Saturday, May 3, 2014

Reliving 9-decade-old baseball scandal more interesting than current season?

It’s popping up on various websites to the point where I feel compelled to mention it here – some four minutes of newsreel footage that was shot during the 1919 World Series.

This all came later
That being the one in which the heavily-favored White Sox lost five games to three to the Cincinnati Reds, and eight White Sox players were indicted (but eventually acquitted) a year later on charges that their loss was a criminal conspiracy.

YES, WE GET to relive the “Black Sox,” the eight ballplayers who reportedly took gamblers money in exchange for losing the series – because a White Sox loss was worth more to gamblers “in the know” than a Cincinnati defeat would be.

I first saw the video turn up on a CBS Sports website, although I later on Friday saw it on Sports Illustrated,, and ESPN – just to name a few Internet sites.

Not that we’re getting any ball games, or any action we can easily follow.

It is some footage from Game Three (which the White Sox won behind the pitching of rookie Dickie Kerr), THEN Game One, in which White Sox star Eddie Cicotte kind of looks like he’s just milling around the pitcher’s mound.

RATHER THAN TRYING to field his position in any meaningful way. Then again, who’s to say what is really happening in these snippets.

Which, unfortunately, are the little we have left of that particular World Series. Major League Baseball now goes out of its way to prepare documentary films of each World Series.

The 'hero' of '19?
I even own one of those boxed sets that contains every single World Series video – which go back only to 1943.

So all those years when the Chicago Cubs meant something were not preserved. Nor were any of those years in the early part of the 20th Century when the image of the “Chicago White Sox” meant an elite organization in professional baseball.

Allowing observers admission
ALL WE GET are 1945 (when a war-torn Cubs team couldn’t beat the return of Hank Greenberg and the Detroit Tigers), 1959 (when the “Go Go” White Sox beat Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax, but no one else) and 2005 (still envisioning that surprise home run by Scott Podsednik to win Game Two).

How some of us remember it
Which is what makes the sight of Cicotte and outfielder Joe Jackson seem all the more remarkable – we get to see them as living human beings. Even if the video quality kind of stinks.

Then again, these newsreels (for Pathe News out of Canada) spent many decades dumped in a swimming pool that was then covered over with dirt and ice for use as a skating rink.

The fact that anything survived for us to be able to watch today is near miraculous. And it gave me my kicks.

PARTICULARLY BECAUSE BEING able to see just over four minutes of video may be the highlight of the season thus far for a White Sox fan.

It seems the ball club isn’t anywhere near as awful as it was last year. But it is still a team that will barely win half its games. Not exactly something to get worked up about.

The current Sox star
Better we can relive the memories of Kerr, who managed to get credit for winning two ballgames – even though it appears he was not among the ballplayers included in the fix, and may have even had teammates undermining his efforts with their uninspired play.

Then, we can carry it through to the present – where the bright, shining star of this season seems to be Jose Abreu, the Cuban sensation who after one month of the season is leading the American League in both home runs and runs batted in.

AT HIS CURRENT pace, he’d hit about 55 home runs this season. I don’t expect that to happen. Nor do I expect him to avoid the whole of 2014 without a slump.

An 'unblessed' place for decades
But it is something that gives hope for the near future. And something that White Sox fans can actually see.

Unlike the promises being made by Chicago Cubs management of ballplayers now in places like Knoxville, Tenn.; Boise, Idaho or suburban Geneva who might someday amount to something, if the baseball “gods” permit it.

When was the last time those “gods” permitted anything positive when it came to the Wrigley Field scene?

EDITOR'S NOTE: I found myself most amused by the images of New Yorkers watching special scoreboards erected that allowed them to follow the action -- not all that different, really, from those people who follow ballgames by reading real-time summaries off their computer screens while the games are being played.

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