Descriptive inventory for the Chicago White Sox and 1919 World Series baseball scandal collection, 1917-1929, bulk 1920-1924.

Chicago White Sox and 1919 World Series baseball scandal collection

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Descriptive inventory for the Chicago White Sox and 1919 World Series baseball scandal collection, 1917-1929, bulk 1920-1924.

Prepared by Peter T. Alter and Kristy Noga, 2008; ed. by Julie Wroblewski, 2015.
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: Chicago White Sox and 1919 World Series baseball scandal collection, 1917-1929 (inclusive), 1920-1924 (bulk)
Creator: Chicago White Sox (baseball team)
Dates: 1917-1929 (inclusive), 1920-1924 (bulk)
Accession number: 2008.0020.1
Bib number: 00209688
Call number: MSS Lot B
Size: 2 linear feet (4 boxes) including 2 boxes of photocopies for research use
Language of material:Collection is written in English.

Provenance statement:

The Chicago History Museum purchased this collection on December 13, 2007, in an on-line auction conducted by Mastro Auctions of Burr Ridge, Illinois. The seller's name and identity are unknown, and the manner in which the seller acquired the materials is also unknown (accession #: 2008.0020.1).

Terms governing use:

Copyright may be retained by the creators of items or their descendants as stipulated by United States copyright law, unless otherwise noted.


Photocopies are available for research use. Originals are closed to researchers.

Please cite this collection as:

Chicago White Sox and 1919 World Series baseball scandal collection (Chicago History Museum) plus a detailed description date, and box/folder.

Additional Materials +/-

Related material:

Related materials at Chicago History Museum Research Center include the Chicago White Sox collection; Clarence Rowland papers, Joe Jackson collection; Joseph Benz papers; Kenesaw Mountain Landis papers, and many Chicago White Sox related photographs.

Collection Summary +/-

Primarily legal documents and correspondence between lawyers, Chicago White Sox representatives, other baseball club owners, American League officials, various baseball players, and other people; reports by private detectives; press releases; player paychecks; and handwritten notes related to various trials. Legal files include partial trial transcripts, affidavits, and depositions. Many items relate directly to the 1919 World Series scandal, but some materials deal with other disputes. The private detective reports (1919-1920, 1924) include surveillance of players Frederick McMullin (known as Fred McMullin), Arnold Gandil (known as Chick Gandil), Charles Risberg (known as Swede Risberg), Oscar Felsch (known as Happy Felsch); gamblers Carl Zork and Joe Pesch; and Marie Purcell among others.

Grand jury material (1920) includes copies of waivers of immunity, correspondence, and transcripts. These files include affidavits by gambler Carl Zork and St. Louis sportswriter Sid Keener regarding Saint Louis Browns' player Elmer Joseph Gedeon's knowledge of the scandal. (He is called Joe Gedeon in some documents). Files related to the case in Cook County Criminal Court, People v. Cicotte, et al., contain a partial trial transcript, including testimony by Joe Jackson.

Other topics in the collection include the legal strategies, filings, affidavits, depositions, correspondence, and testimony related to Jackson's (1922-1924) and Weaver's (1921-1923) back pay cases. Materials include White Sox paychecks (1919) signed by Comiskey and endorsed by players Cicotte and Williams and a travel expense report (no date) written by Jackson's wife Katie, who signed her husband's name to it. Other files (1918-1920) include the minutes, proclamations, press releases, and correspondence of the American League board of directors while Charles Comiskey, Henry Frazee, and Jacob Ruppert controlled it; and affidavits and depositions related to the Yankees' case against Ban Johnson (Baseball Club of New York, Inc. v. Byron B. Johnson, et al., 1919-1920).

Biographical/Historical Note +/-

In 1919, some Chicago White Sox players intentionally lost the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. As compensation, some of the players received cash payments from gamblers. Rumors of a conspiracy circulated immediately following Cincinnati's victory, but the scandal broke publicly in September 1920. This series of events and later developments became known as the Black Sox Scandal.

In 1919, Chicago White Sox owner Charles A. Comiskey hired private detectives to gather information about players and other individuals who may have been involved in the fixing of the World Series. Agents from Hunter's Secret Service, owned and managed by John R. Hunter and J.C. Pallin, befriended several Chicago White Sox players and gamblers across the United States in an effort to garner intelligence. Comiskey also put his legal team at the Chicago law firm Mayer, Meyer, Austrian, and Platt (MMAP) to work exploring the scandal. His lead counsel was Alfred S. Austrian, an influential attorney and Comiskey's close personal friend. MMAP lawyers Frederic Burnham, Paul M. Godehn, and J.E. Northrup also were involved in litigation related to the scandal.

In September 1920, a Cook County grand jury convened to investigate accusations of dishonesty in a game between the Chicago and the Philadelphia National League baseball clubs. Ultimately, this grand jury focused on the 1919 World Series and heard testimony from Chicago White Sox players, Edward V. Cicotte (Eddie Cicotte), Claude Williams (Lefty Williams), and Joseph Jackson (Shoeless Joe Jackson) among many others. This grand jury investigation resulted in the 1921 criminal trial (People vs. Cicotte, et al.) in Judge Hugo Friend's Cook County courtroom, where a jury found the players not guilty.

Meanwhile, the need to resolve conflicts among team owners and league officials as well as the 1919 World Series scandal resulted in the appointment of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis as the first commissioner of Major League Baseball.

Despite the court verdict in the case of People vs. Cicotte, et al., Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis permanently banned eight Chicago White Sox players implicated in the scandal from playing in Major League Baseball. Jackson and players Oscar Felsch (Happy Felsch) and Charles Risberg (Swede Risberg) later initiated legal proceedings against the Chicago White Sox for back pay and damages. Jackson's case came to trial in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, court in 1924. Jackson lost this case when Judge John J. Gregory set aside the jury's verdict that had been in Jackson's favor. The Milwaukee law firm of Bottum, Hudnall, Lecher, and McNamara represented the Chicago White Sox, and George B. Hudnall served as the lead counsel while Milwaukee attorney Raymond Cannon litigated on Jackson's behalf. George Weaver (Buck Weaver) also brought a similar suit against the club, which was eventually adjudicated in a Chicago federal court.

While the country watched the trials unfold, another drama developed in Major League Baseball. Comiskey had a long-standing dispute with the president of the American League, Byron Bancroft Johnson (known as Ban Johnson). Ban Johnson became alienated from many club owners, especially Charles A. Comiskey; Boston Red Sox owner Henry Frazee (Harry Frazee); and New York Yankees owners Jacob Ruppert and Tillinghast L. Huston, who were calling for Johnson's removal as American League president.

The dispute came about when Frazee sold pitcher Carl Mays to the Yankees in 1919. Mays, because of an injury and personal problems, left the Boston Red Sox during the 1919 season. However, Frazee still owned Mays' contract and hoped to profit from it. Ban Johnson attempted to block the sale of Mays. Comiskey, Ruppert, and Frazee took control of the American League board of directors in an effort to diminish Johnson's power. They investigated his handling of league finances and contracts, and accused him of public intoxication at a 1918 World Series game in Boston.

At the same time, the Yankees also brought suit against Johnson in a New York court alleging, among other things, that Johnson blocked the team's attempts to build a new stadium. Austrian and other lawyers from MMAP also were involved in this controversy. Amidst these disputes, Comiskey, Frazee, and Ruppert all viewed the hiring of Kenesaw Mountain Landis as the first commissioner of Major League Baseball as a direct challenge to Johnson's power. Landis became commissioner in November 1920 and held that post until 1944. Johnson remained president of the American League of Professional Baseball until 1924.

Catalog Subject Headings +/-

Actions and defenses--Illinois--Chicago--20th century.
Baseball players--United States--20th century.
Baseball team owners--United States--20th century.
Baseball--United States--20th century.
Black Sox Baseball Scandal, Chicago, Ill., 1919-1921
Grand jury--Illinois--Cook County--20th century
Private investigators--United States-20th century
Sports betting--United States--20th century
Trials--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
Austrian, Alfred S.
Cannon, Raymond Joseph, 1894-1951
Cicotte, Edward, 1884-1969
Comiskey, Charles A.
Felsch, Oscar Happy, d. 1964
Frazee, Harry, 1881-1929
Gandil, Chick, d. 1970
Gedeon, Joe
Hudnall, George B.
Huston, Tillinghast
Jackson, Joe, 1888-1951
Johnson, Ban--Trials, litigation, etc.
Lasker, Albert Davis, 1880-1952
Mays, Carl
McMullin, Fred, d. 1952
Pesch, Joe
Purcell, Marie
Risberg, Swede
Ruppert, Jacob, 1867-1939
Weaver, Buck, 1890-1956
Williams, Claude, Lefty, d. 1959
Zork, Carl
American League of Professional Baseball Clubs
Boston Red Sox (Baseball team)
Chicago White Sox (Baseball team)
Major League Baseball (organization)
Mayer, Meyer, Austrian & Platt (Law firm: Chicago, Ill.)
New York Yankees (Baseball team)
Legal documents
Press releases
Trials, litigation, etc.
Chicago (Ill.)--Social conditions--20th century
United States--Illinois--Cook County--Chicago

Organization and Arrangement of Collection +/-

The collection is arranged in two series.

Click on heading to view series description.

Series 1. World Series Scandal items
Series 2. Comiskey, Frazee, and Ruppert vs. Johnson legal filings and board reports, 1917-1920

About This Finding Aid +/-

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