Chicago White Sox and 1919 World Series baseball scandal collection, 1917-1929 (bulk 1920-1924)

 

Descriptive Inventory for the Collection at Chicago History Museum, Research Center

By Peter T. Alter and Kristy Noga, 2008

 

Copyright 2008, Chicago Historical Society

1601 North Clark Street

Chicago, IL 60614-6038

Phone: 312-642-4600

URL: http://www.chicagohistory.org/

 

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Title: Chicago White Sox and 1919 World Series baseball scandal collection [manuscript], 1917-1929 (bulk 1920-1924)

Inclusive dates: 1917-1929 (bulk 1920-1924)

Size:

1 linear ft. (2 boxes) (Photocopies for research use).

1 linear ft. (2 boxes) (Originals).

Restrictions: Photocopies are available for research use. Originals are closed to researchers.

Accession#: 2008.0020.1

Provenance statement: The Chicago History Museum purchased this collection on December 13, 2007, in an on-line auction conducted by Mastro Auctions of Burr Ridge, Illinois. The seller's name and identity are unknown, and the manner in which the seller acquired the materials is also unknown.

Terms governing use: Copyright may be retained by the creators of items or their descendents, as stipulated by United States copyright law, unless otherwise noted.

Please cite this collection as: Chicago White Sox and 1919 World Series baseball scandal collection [manuscript] (Chicago History Museum) plus a detailed description, date, and box/folder number of a specific item.

 

This descriptive inventory contains the following sections:

Biographical/historical note,

Summary description of the collection,

Description of some materials related to the collection,

List of online catalog headings about the collection,

Arrangement of the collection,

Detailed description of the archival series in the collection,

List of contents of the collection.

 

Biographical/historical note:

In 1919, some Chicago White Sox players intentionally lost the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. As compensation, some of the players received cash payments from gamblers. Rumors of a conspiracy circulated immediately following Cincinnati's victory, but the scandal broke publicly in September 1920. This series of events and later developments became known as the Black Sox Scandal.

 

In 1919, Chicago White Sox owner Charles A. Comiskey hired private detectives to gather information about players and other individuals who may have been involved in the fixing of the World Series. Agents from Hunter's Secret Service, owned and managed by John R. Hunter and J.C. Pallin, befriended several Chicago White Sox players and gamblers across the United States in an effort to garner intelligence. Comiskey also put his legal team at the Chicago law firm Mayer, Meyer, Austrian, and Platt (MMAP) to work exploring the scandal. His lead counsel was Alfred S. Austrian, an influential attorney and Comiskey's close personal friend. MMAP lawyers Frederic Burnham, Paul M. Godehn, and J.E. Northrup also were involved in litigation related to the scandal.

 

In September 1920, a Cook County grand jury convened to investigate accusations of dishonesty in a game between the Chicago and the Philadelphia National League baseball clubs. Ultimately, this grand jury focused on the 1919 World Series and heard testimony from Chicago White Sox players, Edward V. Cicotte (Eddie Cicotte), Claude Williams (Lefty Williams), and Joseph Jackson (Shoeless Joe Jackson) among many others. This grand jury investigation resulted in the 1921 criminal trial (People vs. Cicotte, et al.) in Judge Hugo Friend's Cook County courtroom, where a jury found the players not guilty.

 

Meanwhile, the need to resolve conflicts among team owners and league officials as well as the 1919 World Series scandal resulted in the appointment of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis as the first commissioner of Major League Baseball.

 

Despite the court verdict in the case of People vs. Cicotte, et al., Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis permanently banned eight Chicago White Sox players implicated in the scandal from playing in Major League Baseball. Jackson and players Oscar Felsch (Happy Felsch) and Charles Risberg (Swede Risberg) later initiated legal proceedings against the Chicago White Sox for back pay and damages. Jackson's case came to trial in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, court in 1924. Jackson lost this case when Judge John J. Gregory set aside the jury's verdict that had been in Jackson's favor. The Milwaukee law firm of Bottum, Hudnall, Lecher, and McNamara represented the Chicago White Sox, and George B. Hudnall served as the lead counsel while Milwaukee attorney Raymond Cannon litigated on Jackson's behalf. George Weaver (Buck Weaver) also brought a similar suit against the club, which was eventually adjudicated in a Chicago federal court.

 

While the country watched the trials unfold, another drama developed in Major League Baseball. Comiskey had a long-standing dispute with the president of the American League, Byron Bancroft Johnson (known as Ban Johnson). Ban Johnson became alienated from many club owners, especially Charles A. Comiskey; Boston Red Sox owner Henry Frazee (Harry Frazee); and New York Yankees owners Jacob Ruppert and Tillinghast L. Huston, who were calling for Johnson's removal as American League president.

 

The dispute came about when Frazee sold pitcher Carl Mays to the Yankees in 1919. Mays, because of an injury and personal problems, left the Boston Red Sox during the 1919 season. However, Frazee still owned Mays' contract and hoped to profit from it. Ban Johnson attempted to block the sale of Mays. Comiskey, Ruppert, and Frazee took control of the American League board of directors in an effort to diminish Johnson's power. They investigated his handling of league finances and contracts, and accused him of public intoxication at a 1918 World Series game in Boston.

 

At the same time, the Yankees also brought suit against Johnson in a New York court alleging, among other things, that Johnson blocked the team's attempts to build a new stadium. Austrian and other lawyers from MMAP also were involved in this controversy. Amidst these disputes, Comiskey, Frazee, and Ruppert all viewed the hiring of Kenesaw Mountain Landis as the first commissioner of Major League Baseball as a direct challenge to Johnson's power.

 

Landis became commissioner in November 1920 and held that post until 1944. Johnson remained president of the American League of Professional Baseball until 1924.

 

Summary description of the collection:

Primarily legal documents and correspondence between lawyers, Chicago White Sox representatives, other baseball club owners, American League officials, various baseball players, and other people; reports by private detectives; press releases; player paychecks; and handwritten notes related to various trials. Legal files include partial trial transcripts, affidavits, and depositions. Many items relate directly to the 1919 World Series scandal, but some materials deal with other disputes. The private detective reports (1919-1920, 1924) include surveillance of players Frederick McMullin (known as Fred McMullin), Arnold Gandil (known as Chick Gandil), Charles Risberg (known as Swede Risberg), Oscar Felsch (known as Happy Felsch); gamblers Carl Zork and Joe Pesch; and Marie Purcell among others.

 

Grand jury material (1920) includes copies of waivers of immunity, correspondence, and transcripts. These files include affidavits by gambler Carl Zork and St. Louis sportswriter Sid Keener regarding Saint Louis Browns' player Elmer Joseph Gedeon's knowledge of the scandal. (He is called Joe Gedeon in some documents). Files related to the case in Cook County Criminal Court, People v. Cicotte, et al., contain a partial trial transcript, including testimony by Joe Jackson.

 

Other topics in the collection include the legal strategies, filings, affidavits, depositions, correspondence, and testimony related to Jackson's (1922-1924) and Weaver's (1921-1923) back pay cases. Materials include White Sox paychecks (1919) signed by Comiskey and endorsed by players Cicotte and Williams and a travel expense report (no date) written by Jackson's wife Katie, who signed her husband's name to it. Other files (1918-1920) include the minutes, proclamations, press releases, and correspondence of the American League board of directors while Charles Comiskey, Henry Frazee, and Jacob Ruppert controlled it; and affidavits and depositions related to the Yankees' case against Ban Johnson (Baseball Club of New York, Inc. v. Byron B. Johnson, et al., 1919-1920).

 

Description of some materials related to the collection:

Related materials at Chicago History Museum Research Center, include the Chicago White Sox collection; Clarence Rowland papers; Joe Jackson collection; Joseph Benz papers; Kenesaw Mountain Landis papers, and many Chicago White Sox related photographs.

 

List of online catalog headings about the collection:

The following headings for this collection were placed in the online catalog:

Subjects:

Austrian, Alfred S.

Cannon, Raymond Joseph, 1894-1951.

Cicotte, Edward, 1884-1969.

Comiskey, Charles A.

DuBuc, Jean, 1888-1958.

Felsch, Oscar, Happy, d. 1964.

Frazee, Harry, 1881-1929.

Gandil, Chick, d. 1970.

Gedeon, Joe

Grabiner, Harry

Hudnall, George B.

Huston, Tillinghast

Jackson, Joe, 1888-1951

Jackson, Katherine

Johnson, Ban--Trials, litigation, etc.

Lasker, Albert Davis, 1880-1952

Maharg, Billy, 1881-1953.

Mays, Carl, 1891-

McMullin, Fred, d. 1952.

Pesch, Joe

Purcell, Marie

Risberg, Swede, 1894-1975

Ruppert, Jacob, 1867-1939

Redman, Harry G.

Weaver, Buck, 1890-1956

Williams, Claude, Lefty, d. 1959.

Veeck, William L., d. 1933.

Zork, Carl

American League of Professional Baseball Clubs

Boston Red Sox (Baseball team)

New York Yankees (Baseball team)

Major League Baseball (Organization)

World Series (Baseball)

Actions and defenses--Illinois--Chicago--20th century.

Baseball--United States--20th century.

Baseball players--Illinois--Chicago--20th century.

Baseball team owners--United States--20th century.

Black Sox Baseball Scandal, Chicago, Ill., 1919-1921.

Grand jury--Illinois--Cook County--20th century.

Private investigators--United States--20th century.

Sports betting--United States--20th century.

Trials--Illinois--Chicago--20th century.

Chicago (Ill.)--Social conditions--20th century.

 

Form\Genre:

Affidavits.

Checks.

Legal documents.

Minutes.

Press releases.

Reports.

Transcripts.

Trials, litigation, etc.

 

Added entries:

Austrian, Alfred S.

Burnham, Frederic.

Cicotte, Edward, 1884-1969.

Comiskey, Charles A.

Felsch, Oscar, Happy, d. 1964.

Godehn, Paul M.

Hudnall, George B.

Hunter, John R.

Huston, Tillinghast

Jackson, Joe, 1888-1951

Johnson, Ban.

Keener, Sid

Pallin, John C.

Risberg, Swede, 1894-1975

Ruppert, Jacob, 1867-1939

Turchin, Hyman

Veeck, William L., d. 1933.

Chicago White Sox (Baseball team)

Mayer, Meyer, Austrian & Platt (Law firm : Chicago, Ill.)

United States--Illinois--Cook County--Chicago.

 

Arrangement of the collection:

The collection is divided into two series:

Series 1: World Series scandal items, 1919-1929

Series 2: Comiskey, Frazee, and Rupert vs. Johnson legal filings and board reports, 1917-1920

 

Detailed description of the archival series of the collection:

Series 1. World Series scandal items, 1919-1929 (box 1)

Series 1 consists primarily of correspondence between and among attorneys for the Chicago White Sox and various players, reports by private detectives, trial transcripts, procedural documents, affidavits, depositions, press releases, and handwritten notes related to various trials. This series sheds light on the grand jury and criminal trial testimony given by key members of the White Sox team. The private investigation reports chronicle the actions, whereabouts, and conversations between detectives and several of the ball players directly following the World Series of 1919. The State of Illinois vs. Eddie Cicotte et al. contains the court transcripts charging the players with defrauding the public and conspiring to injure the American League, among other charges. Other items of interest include paychecks signed by Comiskey and endorsed by the players, newspaper comics, and multiple telegrams. The majority of the folders in the series are arranged chronologically.

 

Series 2: Comiskey, Frazee, and Ruppert vs. Johnson legal filings and board reports, 1917-1920 (box 2)

Series 2 contains minutes, proclamations, press releases, and correspondence of the American League board of directors during the turbulent struggle between president of the American League Ban Johnson and club owners Charles A. Comiskey, Henry Frazee, and Jacob Ruppert. This series reveals the stated rules and regulations that the national commission agreed to govern baseball. These rules then relate to later materials that accuse Ban Johnson of breaking rules, inept leadership, and public intoxication. Materials in this series illuminate the tangled relationship between Johnson and Comiskey and the distrust and confusion during the 1919-1921 scandal, which contributed to the hiring of Kenesaw Mountain Landis as the first commissioner of Major League Baseball. The majority of the folders in the series are arranged chronologically.

 

List of contents of the collection:

Series 1. World Series scandal items, 1919-1929 (Photocopies)

Box 1

Folders:

1 Private detective reports, 1919-1920, 1924

2 Grand jury, 1920

3 Illinois vs. Cicotte, et al., 1921

4 Illinois vs. Cicotte, et al. partial transcript, 1921

5 Jackson/Risberg/Felsch v. Comiskey, et al., no date

6 Jackson/Risberg/Felsch v. Comiskey, et al., 1922

7 Jackson/Risberg/Felsch v. Comiskey, et al., 1923

8 Jackson/Risberg/Felsch v. Comiskey, et al., 1924

9 Jackson v. Comiskey, et al., partial transcript, 1924

10 Weaver vs. White Sox, 1921-1923

11 Miscellaneous correspondence, 1920-1929

 

Series 2: Comiskey, Frazee, and Ruppert vs. Johnson legal filings and board reports, 1917-1920 (Photocopies)

Box 2

Folders:

1 Rules and Regulations Governing the National Commission, 1917

2 American League board of directors, no date

3 American League board of directors, 1919 Jun.-Nov.

4 American League board of directors, 1919 Dec.

5 American League board of directors, 1920

6 American League auditor's reports, 1919-1920

7 Proposed American League constitution, 1926

8 Baseball Club of New York, Inc. vs. Byron B. Johnson, et al., legal filings, 1919

9 Baseball Club of New York, Inc. vs. Byron B. Johnson, et al., legal filings, 1919

10 Baseball Club of New York, Inc. vs. Byron B. Johnson, et al., correspondence, 1919-1920

11 National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, et al. vs. The Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore, Inc., 1920

 

Originals stored at AlphaV.