Chicago Black Sox


Charles Comiskey and the White Sox

Despite their many wins on the field, the White Sox were an unhappy team. No club played better in 1919, but few were paid so poorly. Many knowledgeable observers believe that it was Comiskey's stinginess that is largely to blame for the Black Sox scandal: if Comiskey had not grossly underpaid his players and treated them so unfairly, they would never have agreed to throw the Series. Comiskey was able to get away with paying low salaries because of the "reserve clause" in players' contracts. This clause prevented players from changing teams without the permission of the owners. Without a union, the players had no bargaining power.

Comiskey and future White Sox owner, Bill Veeck, in 1920.

White Sox president Charles Comiskey and Bill Veeck, Sr., president of the Cubs, in 1920. (CHS SDN 62,205)

Comiskey frequently made promises to his players that he had no intention of keeping. He once promised his team a big bonus if they won the pennant. When they did win, the bonus turned out to be a case of cheap champagne. Comiskey even charged his players for laundering their uniforms. In protest, for several weeks the players wore the same increasingly dirty uniforms. Comiskey removed the uniforms from their lockers and fined the players.

To make matters worse, the White Sox players did not get along with each other. Their constant infighting was marked by jealousy and verbal abuse. The team was divided into two cliques, one led by second baseman Eddie Collins and the other by first baseman Chick Gandil. Collins's faction was educated, sophisticated, and able to negotiate salaries as high as $15,000. Gandil's less polished group, who only earned an average of $6,000, bitterly resented the difference.

Buck Weaver is out at home plate in the fourth inning of game two of the World Series against Cincinnati.

Buck Weaver is out at home plate in the fourth inning of game two of the World Series against Cincinnati. (CHS, SDN 61.954)

In 1918, with the country disrupted by World War I, interest in baseball dropped to an all-time low. The 1919 World Series was the first national championship after the war, and baseball and the nation as a whole were back to business as usual. Postwar enthusiasm for baseball took everyone by surprise, and fans eagerly followed the games. National interest in the Series was so high, baseball officials decided to make it a best of nine series, instead of the traditional best of seven.





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