gambling

Seamheads.com Founder and Managing Editor, Mike Lynch is our guest on this episode of the Cover the Bases podcast.  He is the author of two baseball books and writes regularly as his web site.  We really appreciate the time that he took out of his night to talk some baseball with us.

His most recent book is It Ain’t So: A Might Have Been History of the White Sox in 1919 and Beyond. It is published by McFarland, and was released in November of 2009.

Mike took a completely unique approach to writing about the Chicago White Sox team of 1919.  After first pitching the concept to his publisher and getting some push back, he pitched another book which turned out to be Harry Frazee, Ban Johnson and the Feud That Nearly Destroyed the American League.  Once McFarland saw what Mike could accomplish, they let him revisit his concept for examining what might have happened if the Black Sox scandal had never taken place.

Out of the Park Baseball provided the computational muscle, while Mike allowed the players who were banned from baseball in 1920, to continue on in their careers.  Mike chronicled the impact that this would have had on the American League races, as well as some World Series Championships. He played the 1919 World Series, completed the 1920 season, and then reset all of the American League teams each season to play a “might have been” version of the White Sox.  This simulation and writing process took Mike about 10 years to complete.

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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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