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.

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

There are plenty of intriguing Cubs storylines to monitor this offseason from their potential pursuit of the big free agents to any other changes that may come to the coaching staff or roster after a disappointing finish to the 2018 campaign.

But there's one question simmering under the radar in Cubs circles when it comes to this winter: How will the team solve the shortstop conundrum?

Just a few years ago, the Cubs had "too many" shortstops. Now, there are several different factors at play here that makes it a convoluted mess.

First: What will the Cubs do with Addison Russell? The embattled shortstop is in the midst of a suspension for domestic violence that will keep him off an MLB diamond for at least the first month of 2019.

Has Russell already played his last game with the Cubs? Will they trade him or send him packing in any other fashion this winter?

Theo Epstein mentioned several times he felt the organization needs to show support to the victim in the matter (Russell's ex-wife, Melisa) but also support for Russell. Does that mean they would keep him a part of the team at least through the early part of 2019?

Either way, Russell's days in Chicago are numbered and his play on the field took another big step back in 2018 as he fought through a hand injury and experienced a major dip in power. With his performance on the field and the off-field issues, it will be hard to justify a contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million in his second year of arbitration (prorated, with a month's worth of pay taken out for the suspension).

Even if Russell is on the roster in 2019, Javy Baez is unquestionably the shortstop for at least the first month while Russell is on suspension. 

But what about beyond Baez if the Cubs want to give him a breather or disaster strikes and he's forced to miss time with an injury?

At the moment, there's nothing but question marks on the current Cubs shortstop depth chart throughout the entire organization and they're certainly going to need other options at the most important defensive position (outside of pitcher/catcher). 

There's David Bote, who subbed in for Baez at short once in September when Baez needed a break and Russell was on the disabled list. But while Bote's defense at third base and second base has opened eyes around the Cubs, he has only played 45 games at short across seven minor-league seasons, including 15 games in 2018. There's also the offensive question marks with the rookie, who hit just .176 with a .559 OPS and 40 strikeouts in 108 at-bats after that epic ultimate grand slam on Aug. 12.

The Cubs' other current shortstop options include Mike Freeman (a 31-year-old career minor-leaguer), Ben Zobrist (who will be 38 in 2019 and has played all of 13 innings at shortstop since 2014), Ryan Court (a 30-year-old career minor leaguer) and Chesny Young (a 26-year-old minor-leaguer who has posted a .616 OPS in 201 Triple-A games).

Maybe Joe Maddon would actually deploy Kris Bryant at shortstop in case of emergency like a Baez injury ("necessity is the mother of invention," as Maddon loves to say), but that seems a lot more like a fun talking point than a legit option at this current juncture.

So even if Russell sticks around, there's no way the Cubs can go into the first month of the season with just Baez and Bote as the only shortstop options on a team that with World Series or bust expectations.

The Cubs will need to acquire some shortstop depth this winter in some capacity, whether it's adding to the Triple-A Iowa roster or getting a veteran who can also back up other positions. Right now, the free agent pool of potential shortstops is pretty slim beyond Manny Machado.

Epstein always says he and his front office look to try to mitigate risk and analyze where things could go wrong to sink the Cubs' season and through that lense, shortstop is suddenly right up there behind adding more bullpen help this winter.

Podcast: In light of recent hitting coach turmoil, who’s to blame for Cubs offensive struggles?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: In light of recent hitting coach turmoil, who’s to blame for Cubs offensive struggles?

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Luke Stuckmeyer and Tony Andracki discuss the comments Chili Davis made after being fired as Cubs hitting coach, ask if the Cubs struggles on offense were Davis' fault or the players and what Anthony Iapoce will be walking into as he tries to gets the team back on track a the plate.

 

Listen to the entire podcast here, or in the embedded player below: