Pay per Head: The 1919 World Series Scandal

World-seriesPay per head shops know that betting scandals have been a world-wide occurrence, but in today’s overly analyzed and monitored world, it’s hard to imagine that anyone could manage to convince the majority of a team to throw a game. Still, such an event did occur in 1919, when the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds met for the World Series.

With World War I ending the year before, baseball was more popular than ever, and the World Series was celebrated much the same way the SuperBowl is today.

Gambling on baseball was nothing new, as it had started pretty much right after baseball became organized. Even some of the players were in on it, helping to bump their meager salary.

William Thomas “Sleepy Bill” Burns and Billy Maharg were the two that were thought to be mostly responsible for fixing the World Series although Boston gambler Joseph Sullivan also had his hand in the fix. Burns was an ex-major league pitcher who had connections to the players. Maharg had the underground connections. Either way with a large sum of money and huge hopes, White Sox pitcher Ed Cicotte and first baseman Arnold “Chick” Gandil were approached about fixing the Series.

When Cicotte and Gandil talked to other players, the Chicago players earned so little pay per head, that they were more than happy to stick it to their owner, Charles Comiskey.

Pitcher Lefty Williams, centerfielder Happy Felsch, shortstop Swede Risberg, third baseman Buck Weaver, utilityman Fred McMullin, and supposedly leftfielder “Shoeless” Joe Jackson all agreed to the fix.

The end result was the Cincinnati Reds won the best of 9 over the White Sox, and it took almost a year for all of the details of their misdeed come to light.

Afterwards some argued that Jackson couldn’t possibly have understood what was intended since he batted .375 that game. Regardless, he and 7 others were banned for life by Commissionaire Kenesaw Mountain Landis, even though all were acquitted by juries.

“Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player that throws a ball game, no player that entertains proposals or promises to throw a game, no player that sits in a conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing games are discussed, and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball” said Landis.

Because of Landis and the rules he set up for baseball, sports betting at price per head sportsbooks has grown and watching the game got just a little bit more interesting, but is still fair.