Cubs

Sox Drawer: Did Cubs throw 1918 World Series?

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Sox Drawer: Did Cubs throw 1918 World Series?

Thursday, April 14, 2011
Posted: 9:53 a.m.
By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

For almost a century, the 1919 Chicago White Sox have left a permanent stain on the game of baseball. Their throwing of the World Series that season not only tainted the sport, but the lives of the eight White Sox players who participated in the fix.

Shoeless Joe Jackson, Lefty Williams, Happy Felsch, Eddie Cicotte, Swede Risberg, Chick Gandil, Fred McMullin, and Buck Weaver were all banned from Major League Baseball for life.

But flying miles under the radar for all these years is a baseball scandal possibly just as great as the infamous Black Sox.

It involves the 1918 World Series, and the implication of another team for doing the exact same thing.

What team might this be?

The Chicago Cubs.

And who tattled on them?

None other than one of the banned White Sox players, pitcher Eddie Cicotte.

Is Cicotte a coward? A legend? Thats for you to decide.

Evidence of the alleged crimes from 1918 are limited. Most, if not all of the stories are dead and buried with the men who would have committed them. But pieces of this conspiracy do exist, and now for the very first time, one of the most critical documents of a possible Cubs fix is on public display at the Chicago History Museum.

Its from a deposition Cicotte gave to a grand jury at the Cook County Court House in 1920. Cicotte, while confessing that he took money to throw the 1919 World Series, came clean about when the team started talking about a fix.

Thats where the Cubs suddenly enter the picture.

Cicotte told the grand jury that while on a train ride from Chicago to New York to play the Yankees, his teammates began discussing the 1918 World Series played between the Cubs and Red Sox.

There was some talk about (gamblers) offering 10,000 or something to throw the Cubs in the Boston Series, Cicotte said in the deposition. There was talk somebody offered this player 10,000 or anyway the bunch of players were offered 10,000 to throw the series.

As Comcast SportsNet reported in February of 2008, the Cicotte testimony, now on display in the museum until the end of April, was a part of a magical discovery in December of 2007 when boxes of rare documents from the Black Sox scandal went up for auction by an anonymous party. The Chicago History Museum won the precious artifacts with a high bid of 100,000.

Peter Alter, an archivist at the museum, is the man responsible for the 500 documents and 1,000 pages of Black Sox buried treasure.

Hes also a Cubs fan.

So what does he think of the Cicotte testimony?

Several times when I look at it I try to read the thing out loud. Its like he has mashed potatoes in his mouth, Alter said. He never names specific Cubs from 1918, but he mentions 10,000, and you dont know if that was for the entire team, was it only for a couple players, was it one player?

What Cicotte said may have been talk, but when you consider the amount of red flags that have surfaced about the 1918 World Series and many other Series during this period, the distance between talk and truth feels like a centimeter away.

Hugh Fullerton, a famous baseball columnist whose reporting became a driving force in exposing the 1919 White Sox, believed that at least four or five of the early World Series were fixed, and he had serious concerns about the validity of the 1918 championship. He criticized Cubs shortstop Charlie Hollocher for being in the wrong position for almost every batter.

During the series, which the Red Sox won in 6 games, the Cubs were picked off three times, twice during the final game, which the Cubs lost 2-1 on a two-run error by Cubs right fielder Max Flack.

I think what's interesting from a Chicago perspective is that in back-to-back years you have both the North Side and South Side being implicated.
-- Chicago History Museum archivist Peter Alter.In 1963, a diary kept by Harry Grabiner, a longtime aide of White Sox owner Charles Comiskey was found deep in the bowels of Comiskey Park. In the diary, youll find the name of former Cubs pitcher Gene Packard, and a scribbled notation next to it that reads 1918 Series fixer.

Coincidentally, the 1919 Black Sox scandal came about thanks to a grand jury investigating one single regular season game thought to be fixed between the Cubs and Phillies in 1919. But as Alter explains, Someone testifying in front of the grand jury said, This is small potatoes. You should really look into the 1919 World Series, because thats where the stuff really happened.

Besides the Cicotte deposition, the museum also has the 1921 grand jury testimony of Joe Jackson, who batted .375 in the World Series, but records show took 5,000 from gamblers. In his testimony, Jackson recounts a conversation he had with White Sox lawyer Alfred Austrian, who told Jackson he needs a lawyer damn bad.

In September of 1920, Jackson appeared in Cook County Court with his seven White Sox teammates where he would confess to throwing the World Series. But the museum has documents of a 1921 criminal trial in which Jackson admitted that he wasnt exactly sober during the proceedings.

Were you not drunk at this time? the prosecutor asks.

Not hardly no, Jackson answers. I might have been half.

Say it aint so, Joe.

More of these historical artifacts will likely trickle out of the museum vaults over time. But for now, its the Cicotte deposition, which is either a worthless piece of paper, or possibly the most important glimpse into one of the greatest untold stories in the history of sports.

I think most Cubs fans are not aware of this, Alter said. I think whats interesting from a Chicago perspective is that in back-to-back years you have both the North Side and South Side being implicated. Certainly a lot of evidence for the South Side, and perhaps over the years there will be more evidence that grows as more and more people become aware of this 1918 issue.

The answers lie somewhere.

Hopefully not all buried six feet underground.

See below to watch my story from 2008 on the Black Sox scandal.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Cubs' World Series expectations are no surprise, but they show how radical transformation from Lovable Losers has been

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USA TODAY

Cubs' World Series expectations are no surprise, but they show how radical transformation from Lovable Losers has been

MESA, Ariz. — Tom Ricketts sure doesn’t sound like the guy who met his wife in the bleachers during the century-long tenure of the Lovable Losers.

“Everyone knows that this is a team that has the capability to win the World Series, and everyone will be disappointed if we don’t live up to that capability.”

Yeah, the Cubs have been among baseball’s best teams for three seasons now. That curse-smashing World Series win in 2016 was the high point of a three-year stretch of winning that’s seen three straight trips to the National League Championship Series and a combined 310 wins between the regular season and postseason.

But it’s still got to come as a strange sound to those who remember the Cubs as the longtime butt of so many baseball jokes. This team has one expectation, to win the World Series. The players have said it for a week leading up to Monday’s first full-squad workout. The front office said it when it introduced big-time free-agent signing Yu Darvish a week ago. And the chairman said it Monday.

“We very much expect to win,” Ricketts said. “We have the ability to win. Our division got a lot tougher, and the playoff opponents that we faced last year are likely to be there waiting for us again.

“I think at this point with this team, obviously that’s our goal. I won’t say a season’s a failure because you don’t win the World Series, but it is our goal.”

The confidence is not lacking. But more importantly, success drives expectations. And if the Cubs are going to be one of the best teams in baseball, they better keep winning, or they’ll fail to meet those expectations, expectations that can sometimes spin a little bit out of control.

During last year’s follow-up campaign to 2016’s championship run, a rocky start to the season that had the Cubs out of first place at the All-Star break was enough to make some fans feel like the sky was falling — as if one year without a World Series win would be unacceptable to a fan base that had just gone 108 without one.

After a grueling NLDS against the Washington Nationals, the Cubs looked well overmatched in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and that sparked plenty of outside criticism, as well as plenty of offseason activity to upgrade the club in the midst of baseball’s never-ending arms race.

“I think people forget we’ve won more games over the last three years than any other team. We’ve won more playoff games than any other team the last three years. And we’ve been to the NLCS three years in a row,” Ricketts said. “I think fans understand that this is a team that if we stay healthy and play up to our capability can be in that position, be in the World Series. I don’t blame them. We should have high expectations, we have a great team.”

On paper, there are plenty of reasons for high expectations. Certainly the team’s stated goals don’t seem outlandish or anything but expected. The addition of Darvish to a rotation that already boasted Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana makes the Cubs’ starting staff the best in the NL, maybe the best in the game. There were additions to the bullpen, and the team’s fleet of young star position players went untouched despite fears it might be broken up to acquire pitching.

“I think this is, on paper, the strongest rotation that we’ve ever had,” Ricketts said. “I think that being able to bring in a player of (Darvish’s) caliber reminds everyone that we’re intending to win our division and go all the way.

“We’ve kept a good core of players together for several years, and this year I think our offseason moves have really set us up to be one of the best teams in baseball.

“Just coming out of our team meeting, the vibe feels a lot like two years ago. Everybody’s in a really good place. I think everyone’s really hungry and really wants to get this season off to a great start and make this a memorable year.”

There should be no surprise that the team and its players and its executives and its owners feel the way they do. The Cubs are now expected winners, even if that’s still yet to sink in for the longtime fans and observers of the team they once called the Lovable Losers.

Anthony Rizzo declines role as an activist, says trip to Florida 'was the hardest thing I've ever had to do'

Anthony Rizzo declines role as an activist, says trip to Florida 'was the hardest thing I've ever had to do'

MESA, Ariz. — Anthony Rizzo’s gone above and beyond for his community in the wake of one of the worst mass shootings in United States history, when 17 people lost their lives last week at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, Rizzo’s alma mater.

His actions and words have carried plenty of weight in the last week, but Rizzo’s comments upon returning to Arizona were more focused on the general need for change rather than specific actions related to the issue of gun violence in America.

The Cubs’ first baseman, who returned to spring training on Monday after spending several days being with his community in Florida, repeatedly voiced the opinion — though it’s ridiculous to think there’s a counter argument that could actually qualify as someone’s opinion — that these mass shootings need to stop happening with such an incomprehensible amount of frequency.

But he stopped short of taking a full step into the national debate on the issue, clarifying that his comments made on Twitter the day of the shooting were not referencing gun control or that specific debate at all.

“Obviously, there needs to be change,” Rizzo said. “I don’t know what that is, I don’t get paid to make those decisions. I can sit back and give opinions, but you just hope somewhere up the line of command, people are thinking are thinking the same things that a lot of innocent kids are thinking: ‘Why? Why am I scared to go to school? Why am I scared to say goodbye to my son or daughter?’ God forbid someone was in an argument with someone they loved that day, how bad — it’s a bad time right now in the country with what’s going on with all these shootings.

“My opinion is my opinion. I don’t think it’s fair to my teammates and everyone else if I come out and start going one way or the other. I think, my focus is on baseball. My focus is definitely on Parkland and the community there and supporting them and whatever direction that they go. But for me it’s hard enough to hit a baseball, and it’s definitely going to be hard enough to try to be a baseball player and a politician at the same time.”

Rizzo has no more of an obligation to be a spokesman on this issue than any other American does, and his presence at his old school last week, his words at a vigil for the victims of this tragedy were powerful. Rizzo has established himself as a remarkable member of his community in Chicago, and he won the Roberto Clemente Award last season for his charitable efforts off the field. His willingness to leave Arizona and be with members of his community was reflective of the type of person Cubs fans and Chicagoans have gotten to know.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Just going back, you don’t what to say. There’s nothing you can say,” Rizzo said. “When people get shot, you’re grateful that they’re alive. When they pass away, you’re grateful that you knew them, to look at the bright side of things if you can. But just to see how real it is, it’s sad.

“The more I just sat and thought about it, I felt helpless here. That’s where I grew up, in Parkland. I got in trouble there, I succeeded there, I learned how to be who I am because of Parkland, because of Stoneman Douglas. So to be across the country and not be there and then to find out some very close people have lost loved ones, to be there to help them and support them was very important to me.”

Rizzo repeatedly said how proud he is of the students of Stoneman Douglas, who have been outspoken on social media, directing their comments toward the president and other members of the government and sharing their opinions that gun control is necessary for the violence to stop.

But Rizzo refrained from wading into that debate and even chastised those who mischaracterized his Twitter comments as a call for gun regulation.

“To be very clear I did not say the word ‘gun’ one time,” he said. “Anyone out there who wrote gun control, saying I called for gun control, I think is very irresponsible and I did not say that once.

“I don’t know what needs to be done, I don’t know. I don’t know enough about it. I know there are a lot of shootings. I know they are done with a specific make, but I don’t know what needs to be done. But something, some type of change needs to happen for the better because I’m sure people in here have kids. No one right now feels very comfortable on a daily basis sending their kid to school and not knowing if they’re going to see them again.”

That kind of message might not be as declarative as some would have hoped. But it remained a powerful one, showing that even if he wasn’t ready or willing to declare himself an activist, Rizzo shares the feelings of many Americans who are simultaneously numb to the news of these shootings and completely and entirely fed up with their frequency and the lack of action taken to stop them.

“As a human being, probably everyone in here when they first the initial (reports of a) shooter, I took my next golf swing, because that’s how numb this country is to it,” Rizzo said. “Until something crazy happens, when you hear ‘open shooter’ nowadays, it’s like, ‘OK,’ take your next breath and keep going. Then I found out it was at Douglas, you get a little more concerned, ‘OK, what’s going on.’ At first it’s a few people injured, then you found out it was what it was, and it’s just — it’s gut-wrenching. You just go numb.

“I stand behind my community, and I’m really proud of how everyone’s coming together. Obviously I said there needs to be change, I don’t know what the change needs to be. I’m just really proud of those kids and how they’re coming together and becoming one in Parkland. It’s really inspiring to see, and it makes me proud.”