7 of Baseball’s Biggest Scandals

Baseball has seen its share of scandals over its long history as America’s national pastime, from gambling to performance-enhancing drugs to cheating. Often these scandals reflected what was happening in American society at the time, and critics blamed baseball players for not being role models, especially for children. For example, during baseball’s steroid era of the late 1980s through the late 2000s, players were called upon to set a bad example for impressionable young athletes looking to gain an advantage.

Decades earlier, according to a newspaper report, a little boy pleaded with Chicago White Sox star Joe Jackson accused of kicking off the 1919 World Series in what became known as the scandal. Black Sox: “That’s not true, is it?” The story, which could be apocryphal, was notoriously shortened to “Say it’s not true, Joe.” Say it’s not. Although Jackson denied it happened, this and other scandals have clung to America’s collective memory.

1. Chicago Black Sox

Eddie Cicotte, Chicago AL, at Polo Grounds, NY ca.  1913.

Pitcher Eddie Cicotte (pictured here in 1913), later admitted taking a $10,000 bribe before losing the World Series opener.

Eight Chicago White Sox players, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, have been charged with conspiring with players to start the 1919 World Series, which the Cincinnati Reds won five games to three. The following September, the players were charged with conspiring to defraud the public, and White Sox owner Charles Comiskey suspended all seven players who were still on the team.

Pitcher Eddie Cicotte, who admitted taking a $10,000 bribe before losing Game 1 of the World Series, said: “I did it for the wife and the kids.” In August 1921, a jury acquitted the men, but baseball’s first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, hired to clean up the sport, suspended them for life anyway, stating:

“Regardless of the verdict of the juries, no player who pitches a ball game, no player who receives proposals or promises to pitch a game, no player who sits in a conference with a group of crooked gamblers and gamblers where the ways and means pitching games are discussed, and doesn’t tell his club soon, will play professional baseball again.

The Black Sox scandal was immortalized in the 1988 film Eight men out.

WATCH: The Black Sox scandal on HISTORY Vault

2. Baseball suspends Dodgers manager Leo Durocher

On the eve of baseball’s historic 1947 season, in which Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, commissioner Albert B. “Happy” Chandler suspended team manager Leo Durocher , for one year for “the accumulation of unpleasant incidents”. that were “detrimental to baseball”.

Chandler, who had succeeded Landis as commissioner two years earlier, had warned the colorful Durocher against associating with gaming figures. Among Durocher’s friends was mobster Bugsy Siegel.

“Durocher has not lived up to the standards expected or required of managers of our baseball teams,” Chandler said in announcing the suspension.

3. George Steinbrenner looks for dirt on his own player

George Steinbrenner, the larger-than-life owner of the New York Yankees, had the distinction of earning timeouts from two different commissioners. In 1974, the year after the team was purchased, he pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions to President Richard Nixon’s 1972 presidential campaign and pressuring employees of his construction company. naval force to lie about “bounties” that they turned into contributions to Nixon. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended Steinbrenner for two years, but it was later reduced to 15 months.

Then, in 1990, Commissioner Fay Vincent banned Steinbrenner from operating the Yankees after the owner paid a self-confessed gambler, Howard Spira, to search for dirt on Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield, with whom the owner squabbled. was disputed. Steinbrenner regained control of the team in 1993.

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4. Pete Rose banned for life after betting on baseball

Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose reacts to a reporter's question in March 1989. Rose had been under scrutiny by the Office of the Baseball Commissioners for gambling.

Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose reacts to a reporter’s question in March 1989. Rose had come under scrutiny for gambling.

After a lengthy investigation into his betting on baseball games, Major League Baseball reached a settlement in 1989 with Cincinnati Reds star Pete Rose, baseball’s all-time leader, permanently banning him from the sport. Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti announced, “I have concluded that he bet on baseball,” including Reds games. Rose denied betting on baseball at the time, but in his 2004 book, My prison without barshe admitted to having bet on the Reds, always to win.

The ban means Rose is ineligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Baseball turned down several reinstatement offers by Rose.

In 1993, Baseball’s Executive Board suspended Reds owner Marge Schott for a year and fined her $25,000 for bringing “discredit and embarrassment” to baseball for a series of comments offensive and racist. In a deposition for a lawsuit filed against her by a former employee, Schott did not deny that she occasionally used a racist term and admitted that she had a swastika armband in her house (a gift, did she she says, of a World War II veteran). She also made derisive comments about Japanese and Jews. A 1992 New York Times The story quotes her as saying, “Hitler was good at first, but he went too far.”

Baseball eventually shortened the suspension to eight months for good behavior.

6. The Age of Steroids

Barry Bonds warms up before hitting during a game against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas on September 23, 2003

Barry Bonds warms up before hitting during a game against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas on September 23, 2003.

In 2007, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell released a damning 400-page report on a happy baseball era he called “baseball’s steroid era,” naming about 90 current players as users of performance-enhancing drugs. performance, including steroids. Some of the most famous players on the list were pitcher Roger Clemens and slugger Barry Bonds.

In its conclusion, the report said that everyone shared the blame:

“Everyone involved in baseball over the past two decades – commissioners, club officials, the Players Association and the players – shares some responsibility for the era of steroids. There has been a collective failure to recognize the problem as it arose and to address it early on.As a result, an environment developed in which illegal use became widespread.

7. Houston Astros sign theft

Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch holds the World Series trophy after his team's victory at the 2017 World Series. The team was later accused of cheating.

Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch holds the World Series trophy after his team’s victory at the 2017 World Series. The team was later accused of cheating.

In 2019, The Athletic published an investigation which found that 2017 World Series champion Houston Astros used a camera to illegally steal signs from opponents during home games. A center field camera would send a feed of the opposing receiver’s sign to a television monitor in the tunnel between the Astros’ dugout and the clubhouse. Players and employers watched the stream, and once they decoded the signs, they made a loud noise to communicate the incoming pitch by banging on a trash can in the tunnel. An MLB report found that coaches and players were also using other communication techniques, such as text messages sent to smartphones or smartwatches in the dugout.

In January 2020, commissioner Rob Manfred suspended the team’s general manager, Jeff Luhnow, and their manager AJ Hinch, for a year, and also forced the team to give up several draft picks. The same day, the Astros fired both men.

But Manfred decided not to strip the Astros of their 2017 title and was criticized by players for calling the Commissioner’s Trophy awarded to the World Series winner a “piece of metal” in a 2020 interview with ESPN. He then apologized.

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