Jacob Pomrenke is SABR’s web content editor/producer. He is chairman of the Black Sox Scandal Research Committee and editor of Scandal on the South Side: The 1919 Chicago White Sox, published in 2015. He lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with his wife, Tracy Greer, and their cats, Nixey Callahan and Bones Ely.
As the Chicago Cubs walked off the field on September 30, 1920, near the end of a long, losing season, they wanted nothing more than to go home and get some rest.
Suddenly, a voice cried out from the crowd of fans gathered in the parking lot:
“You’re one of those crooked Chicago ballplayers. When are you going to confess?”
In April 1921, American League President Ban Johnson sent a telegram to a Philadelphia newspaper reporter who had helped publicly expose the Black Sox Scandal months earlier. He was on the hunt for Sleepy Bill Burns, a former Major League pitcher who had served as a liaison between the eight Chicago White Sox players who agreed to fix the 1919 World Series and the gamblers putting up the money to bribe them to lose to the Cincinnati Reds.
As the star witness in baseball’s “trial of the century”—the criminal conspiracy case against the fixers of the 1919 World Series—Sleepy Bill Burns was asked whether he was out for revenge in testifying against his former partners, the eight Chicago players involved in the Black Sox Scandal.
“Do you think you are even with the boys now?” the prosecutor asked.
“Three signed confessions, that’s a tough hand to beat.”
—Ring Lardner, portrayed by John Sayles in Eight Men Out
In baseball, it’s important to have a healthy sense of humor. In a sport where even the best hitters fail seven out of every 10 times at bat, how else can anyone survive the long, grueling season without a little laughter along the way?
On September 27, 1917, the Chicago White Sox and Washington Senators were scheduled to play a game at Griffith Stadium in Washington. But Walter Johnson, the Senators’ ace pitcher, was nowhere to be found. Neither were Shoeless Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver of the White Sox, who had recently clinched the American League pennant and were preparing for the upcoming World Series.
No one who knew him would have been surprised to learn that Hugh S. Fullerton was in the middle of the fracas that led to the formation of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America during the 1908 World Series. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, the Chicago-based newspaper and magazine writer played a significant role in just about every major story involving the baseball media.
Most fans today know about the Baseball Writers’ Association of America because of its role in award voting. From the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, and other awards at the end of each season to Hall of Fame elections, eligible members of the BBWAA are the people who select the most prestigious honors in the game.
It ought to come as no surprise that a group of Chicago writers led the way in the formation of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in 1908. Most of the major innovations in baseball writing originated in the Windy City.