curse

Over the long history of baseball, there are stories that have been swept under the rug in an attempt to protect the game.  Potentially damaging concerns have included current day situations like steroids, amphetamines & alcohol in decades past, ball doctoring, and of course gambling.  Our guest on this episode of Cover the Bases is Sean Deveney, who shines the light on one such story, which many fans will initially find hard to believe.  After reading his book called The Original Curse: Did the Cubs Throw the 1918 World Series to Babe Ruth’s Red Sox and Incite the Black Sox Scandal?, I do indeed believe it happened.  Hope you enjoy listening to the episode.  Here is a summary of what we discussed:

Sean was inspired to dig into this story in 2008 when he was exposed to documents that the Chicago History Museum had obtained relating to the Chicago Black Sox scandal of 1919.  In these documents was a deposition of a player named Eddie Cicotte, who indicated that it was the 1918 Cubs team who demonstrated money was to be made fixing the World Series.

Underlying this entire tale is the context of the times, which included rampant gambling in the ballparks and players who easily mingled with gamblers and the fans who frequented ballgames.  As Sean points out, the players in that era were not superstars and many came from less than middle class backgrounds who were not be out of place spending time in pool halls and neighborhood bars where action could be taken.

World War I put a different pressure on the ballplayers during 1918.  Playing a game, while the rest of the country was contributing to the war effort in more direct fashion gave rise to the notion that the players were “slackers”.  The teams had no indication as to whether they would be forced to shut down, and many around the game believed this season might be the last for them.

Players were concerned about the nationwide efforts to draft every able body person directly into the war effort, either by working in jobs that directly benefited the military or actively fighting.  Many players went off to fight, some went to “work” in the military complex with an understanding they would play for the company’s baseball team. Some players simply continued to carry on with the season.

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