Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols

By Stanley H. Teitelbaum | Go to book overview

3. Baseball Gambling Scandals

Baseball is something more than a game to an American boy. It is his train-
ing field for life work. Destroy his faith in its squareness and honesty and
you have destroyed something more. You have planted suspicion of all
things in his heart.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis

We create our sports heroes by attributing to them the specialness and greatness that we wish we had ourselves. But this golden image masks the fact that despite their athletic talent they are human beings with flaws that may be exaggerated by a distorted self-image.

There is a downside to stardom. When you sign your contract, you are also signing up for a life in which your off-field activities will be scrutinized and any lapses will be magnified. An ordinary citizen is free to place an affordable bet on a ball game, but an athlete who does so is jeopardizing his whole career.


The Black Sox Scandal

In September 1920 the world of organized baseball was rocked by the news that eight players on the Chicago White Sox had conspired with gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. The White Sox were the stronger team on paper and were heavy favorites to win the series, but before the opening game in Cincinnati the odds had shifted drastically in favor of the Reds. It is likely that word had gotten around to the bookmakers that a fix was in the works.

There are several versions of how the plan came into being, but the view most widely held is that Arnold “Chick” Gandil, the Chicago first baseman, approached a gambler named Sport Sullivan and together they concocted the plot. Gandil then enlisted pitcher Ed Cicotte, who had won twenty-nine games for the Sox that season. As Eliot Asinof reports in Eight Men Out, Charles Comiskey, the club’s owner, had promised Cicotte a bonus of $10,000 if he won thirty games. He was held out of several late-season starts, and Comiskey denied him the bonus on the grounds that he had not won the required thirty games. Cicotte

-33-

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Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xi
  • 1. the Need for Heroes 1
  • 2. the Psyche of the Athlete 17
  • 3. Baseball Gambling Scandals 33
  • 4. Football Gambling Scandals 58
  • 5. Basketball Gambling Scandals 69
  • 6. Self-Destructive Athletes 101
  • 7. Athletes and Violence toward Women 138
  • 8. Athletes and Murder 178
  • 9. Violence between Athletes 197
  • 10. Athletes’ Mental Health Problems 220
  • Epilogue 240
  • Notes 249
  • Index 265
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