First, there was
Charles Comiskey, the White Sox owner. He was a sarcastic, belittling man who
was the tightest owner in baseball. If a player objected to his miserly terms,
Comiskey told him: "You can take it or leave it." Under baseball's
slave laws, what could a fellow do but take it? I recall only one act of
generosity on Comiskey's part. After we won the World Series in 1917, he
splurged with a case of champagne.
manager was William (Kid) Gleason, who had been our coach in 1918 and became
manager in 1919 when Clarence (Pants) Rowland resigned. He was a tough little
guy, and he had a hard time trying to keep peace among the malcontents on our
club. But most of the players liked him and gave him their best.
involved were most of the top guys on the club. There was Joe Jackson, the left
fielder; Buck Weaver, third base; Oscar Felsch, the center fielder; Swede
Risberg, our shortstop; Eddie Cicotte, our leading pitcher; Fred McMullin, a
utility infielder; Claude Williams, who was basically perhaps even a better
pitcher than Cicotte; and, finally, myself, the first baseman.
Let me tell you a
little more about myself. I was 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighed 195 pounds and
had been playing baseball for 14 years. I had run away from my home in St.
Paul, Minnesota at the age of 17 and hopped a freight bound for Amarillo, Texas
to play semipro. Then I caught on with an outlaw team in Cananea, Mexico, just
across the Arizona border.
Cananea was a
wide-open mining town in those days, which suited me fine. I was a wild, rough
kid. I did a little heavyweight fighting at $150 a fight. I also worked
part-time as a boilermaker in the copper mines.
I slowed down
some after my marriage in 1908, but I guess I still remained a pretty
roughhouse character. I played minor league ball for a couple of years, then
was sold to the White Sox in 1910. I then bounced around to Washington and
Cleveland but landed again with the White Sox in 1917. I have often been
described as one of the ringleaders of the Black Sox scandal. There's no doubt
about it. I was.
For all their
skill, the White Sox in 1919 weren't a harmonious club. Baseball players in my
day had a lot more cut-throat toughness anyway, and we had our share of
personal feuds, but there was a common bond among most of us—our dislike for
Comiskey. I would like to blame the trouble we got into on Comiskey's
cheapness, but my conscience won't let me. We had no one to blame except
ourselves. But, so help me, this fellow was tight. Many times we played in
filthy uniforms because he was trying to keep down the cleaning tab.
Most of the
griping on the club centered around salaries, which were much lower than any
other club in the league. Cicotte, for example, had won 28 games in 1917 and
still was making only $6,000 a year. Jackson, a great hitter, was earning just
a little more. I had been making $4,500 a year for the past three seasons. Only
one man on the club was drawing what I'd call a decent salary, Eddie Collins,
who had finagled a sharp contract in coming to the Sox from the Philadelphia
Athletics. He was making about $14,000 a year. Naturally, Collins was happier
with Comiskey than we were.
So when the
opportunity came in 1919 to pick up some easy change on the World Series,
Collins, though a key man, wasn't included in our plans. Neither was Catcher
Ray Schalk or Outfielder Nemo Leibold.
Where a baseball
player would run a mile these days to avoid a gambler, we mixed freely. Players
often bet. After the games, they would sit in lobbies and bars with gamblers,
gabbing away. Most of the gamblers we knew were honorable Joes who would never
think of fixing a game. They were happy just to be booking and betting.