Upset
• The four-game sweep of the Philadelphia
Athletics by the Boston Braves in the 1914
World Series was stunning.
• Students of that Series suspect that the
Athletics were angry at their notoriously
miserly owner, Connie Mack, and that the A's
players did not give the Series their best
• Although such an allegation was never
proven, Mack apparently thought that it was
at least a strong possibility, and he soon
traded or sold all of the stars away from that
1914 team.
• Unfortunately for the decimated A's, within
two years they had limped to the worst
season won-loss percentage in modern
baseball history (36-117 .235), and it would
be well over a decade before they recovered.
• Ban Johnson continually battled AL owners
including his old ally Charles Comiskey. When
Comiskey warned Johnson that his players may
have been bribed to fix games for gamblers,
Johnson ignored him.
• Comiskey was a star player and manager in the
1880s and 1890s. He is sometimes credited with
being the first 1B to play behind the bag and
inside the foul line, which is common now.
• He became the owner of the Chicago White Sox
from 1900 until his death in 1931 and oversaw
the building of Comiskey Park in 1910.
• Notoriously frugal with his players, he made
them pay to launder their own uniforms, hence
the “Black Sox” nickname for their often dirty
• The substandard wages tempted many of his
players to talk to gamblers about throwing
games for money. After eight of his players were
accused of throwing the 1919 World Series he
provided them with expensive legal counsel. But
ultimately supported the decision to ban them for
life, despite the fact that it decimated his team by
depriving them of its stars including “shoeless”
Joe Jackson.
1917 World Series
• The manner in which the New York
Giants lost to the Chicago White Sox in the
1917 World Series raised some suspicions.
• A key play in the final game involved Heinie
Zimmerman (top left) chasing Eddie
Collins across an unguarded home plate.
Immediately afterward, Zimmerman (who
had also hit only .120 during the Series)
denied throwing the game or the Series.
• Within two years, Zimmerman and his
corrupt teammate Hal Chase would be
suspended for life, not so much due to any
one incident but to a series of questionable
actions and associations.
• The fact that the question of throwing the
Series was even raised suggests the level of
public consciousness of gamblers' potential
influence on the game.
1918 World Series
• In 1918 there were rumors of World Series fixing by
members of the Chicago Cubs.
• The Cubs lost the 1918 Series to the Boston Red Sox
in a sparsely-attended affair that also nearly resulted
in a players' strike demanding more than the normal
gate receipts.
• With World War I dominating the news (as well as
Burns’ Baseball Clip:
having shortened the regular baseball season and KenGambling
in the Early
having caused attendance to shrink) the
unsubstantiated rumors were allowed to dissipate.
One of the best players of his era, Chase’s career is tainted by
fixing scandals.
Beginning in 1910 he was accused of “laying down” in games by
his own managers.
Midway through the 1918 season, Chase, playing for the Reds,
allegedly paid pitcher Jimmy Ring $50 ($729 today) to throw a
game against the Giants. He was suspended for the season by
the team but National League president John Heydler acquitted
him due to lack of evidence.
After the end of the 1919 season, an unknown individual sent
Heydler a copy of a $500 ($6,349 today) check that Chase, now
playing for the Giants, received from a gambler for throwing a
game the previous season. Armed with this evidence, Heydler
ordered Giants owner Charles Stoneham to release Chase.
No American League team would sign him and he was effectively
blackballed from the major leagues.
On why he bet on baseball: "I wasn't satisfied with what the club
owners paid me. Like others, I had to have a bet on the side and
we used to bet with the other team and the gamblers who sat in
the boxes. It was easy to get a bet. Sometimes collections were
hard to make. Players would pass out IOUs and often be in debt
for their entire salaries. That wasn't a healthy condition. Once the
evil started there was no stopping it, and club owners were not
strong enough to cope with the evil."
1919 Black Sox Scandal
The 1919 World Series (often referred to as
the Black Sox Scandal) is the most famous
scandal in baseball history.
Eight players from the Chicago White
Sox (nicknamed the Black Sox) were accused
of throwing the series against the Cincinnati
Details of the scandal remain controversial, and
the extent to which each player was involved
varied. It was, however, front-page news
across the country when the story was
uncovered late in the 1920 season, and despite
being acquitted of criminal charges (throwing
baseball games was technically not a crime),
the eight players were banned from organized
baseball (i.e. the leagues subject to the
National Agreement) for life.
The “eight men out" were the great "natural
hitter" "Shoeless" Joe Jackson; pitchers Eddie
Cicotte and "Lefty" Williams; infielders "Buck"
Weaver, "Chick" Gandil, Fred McMullin,
and "Swede" Risberg; and outfielder "Happy"
Ken Burns’ Baseball
Black Sox Scandal
“Shoeless” Joe Jackson
Juries acquitted Jackson of any involvement in the conspiracy in the criminal trial in
1921 and again in a 1924 civil suit that Jackson filed. In the latter, Jackson won a
$16,711.04 judgment against White Sox owner Charles Comiskey.
But Jackson, who hit a convincing .375 in the Series, setting a major league record for
hits, did take $5,000 from a teammate after Game Four of the eight-game series.
Some say that because Jackson refused to take the cash in his hand and a teammate
simply left it on a table, for him. Jackson told a grand jury in 1920 that he’d accepted
the money but hadn’t participated in any effort to lose a game.
In the years after he was banned from baseball, Jackson started a barbecue
restaurant in Greenville and later ran a liquor store. He never learned to read or write.
He’s believed to have signed his name all of five times in his life — on his draft card,
his driver’s license, his mortgage, a baseball and his will, which is in the museum.
As the years went on Jackson rarely spoke about the scandal, but when he did, he
contended that he had tried to report his suspicions about a fix to Comiskey, who
allegedly rebuffed him.
On his deathbed, Jackson declared just as he always had: “I’m innocent.”
In 2005, Congress unanimously passed a resolution seeking Jackson’s reinstatement.
Jackson’s famous bat, Black Betsy, was sold at auction in 2000 for almost $600,000.
Ken Burns’ Baseball
Commissioner’s Office
Hoping to restore public confidence in the sport following the 1919 Black Sox Scandal
in which Chicago White Sox players accepted bribes from gamblers in order to throw
the World Series, the owners named federal Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis
commissioner of baseball, to replace the three-person National Commission that had
formerly governed the sport.
Landis accepted but on the condition that he have absolute power to take any action
he deemed “in the best interest of baseball.” The owners agreed and Landis’ first
decision was to ban the eight White Sox players involved in the scandal.
Throughout 1921 Landis came under intense criticism for his moonlighting, and
congressional members called for his impeachment. In February 1922, Landis
resigned his position as a federal judge saying that, "There aren't enough hours in the
day for me to handle the courtroom and the various other jobs I have taken on."
Ban Johnson continually clashed with the new Commissioner and was ultimately
forced out of baseball by the owners who also hoped that Landis would follow
Johnson’s lead and that after the Black Sox scandal passed, Landis would “retire” to a
quiet life as the titular head of baseball.
But instead, Landis ruled baseball with an iron fist for 25 years. At times he
antagonized the owners and the players but historians generally agree that his actions
were consistent with his “best interest of baseball” mandate and the independence of
the office.
Claude Hendrix (1920)
Hendrix was a spitball pitcher for the Chicago Cubs and had pitched
in the 1918 World Series, which was rumored to have been fixed.
On August 31, 1920, Hendrix was scheduled to pitch against
the Philadelphia Phillies. Cubs president Bill Veeck received
telephone calls and telegrams saying Detroit gamblers were betting
heavily that the Phillies, ranked at the bottom of the league, would
beat the Cubs, a top team. The Cubs switched their rotation and went
with their better pitcher, Grover Cleveland Alexander, instead but still
ended up losing the game.
A grand jury was convened in Chicago to investigate the incident, and
during the course of the investigation the Black Sox scandal emerged.
Needless to say, the grand jury never ruled on whether the
Cubs/Phillies game was linked to gambling.
Hendrix’s career was on a downturn in 1920 and he had announced
his retirement at the end of the season, while the grand jury was still
convened. In February 1921, the Cubs gave him an unconditional
release and Veeck issued a statement that Hendrix’s release had
nothing to do with events of 1920, alluding to the Cubs/Phillies game
and the rumors that had circulated.
Commissioner Landis never banned Hendrix. But that’s been the
popular belief because Landis’ 1947 biography made the false claim.
“Shufflin’” Phil Douglas (1922)
• In 1922 New York Giants pitcher, and former
Chicago Cub, Phil Douglas sent a strange letter to
former Cubs teammate Les Mann, who was then
with the Cardinals, one of the teams battling the
Giants for the pennant.
• Douglas proposed that he would quit the team if
Mann and his teammates came up with, “the goods.”
“So you see the fellows,” Douglas wrote, “and if you
want to send a man over here with the goods, and I
will leave for home on the next train, send him to my
house so nobody will know, and send him at night.”
• Douglas, it seemed, was trying to throw the pennant
• Mann turned the letter over to his manager, Branch
Rickey, who passed it on to Commissioner Landis.
• After meeting with McGraw, Landis banned Douglas
from baseball.
The O’Connell-Dolan Scandal (1924)
The Giants and Dodgers were battling for the 1924 National League
championship. As the last weekend arrived, the Giants had a 1 ½ game
lead in the standings with three home games against the lowly Phillies. The
Dodgers had two games left with the even more lowly Braves and should
they win both and the Giants lose both, the Dodgers would take the
Before the Giants-Phillies game of Saturday, September 27, Giants utility
outfielder Jimmy O'Connell, at the instigation of Coach Cozy Dolan,
sounded out Phillies shortstop Heinie Sand as to whether, for $500, he
might be willing to avoid "bearing down hard."
Afterwards, O'Connell also contended that Giant stars Frankie Frisch, Ross
Youngs, and George Kelly had spoken with him before the game about the
At any rate, Sand rejected O'Connell's invitation. Growing worried during
the course of the game, Sand that evening reported the bribe offer to his
manager, Art Fletcher. The latter immediately took the matter to the,
executive level and soon Commissioner Landis was involved.
Hearings were promptly held at which O'Connell, Dolan, Sand, Frisch,
Kelly, and Youngs testified.
O’Connell and Dolan were banned while Sand was booed by fans for being
a squealer for years until he left the game.
Frisch, Kelly, and Youngs—3 future Hall of Famers—were likely behind the
incident, testified that they were simply kidding, and were not sanctioned.
Jimmy O’Connell
Cozy Dolan
The Cobb-Speaker Incident (1926)
Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker were permitted by American League President Ban
Johnson to resign from baseball near the end of the 1926 season after former
pitcher Dutch Leonard charged that Cobb, Speaker and Smoky Joe Wood had
joined him just before the 1919 World Series in betting on a game they all knew
was fixed.
Leonard presented letters and other documents to Johnson, and Johnson
thought they would be so potentially damaging to baseball in the wake of the
Black Sox scandal that he paid Leonard $20,000 to have them suppressed.
Commissioner Landis exposed the cover-up and the eventual fallout forced
Johnson out his job as president of the league he had created.
Cobb and Speaker vehemently denied any wrongdoing, Cobb saying that "There
has never been a baseball game in my life that I played in that I knew was fixed,”
and that the only games he ever bet on were two series games in 1919, when he
lost $150 on games thrown by the Sox. He claimed his letters to Leonard had
been misunderstood, that he was merely speaking of business investments.
Landis took the case under advisement and eventually let both players remain in
baseball because they had not been found guilty of fixing any game themselves.
It was after this case, though, that Landis instituted the rule mandating that any
player found guilty of betting on baseball would be suspended for a year and that
any player found to have bet on his own team would be barred for life.
Cobb later claimed that the attorneys representing him and Speaker had
brokered their reinstatement by threatening to expose further scandal in baseball
if the two were not cleared.
Leo Durocher Suspension (1947)
• After the scandals of the 1920s it appeared that
baseball’s gambling problem had been solved.
• In 1947 Leo Durocher, manager of the Brooklyn
Dodgers, became involved in a feud with New
York Yankee owner Larry MacPhail (top left)—
each accusing the other of inviting gamblers
into the clubhouse.
• Commissioner Happy Chandler was under
pressure from MacPhail, a close friend who was
pivotal in having him appointed to succeed
Landis as Commissioner.
• Chandler first warned Durocher and then
suspended him for the 1947 season after he
discovered evidence that Durocher and actor
George Raft were running rigged crap games in
order to take money from unsuspecting players.
• Commissioners have always taken an almost
fanatical interest in gambling, suspending wellknown individuals for lengthy times just for
having been seen with gamblers.
Denny McLain: The Rise (1968-1969)
In 1968 Detroit Tigers pitcher Denny McLain won 31 games (the
last pitcher to do so), the Cy Young and MVP awards, and led his
team to a World Series championship. He became famous,
racked up endorsements, did TV appearances, and won 24
games and the Cy Young the following year.
In February 1970, Sports Illustrated and Penthouse both
published articles about McLain's involvement
in bookmaking activities. Sports Illustrated cited sources who
alleged that the foot injury suffered by McLain late in 1967 had
been caused by an organized crime figure stomping on it for
McLain's failure to pay off on a bet.
Early in his career, McLain’s interest in betting on horses was
piqued by Chuck Dressen, one of his first managers. McLain’s
descent into his gambling obsession was further precipitated by
an offhand remark made during an interview: that he drank about
a case of Pepsi a day. (When he pitched, he was known to drink a
Pepsi between innings.) A representative from Pepsi then offered
McLain a contract with the company, just for doing a few
endorsements. McLain soon realized that he and the Pepsi rep
shared an affinity for gambling; when the two realized how much
money they were losing, and that they could earn so much more
by "taking the action" on bets, they attempted to set up a
bookmaking operation as hands-off, silent partners.
Denny McLain: The Fall (1970)
McLain was suspended indefinitely by Baseball
Commissioner Bowie Kuhn; the suspension was
then set for the first three months of the1970
He returned in mid-season, but struggled to pitch
well. He received a seven day suspension in
September for dousing two sportswriters with
buckets of water. Just as the seven day
suspension was about to end, he received another
suspension from Kuhn for carrying a gun on a
team flight that effectively ended his season.
Later that year, despite being the first $100,000
player in Tigers history, he was forced into
bankruptcy, traded, had arm trouble, traded again
and again, and was out of baseball by the age of
McLain’s troubles didn’t end there, however. He
was imprisoned for drug trafficking, embezzlement
and racketeering, spending a good portion of the
1980s and 1990s behind bars.
Ken Burns’ Baseball
Mickey Mantle 8:43
Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays Banned (1983)
• After their retirement, Hall-of-Famers Mickey
Mantle and Willie Mays were no longer involved
in Major League Baseball.
• In 1983 they were hired by casinos in Atlantic
City, New Jersey, for public relations: to be
greet guests and autograph signers.
• Mantle was hired by the Claridge Hotel and
Casino to become their goodwill ambassador,
and Mays held a similar position at Bally's Park
• Commissioner Bowie Kuhn banned them from
baseball saying that any affiliation with
gambling were grounds for being placed on the
"permanently ineligible" list. He added that a
casino was "no place for a baseball hero and
Hall of Famer."
• Newspaper articles of the time pointed out that
Mantle and Mays played before there were
large player salaries and that they were simply
trying to make money to live.
• Their bans were finally lifted in 1985 during
Commissioner Peter Ueberroth's tenure.
The Steinbrenner-Winfield Feud (1990)
Ken Burns’ Baseball
Steinbrenner 7:33
In late 1980, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who had
already developed a reputation for spending lavish amounts of money on
free agents, signed Dave Winfield to a 10-year, $23 million contract.
In 1985, Steinbrenner referred to Winfield as “Mr. May,” in an interview
with New York Times reporter Murray Chass after a late September
series against the Toronto Blue Jays, saying, “Where is Reggie
Jackson? We need a Mr. October or a Mr. September. Winfield is Mr.
May. My big guys are not coming through. The guys who are supposed
to carry the team are not carrying the team. They aren't producing. If I
don't get big performances out of Winfield, (Ken) Griffey and (Don)
Baylor, we can't win.”
In July 1990, after Winfield had sued the Yankees for not making a
$300,000 contribution to his charitable foundation as stipulated in his
Steinbrenner hired Howie Spira, a known gambler, and paid him $50,000
to dig up whatever “dirt” he could find about Winfield.
Word of this got back to MLB commissioner Fay Vincent, who
suspended Steinbrenner from baseball for a period of two years.
In Steinbrenner's absence, his son took control of the Yankees, and then
relinquished the team back to his father when Bud Selig reinstated him
in 1993. Steinbrenner retired as owner in 2006, passing control to his
sons permanently and died in 2010.
Ken Burns’ Baseball
Charlie Hustle 2:07
Big Red Machine 2:01
Rose Breaks Record 1:43
Rose Banned 5:32
Pete Rose Betting Scandal (1989)
Pete Rose, baseball's all-time leader in hits and
games played and manager of the Cincinnati
Reds since 1984, was reported as betting on Major
League games, including Reds games while he was
the manager.
Rose had been questioned about his gambling
activities in February 1989 by outgoing
Commissioner Peter Ueberroth and his
successor, National League president A. Bartlett
Three days later, lawyer John M. Dowd was retained
to investigate the charges against Rose. During the
investigation, Giamatti took office as the
Commissioner of baseball.
A March 21, 1989 Sports Illustrated article linked him
to gambling on baseball games.
The Dowd Report asserted that Pete Rose bet on
fifty-two Reds games in 1987, at a minimum of
$10,000 a day. It included testimony that Rose had
bet on his own players while managing, phone
records to known bookies moments before ball
games (while no other major sports were in season)
and a betting slip filled out in Rose's handwriting and
covered with his fingerprints.
Pete Rose Betting
Scandal (1989)
• Rose, facing a very harsh punishment, along with his attorney and
agent, Reuven Katz, decided to seek a compromise with Major
League Baseball. On August 24, 1989, Rose agreed to a voluntary
lifetime ban from baseball. The agreement had three key
• Major League Baseball would make no finding of fact regarding
gambling allegations and cease their investigation; Pete Rose was
neither admitting or denying the charges; and Pete Rose could
apply for reinstatement after one year.
• To Rose's chagrin, however, Giamatti immediately stated publicly
that he felt that Pete Rose bet on baseball games.
• Then, in a stunning follow-up event, Giamatti, a heavy smoker for
many years, suffered a fatal heart attack just eight days later, on
September 1.
Aftermath: Pete Rose Banned for Life
The consensus among baseball experts is that the death
of Giamatti and the ascension of Fay Vincent, a great
admirer of Giamatti, was the worst thing that could happen
to Pete Rose's hopes of reinstatement.
On February 4, 1991, the twelve members of the board of
directors of the Baseball Hall of Fame voted unanimously
to bar Rose from the ballot. However, he still received 41
write-in votes on January 7, 1992.
Bud Selig, the former owner of the Milwaukee Brewers,
succeeded Vincent in 1992.
Rose was allowed to be a part of the All-Century
Team celebration in 1999 as he was named by the fans as
one of the team's outfielders. He appeared with all the
other living selected players before Game 2 of the 1999
World Series.
Rose applied for reinstatement in September 1997 and
March 2003. In both instances, Commissioner Selig failed
to act, thereby keeping the ban intact.
In 2004, after years of speculation and denial, Pete Rose
admitted in his book My Prison Without Bars that the
accusations that he had bet on Reds games were true,
and that he had admitted it to Bud Selig personally some
time before. Rose, however, stated that he always bet on
the Reds — never against.
Should Rose be reinstated to baseball and be eligible for
the Hall of Fame?
• Gambling has been a part of the game since its
• Early players said that they gambled due to low
• Modern players have gambled for other reasons.
• Whatever the reason, in the quest for greater
profits, baseball has been extremely strict in
penalizing those associated with gambling.
Fisher, Marc. 2012. “At the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum iin Greenville,
S.C. It Ain’t So.” Washington Post.February 3.
Ginsburg, Daniel E. 1995. The Fix Is In: A History of Baseball Gambling and
Fixing Scandals (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co.).
Longoria, Rico. 2001. “Baseball’s Gambling Scandals.”, July 30.

Baseball Vice: Gambling - Northern Illinois University