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.

Nationals 'love' Kris Bryant but potential holdup could stymie trade talks

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With Anthony Rendon officially joining the Angels, the Nationals have a vacancy at third base.

Washington has options to replace Rendon; Josh Donaldson is still available in free agency, and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant could potentially be had via trade.

The Nationals have reportedly inquired with the Cubs about Bryant, and while they “love” the 27-year-old, their focus is on Donaldson, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. The Cubs would likely seek center fielder Victor Robles in a deal, a holdup on Washington's end, Heyman said.

From the Cubs perspective, it would make all the sense in the world to ask for Robles. He’s 22 years old, plays excellent defense (22 DRS in 2019, No. 1 in MLB by center fielders) and is only scratching the surface as a big-leaguer. Robles is projected to be a star, but Bryant already is one. If the Nationals want Bryant badly enough, they’ll have to sacrifice talent in a deal.

On the other hand, it’s easy to understand why Washington would be unwilling to trade Robles, who's under team control through 2024. Bryant will hit free agency after 2021, but if he wins his ongoing grievance case, he'll hit the open market after next season.

Nonetheless, if the Nationals do engage in Bryant trade talks, you can bet the Cubs will at least ask for Robles in return. A trade could be worked out without him, but for a Cubs team searching for better center field production, you've got to wonder who could be more enticing than Robles.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams Cubs games easily on your device.

Willson Contreras and his boundless energy join Cubs All-Decade Team

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With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.

It didn’t take long for Willson Contreras to introduce himself to Major League Baseball. On the first pitch he saw as a big-leaguer, the Cubs catcher cranked a two-run home run to center field — on Sunday Night Baseball, nonetheless.

That moment was a sign of things to come for Contreras, who has since established himself as one of the best catchers in baseball. The 27-year-old holds a career .267/.350/.470 line with a 117 wRC+ and 67 home runs in four seasons. He’s started back-to-back All-Star Games, the first Cubs catcher to do so since Gabby Hartnett (1937-38).

Contreras offers so much to the Cubs besides his bat. His cannon of an arm and athleticism behind the plate are integral to the Cubs controlling opposing run games. His pitch framing is a work in progress, and admittedly, he could improve in this area by throwing behind runners less, ensuring he gets strikes called.

However, back-picking is part of Contreras’ value. He may lose some strike calls by not sticking a frame, but there've been plenty of occasions where Contreras' arm has provided the Cubs with a spark. His boundless energy is unmeasurable, but its importance to the Cubs — who feed off of it — cannot be overstated.

There are areas where Contreras can improve, and that's a scary thought. But he's already is one of the best backstops in baseball and has earned the starting catcher spot on our Cubs All-Decade Team.

Also considered: Welington Castillo, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Geovany Soto