East Texas and the Black Sox by
World Series is best remembered as the most famous scandal in baseball history,
but lost in that history is an East Texas connection to the scandal.|
how it came about.
Eight players from the Chicago White Sox (later nicknamed
the Black Sox) were accused of throwing the series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Details of the scandal and the extent to which each man was involved have always
It was, however, front-page news across America and, despite
being acquitted of criminal charges, the eight players were banned from professional
baseball for life.
The eight were the great “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, pitchers
Eddie Cicotte and Claude (Lefty) Williams, outfielder Oscar (Happy) Felsch, and
infielders Buck Weaver, Fred McMullin, Charles (Swede) Risberg and Arnold (Chick)
When the scandal broke, Gandil was hospitalized in Lufkin
-- then a community of a few thousand people in East Texas -- having his appendix
removed. Perhaps he had relatives there. Or he may have been stricken while passing
through the community. At the time Lufkin’s only hospital, built by the city’s
civic leaders and doctors, had just opened. The hospital soon became known as
“the County Hospital” and was later named Woodland Heights Medical Center.
why Gandil had his operation in remote Lufkin is not clear, but from his hospital
bed Gandil reacted strongly to the Black Sox scandal and promised he would come
to Chicago as soon as possible to clear up his side of the story.
had a pretty good World Series in 1919. Although he was hurting -- perhaps from
his diseased appendicitis -- and often played in pain, he was commended by the
press for a gutty performance.
He drove in the winning runs in the first
two Sox wins. His five RBIs were one less than Shoeless Joe and one more than
Collins. Like Collins, Gandil had seven hits in the eight games.
recovering in Lufkin, Gandil gave a number of interviews before the players’ trial,
protesting his innocence, but his comments never received much attention.
One of the curious documents is a 1956 interview Chick gave to a writer. In it,
he admitted being a ringleader in the scandal. “Where a baseball player would
run a mile those days to avoid a gambler, we mixed freely,” he said. “Players
often bet. After the games, they would sit in the lobbies and bars with the gamblers,
Gandil went on to describe how the fix was planned. He said
the eight players did receive $10,000 in advance, which they gave to Cicotte to
hold. He put the money under his pillow and by some accounts sewed it into his
Gandil contended, however, that the 1919 series was played on the
level. He said the Series was a genuine upset victory earned by the Reds, and
compared it to the 1954 Cleveland Indians team, which had won 111 games but was
swept away in October by the New York Giants.
When Gandil’s story was
published, Happy Felsch and Eddie Cicotte said Chick told “the real story.” Felsch
denied getting any money or doing anything to throw a game.
By 1970, Gandil
was in a nursing home in Calistoga, California, where he breathed his last breath
on December 13. His wife Laurel had him buried without any fanfare.
never know the real story behind the Black Sox scandal, and we’ll probably never
understand why Chick Gandil checked into an East Texas hospital during the peak
of the scandal.
Things Historical >|
July 1, 2005 Column
Published with permission
(Distributed by the East
Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman of Lufkin is a past president of the
Association and the author of more than 30 books about East Texas.)