Descriptive inventory for the Eliot Asinof papers, 1912-2006 (bulk 1963-1977)

Eliot Asinof papers

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Descriptive inventory for the Eliot Asinof papers, 1912-2006 (bulk 1963-1977)

Prepared by Kristy N. Noga and Dominique Tremblay, 2009.
Please address questions to:
Chicago History Museum, Research Center
1601 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614-6038
Instructions for accessing this collection

Collection Overview +/-

Title: Eliot Asinof papers, 1912-2006 (inclusive), 1963-1977 (bulk)
Creator: Eliot Asinof
Dates: 1912-2006 (inclusive), 1963-1977 (bulk)
Bib number: 00210846
Call number: MSS Lot A
Size: 3.5 linear feet (6 boxes)
Language of material:Collection is written in English.

Provenance statement:

Purchased from the estate of Eliot Asinof in November 2008 (2009.0063.1).

Terms governing use:

Copyright is retained by the authors of the items in this collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by the United States copyright law, unless otherwise noted.


This collection is open for research use.

Please cite this collection as:

Eliot Asinof papers (Chicago History Museum) plus a detailed description, date, and box/folder number of a specific item.

Additional Materials +/-

Related material:

Related materials at Chicago History Museum's Research Center include the Chicago White Sox and 1919 World Series baseball scandal collection [manuscript]; Chicago White Sox collection; Clarence Rowland papers; Joe Jackson collection; Joseph Benz papers; Kenesaw Mountain Landis papers, and photographs and publications related to the White Sox.

Collection Summary +/-

The collection is composed of handwritten and typed manuscripts by Eliot Asinof and legal affidavits, letters, scripts, articles, notes, and newsclippings that belonged to Asinof, the author of Eight Men Out, a book about the 1919 World Series and baseball gambling scandal (published 1963). The collection includes the transcript of an interview with Abe Attell, a former boxer and associate of underworld gamblers, and notes on Asinof's interviews with Chicago White Sox center-fielder Happy Felsch and Judge Hugo Friend, who presided over the trial. In addition, Asinof's notes on the creation of the book manuscript provide details from innumerable sources about events and motivations of the players. Other items in the collection include production schedules (but not the script), articles, and reviews of the 1988 movie Eight Men Out, co-written by Eliot Asinof and its director, John Sayles.

Asinof's handwritten notes contain first-hand information from several people, such as novelist James T. Farrell and Baseball Hall of Fame member Red Faber. Correspondents in the collection include baseball players and other figures of the scandal era, such as banned Chicago White Sox pitcher Edward V. Cicotte; Cincinnati Reds player Walter H. Ruether (Dutch Ruether), who later sued Asinof for libel; and Reds player Edd J. Rousch (Eddie Rousch), as well as baseball historians Fred Lieb, Lee Allen, and Jerome Holtzman. The collection also contains many magazine articles and newspaper clippings pertaining to the World Series scandal (ca. 1919-1956) that Asinof collected. These articles included some interviews with players and photographs used in Eight Men Out.

Other materials include legal filings, affidavits, and correspondence relating to the lawsuit by David Susskind against Asinof over Susskind's attempt to produce a made-for-television movie about the World Series scandal. Asinof's manuscript for his book Bleeding Between the Lines describes Asinof's research and writing methods that created Eight Men Out and recounts the legal battles following its publication. Correspondence with Hank Greenberg followed publication of this book.

Biographical/Historical Note +/-

Eliot Asinof, a former minor league baseball player who became a professional author, changed the face of sports writing with his landmark book, Eight Men Out. The book was a detailed reconstruction of the scandal that erupted when some players from the Chicago White Sox accepted bribes from professional gamblers for throwing the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Asinof continued to write until his death in June 2008. His other published writings dealt with other topics as well as baseball and included Strike Zone, Off Season, Seven Days to Sunday, and many magazine articles.

Asinof began his career as a screenwriter in Hollywood during the 1950s. However, his Hollywood career was cut short when he was blacklisted in conjunction with signing a petition in New York encouraging the Yankees to hire African American ballplayers. Asinof returned to New York and pursued a career in writing. His first novel, Man on Spikes (published 1955), was based on Asinof's experience of heavy-handed control exerted by minor league owners and operators and on the experiences of Asinof's friend Mickey Rutner, also a baseball player.

In 1963, Asinof's book, Eight Men Out, was published. Asinof had researched, interviewed, and written for the better part of three years in order to track down court documents, players, and photographs. Asinof was able to interview three key persons for the book: Abe Attell, a former featherweight boxing champion and associate of underworld gamblers; Chicago White Sox center-fielder Happy Felsch; and Judge Hugo Friend, who presided over the trial known as Illinois vs. Cicotte, et al. (1921). Although Asinof later suspected Attell of fabricating a good deal, the interviews helped Asinof interpret multiple points of view. His book discussed aspects of the series and scandal that no other work had attempted up to that time. The group of players banned from major league baseball because of the scandal were Eddie Cicotte, Happy Felsch, Chick Gandil, Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Swede Risberg, Buck Weaver, and Lefty Williams.

Stemming from the popularity of the Eight Men Out book, a movie of the same name was released in 1988. Co-written by Asinof and director John Sayles, the motion picture starred actors Charlie Sheen and John Cusack.

The success of the motion picture Eight Men Out was so remarkable that few people would guess at the struggle involved in bringing the movie to fruition. A lengthy legal battle for the rights to Eight Men Out plagued the author. Television producer David Susskind sued Asinof for 1.75 million dollars after a botched deal prevented Susskind from creating a made-for-television movie about the 1919 World Series scandal. Ultimately Susskind's lawsuit was unsuccessful, but this struggle provided the basis for Asinof's 1979 published memoir Bleeding Between the Lines, which highlights Asinof's distrust of corporate Hollywood as well as illuminating his process in writing the Eight Men Out book.

Catalog Subject Headings +/-

Actions and defenses--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
Asinof, Eliot, 1919-2008. Bleeding between the lines
Asinof, Eliot, 1919-2008. Eight men out
Asinof, Eliot, 1919-2008--Archives
Attell, Abraham--Interviews
Authors, American--20th century
Baseball films
Baseball managers--United States--20th century
Baseball players--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
Baseball team owners--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
Black Sox Baseball Scandal, Chicago, Ill., 1919-1921
Eight men out (Motion picture)
Illinois vs. Cicotte, et al. (1921)
Motion pictures--Production and direction--20th century
Sports betting--United States--20th century
Trials--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
World Series (Baseball)
Allen, Lee, 1915-
Attell, Abraham
Comiskey, Charles A.
Faber, Red, 1888-1976
Farrell, James T. (James Thomas), 1904-1979
Felsch, Oscar, Happy, d. 1964
Friend, Hugo, 1882-1966
Gandil, Chick, d. 1970
Greenberg, Hank
Holtzman, Jerome
Jackson, Joe, 1888-1951
Lieb, Fred, b. 1888
McMullin, Fred, d. 1952
Risberg, Swede, 1894-1975
Rousch, Eddie
Ruether, Dutch, 1893-1970
Susskind, David, 1920-1987
Weaver, Buck, 1890-1956
American League of Professional Baseball Clubs
Chicago White Sox (Baseball team)
Major League Baseball (Organization)
Mayer, Meyer, Austrian & Platt
Articles (for publication)
Legal documents
Manuscripts for publication
Newspaper clippings
Photographic prints
Research notes
Trials, litigation, etc.

Organization and Arrangement of Collection +/-

The collection is arranged in five series.

Click on heading to view series description.

Series 1. Eight Men Out research, interviews, and manuscript, ca. 1912-1992 (box 1-3)
Series 2. Correspondence and legal filings, 1957-2006 (box 3)
Series 3. Other works by Asinof, 1960-1978 (box 4-5)
Series 4. Works reviewed by Asinof, 1978 (box 5)
Series 5. Scrapbook, 1963-1965 (box 6)

About This Finding Aid +/-

Creation: Finding aid encoded by Derek Potts using Oxygen editor, 2015.
Language: Finding aid is written in English.
Other Finding Aids: Finding aid also submitted to Explore Chicago Collections portal.
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