Friday, April 15, 2011

Did the Cubs throw the 1918 World Series?

Comcast Sportsnet opens this subject again, this time on their website, and of course, in the White Sox column by Chuck Garfien. (Photo: The 1918 Cubs rotation--Lefty Tyler, Hippo Vaughn, Shufflin' Phil Douglas, and Claude Hendrix)

An entire book has been written on the subject, an excellent one called "Original Curse" by Sean Deveney. I've read that book cover to cover, and Garfien's column hits the highlights.

In addition to the things in the CSN column, there are a few things to consider. One, the players didn't even know if baseball was going to return at all in 1919. World War I was still going on, and many players were scheduled to report for duty as soon as the season ended. Plus, with the war going on, fans had lost interest in baseball. Attendance was WAY down. In addition, the player shares were cut to a fraction of what they were the previous years, and at one point during the series, both teams even briefly went on strike. (JFK's grandpa, the mayor of Boston, ended the strike by threatening to unleash the crowd on the players). The motivation was definitely there to throw the series.

Then there's the fact that two of the pitchers pictured above actually were accused of gambling later in their careers by Judge Landis (Douglas and Hendrix). The investigation of Hendrix' alleged thrown game, in fact, led to the investigation of the 1919 Sox. And, Douglas wrote a letter offering to get injured in exchange for some cash, and was banned for life. (He was with the Giants by then)

But honestly, the quotes from Eddie Cicotte that are posted by CSN (and featured in the book), and the speculation by sportswriters and a White Sox employee, simply aren't evidence. Neither is the future behavior of those two Cubs pitchers. There is zero evidence they did anything in 1918. No one ever admitted it. No one suddenly started spending money he previously didn't have. No one was ever formally accused. It's just a guess.

I'm not saying it didn't happen. It might have. But until someone has some proof other than a few people speculating or "hearing things," it's not fair to the 1918 Cubs. They aren't around to defend themselves.

I know it's not fashionable to say so, but let me suggest it anyway. Maybe Babe Ruth and his Red Sox were just better.