Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Legacy of Eight Men Out

Eight Men Out by Eliot Asinof has long been accepted as the definitive word on the Black Sox Scandal involving eight members of the Chicago White Sox and the 1919 World Series. The book was first published in 1963, and has since been read by countless people interested in baseball and the scandal, and was turned into a movie by the same name in 1988.

However, a recent article in Chicago Lawyer Magazine (big favorite of mine) casts doubt upon the complete authority that has been given to Asinof's account.

The article is written following the release of the notes that Asniof, who passed away in 2008, had kept while conducting interviews and research for the book. They assert, directly, that the Asinof made up certain events and characters, and indirectly, that Asinof didn't have the strength of evidence that he should have in order to write a definitive account.

While the authors do raise decent questions about the strength of the proof Asinof held, let's not lose site of what this is... lawyering at its best.

Whether Asinof followed strict standards of journalism in incorportating what he did into a book, the authors completely obscure the fact that, well, the White Sox players did dump the Series on purpose.

And they completely ignore the fact that, well, Shoeless Joe did take $5000, which in and of itself is grounds for a lifetime ban.

Again, this is written by lawyers. If you can't attack the facts, attack the one presenting the facts.

Seemingly absent from this article is any mention of what those implicated in the fix had to say about the book upon its release. Eddie Cicotte, Happy Felsch, Chick Gandil and Swede Risberg were all still alive when the book came out. No reaction from them? No denials?

In another grand tradition of lawyering, the authors completely ignore the facts that don't suit their position. What about Cicotte's confession of crookedness to a Chicago grand jury? What about Jackson's performance in games the White Sox lost? What about Cicotte hitting Morrie Rath, the Reds leadoff hitter, a universally accepted sign that the fix was on?

The summation of this article is best said by one of the comments at the bottom of the page. A 'Blake' says "Was the 1919 Series thrown? There's plenty of evidence it was. Discrediting this book, written in the 1960s, doesn't change that."

I like Shoeless Joe Jackson. I really do, and he is a sympathetic figure. But he's guilty of baseball's ultimate sin, and not he himself, nor any 21st century Chicago lawyers can rewrite the script of history to change that.

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