Stan Musial's life was a charmed one, and not just on the baseball field. It was said about the St. Louis Cardinals’ great that he retired from the game with more money and more friends than anyone before him. After a stellar 22-year career, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility and spent the rest of his life entertaining fans around the country with his ever-present smile and harmonica.
After the 2004 Boston Red Sox rallied from a 3-0 deficit in games against the New York Yankees to clinch a World Series berth, Red Sox owner John Henry called it “the greatest comeback in baseball history.” Most fans believed it was the first time any major league team had won a best-of-7 postseason series that way, but there was an obscure precedent.
When Ban Johnson founded the American League in 1901, he strove to publicly distance his league from the rowdyism and lawlessness that had characterized the National League’s first quarter-century. The 1877 Louisville Grays game-fixing scandal, which resulted in the banishment of four players, had been a serious threat to the NL’s integrity. In an attempt to head off any similar incidents in the AL, Johnson banned gamblers from the league’s ballparks. Nonetheless, betting continued to flourish in both leagues throughout the Deadball Era.
Driving south from Tucson on Arizona Highway 80, beyond the Wild West outpost-turned-tourist trap of Tombstone, past an endless landscape of sagebrush and cactus, you enter a tunnel carved into the Mule Mountains near the Mexican border. When you exit that tunnel, it's as if you have traveled back in time. Welcome to Bisbee, Arizona.
In the final scene of John Sayles’s 1988 film Eight Men Out, Buck Weaver (played by John Cusack) is shown attending a semipro game in Hackensack, New Jersey, where a talented but unknown center fielder called “Brown” (played by D.B. Sweeney) is tearing the cover off the ball. A fan in the stands thinks he has seen Brown before—maybe under his real name of Joseph Jefferson “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. Weaver dismisses the idea with a wistful line: “Nah, those fellas are all gone now.”
It has been 50 years since Eliot Asinof’s landmark book on the 1919 Black Sox scandal, Eight Men Out, was first published. Baseball fans have been captivated by his compelling narrative about the talented but disgruntled Chicago White Sox ballplayers, underpaid and ill-treated by owner Charles Comiskey, taking bribes from gamblers to fix that year’s World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Eight Men Out has been called the definitive history of the scandal.