Cheating in sports is nothing new. I’d imagine Athenian heroes took payoffs to throw competitions. I hope those noble athletes competed purely for the pleasure of sport, but as plaudits and winnings grow so too does the willingness to take the fall, lose the race, or throw the match in exchange for big money.
Today marks the anniversary of one of America’s most memorable cheating sports moments: the Black Sox Scandal. The Chicago White Sox faced the Cincinnati Reds in the 1919 World Series. Due to the gambling payoff significantly outstripping their paychecks and the players’ resentment of team owner Charles Comiskey, eight White Sox players conspired to throw the World Series. The White Sox lost the series with the eight conspirators playing significantly worse than their talent suggested.
The conspirators were acquitted of all charges on August 2, 1921. Their baseball careers, however, remained ruined. On August 3, 1921 baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned all eight players from baseball for life and they have been remembered since as the Black Sox. Below are a few books recounting the Black Sox scandal.
Crooked: a History of Cheating in Sports
Burying the Black Sox: How Baseball's Cover-Up of the 1919 World Series Fix Almost Succeeded
Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series
Bernard Malamud’s The Natural draws heavily from the Black Sox Scandal.