The Chicago History Museum recently obtained the 1920 court deposition of Eddie Cicotte, one of the notorious Chicago White Sox players who fixed the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, at auction for $100,000.
As a member of the tainted “Black Sox” team, Cicotte pocketed $10,000 for fixing the two games in which he pitched in that fabled World Series. His reasoning for doing so was the renouned cheapness of the White Sox owner, Charles Comisky, who ordered Cicotte benched for the last two weeks of the 1919 season so the pitcher wouldn’t have a chance to win his 30th game of the season. Why? It would’ve triggered a bonus clause in Cicotte’s contract, paying him an additional $10,000 for the season.
Of note in the document the Chicago History Museum released is that Cicotte, in a roundabout way, claimed that his team got the idea to throw the World Series from their crosstown rivals the Cubs who had done the same the year before in the 1918 World Series against the Boston Red Sox.
Cicotte offers no specifics in his statements, only rumors. Of course, most fixes are never discovered, only whispered about by those in the know. Yet Cicotte claimed the White Sox players were clearly in the know about the Cubs actions in 1918.
This should come as no surprise to baseball historians. Baseball was born as a gambling game, with the first known fix taking place in the 1850s. Gambling and baseball continued hand-in-hand up until the 1919 World Series scandal caused gambling to become baseball’s number one sin.
What is interesting is how that story came to light, as it ties directly to Cicotte’s claim against the Cubs.
In August 1920, sportswriters Otto Floto and Hugh Fullerton broke the story that Chicago Cubs pitcher Claude Hendrix attempted to bet $5,000 against his team in a game versus the Philadelphia Phillies. The Cubs front office heard the rumor prior to the game and pulled Hendrix from his starting role, but the Cubs still lost 3-0.
Despite having evidence that Hendrix meant to bet (and likely throw) the game, Chicago newspapers wouldn’t run the story. Instead, Fullerton had to publish the piece in New York newspapers (going to show you that times haven’t changed much in the censorship realm).
A month later, a grand jury convened to look into the Cubs-Phillies game. Amazingly, during testimony from several members of the baseball world, the story of the 1919 World Series was revealed–by Cicotte himself.
From there, the rest is a matter of history.
So did the Cubs give the 1918 World Series away to the Red Sox?
In each of the four games the Red Sox won, the margin of victory was a mere one run. In the world of game fixing, one run is fairly easy to give away without looking overly guilty.
In this case, two Chicago Cubs players can easily be questioned: outfielder Max Flack and pitcher Phil Douglas. Both players committed key errors that led to game-winning runs for the Red Sox. Douglas was later barred from baseball when in 1922, as a member of the New York Giants, he attempted to sell his services to the St. Louis Cardinals and “disappear,” hurting the Giants’ chance at winning the pennant while aiding the Cardinals.
In other words, some members of the Cubs very well may have been as crooked as the 1919 Black Sox. Cicotte’s lost deposition may be the nail in the coffin to condemn the 1918 Chicago Cubs as well.