Say it Ain't So, Joe: 10 Infamous Sports Cheating Scandals

The White Sox Throws the World Series
Group portrait of some of the "Black Sox" (seated left to right): "Chick" Gandil, "Lefty" Williams, "Swede" Risberg, Eddie Cicotte, "Buck" Weaver, and "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, all smiles after being acquitted in August 1921. Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

The Chicago White Sox were the favorite to win the 1919 World Series, and intentionally losing that game forever earned them the infamous name the "Black Sox," though the name initially referred to their often dirty uniforms -- coach Charles Comiskey had them washed infrequently to save a buck [source: Linder]. Armed with star pitchers "Lefty" Williams and Eddie Cicotte and baseball legend outfielder "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, it seemed impossible that Chicago could lose. But they did. What would cause a team to throw the biggest game of the season?

It came down to money. Baseball players at that time didn't make millions like they do now, and some of the White Sox players were especially disgruntled. Cicotte is a prime example: Cominskey had promised him a $10,000 bonus -- the equivalent of more than $130,000 today -- if he won 30 games, then benched him after his 29th win [sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics,Lowitt]. The poor morale and even poorer pay make it less surprising that a group of players on the team sought to throw the game in exchange for a big payout or that Cicotte was one of the first players involved in the fix.

There's some debate over which player initiated the scandal, but regardless of who got the ball rolling, gambler "Sport" Sullivan agreed to give the players $80,000 to throw the Series [source: Linder]. That $80,000 went up to $100,000 as the Series approached and more gamblers and players got involved. Lefty Williams even received threats to himself and his family if he didn't throw game eight.

Cheating in baseball was more common in 1919 than it is today, so when a normally stellar team started losing Series games, reporters began to wonder about a fix, but a Cook County grand jury investigation didn't begin until a year later during another cheating investigation against the Chicago Cubs [source: Lowitt]. The eight White Sox players indicted were:

  1. Arnold "Chick" Gandil
  2. Eddie Cicotte
  3. Claude "Lefty" Williams
  4. George "Buck" Weaver
  5. "Shoeless" Joe Jackson
  6. Charles "Swede" Risberg
  7. Oscar "Happy" Felsch
  8. Fred McMullin

All eight players involved were acquitted but the commissioner of baseball banned them from playing professional baseball for life.