On 100 Year Anniversary of Black Sox Scandal, MLB Continues Efforts to Protect the Integrity of the Game

The new MLB lineup rule aims to protect the integrity of the game and prevent any gambling scandal like the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919.

Major League Baseball has updated its policy and procedures regarding game lineups for the 2019-2020 season.  Last year, MLB teams were allowed to announce their lineups whenever and however they wanted.  This year, however, MLB is changing the procedure and requiring teams to notify the commissioner’s office of their starting lineups at least 15 minutes before they are publicly announced.  Major League Baseball will then confirm receipt of the lineup and distribute the information to its data and business partners.  The team then can announce its lineup when it receives confirmation from the league or 15 minutes after sending the league its lineup.

This new policy and procedure by Major League Baseball is in direct response to last year’s Supreme Court ruling in Murphy v. NCAA.  In Murphy the Supreme Court overturned a federal prohibition on sports betting.  This ruling now gives states the power to legalize and regulate sports betting.  The Murphy decision came out in May 2018 and therefore MLB will first begin to see its impact in this 2019-2020 baseball season.

This new lineup policy and procedure is the first of what is likely many more changes to come in Major League Baseball following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Murphy.  MLB made this move to reduce integrity risks involved with gambling in baseball.  By forcing clubs to first send lineups to the league before announcing them publicly, Major League Baseball is reducing the risk of confidential information being “tipped” to gamblers hoping to get a leg up.

Major League Baseball is no stranger to integrity problems in its game.  The first major scandal involving Major League Baseball occurred 100 years ago in 1919 when eight White Sox players allegedly threw the World Series.  Although accounts of the thrown 1919 World Series differ, it is believed that the scheme first materialized weeks before the World Series when White Sox first baseman C. Arnold “Chick” Gandil met with a gambler named Joseph “Sport” Sullivan to discuss the possibility of White Sox players throwing the championship.  The two agreed that Gandil and a few co-conspirators would throw the World Series in exchange for the substantial payout of $100,000.  Gandil then enlisted White Sox pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Claude “Lefty” Williams, shortstop Charles “Swede” Risberg, and outfielder Oscar “Happy” Flesch into throwing the series.  Superstar “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was also approached, however, his series-best .375 batting average suggests that he did not have a part in throwing the World Series.

1919 White Sox Players Throwing GameThe Eight White Sox Players Involved in Throwing the 1919 World Series

After the White Sox lost the 1919 World Series, rumors that the Series was fixed began to circulate.  The rumors continued until October 1920 when eight of the White Sox players involved with the fix were indicted on nine counts of conspiracy.  Following a high-profile trial, the White Sox players were found not guilty on all accounts on August 21, 1921.

White Sox Players and Their Attorneys

The Eight White Sox Players Indicted on Conspiracy Charges with Their Many Lawyers

The players had won the battle, but the war continued.  This “Black Sox” scandal (the nickname given to this conspiracy) put a black eye on the league.  As a direct result, MLB owners approached Judge Keenesaw Mountain Landis to become the first commissioner of baseball.  In this role, Judge Landis’s was empowered to “investigate, either upon complaint or upon his own initiative, an act, transaction or practice, charged, alleged or suspected to be detrimental to the best interest of the national game of baseball, (and to determine and take) any remedial, preventive or punitive action (he deemed appropriate).”  Accordingly, Keenesaw Landis’s first major move as commissioner was banning the eight White Sox players involved in the scandal for life, less than 24 hours after they were acquitted in court.  In making this decision Landis stated, “Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player that throws a ballgame; no player that undertakes or promises to throw a ballgame; no player that sits in a conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing games are planned and discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.”

Major League Baseball’s new rule regarding game lineups follows the precedent set by Keenesaw Landis, which is to put the integrity of the game above all else.  Legalized sports gambling presents a great opportunity for all professional sports leagues.  Combined with new technology and data analytics, legalized gambling can make any sport more engaging for its fans, and thereby improve its fan base.  However, the infamous Black Sox scandal in 1919 reminds Major League Baseball and all professional sports leagues that legalized gambling can have detrimental negative consequences if not policed appropriately.

Major League Baseball’s new lineup rules are one step towards keeping the integrity of the game at the forefront in this new post-Murphy era of professional sports.  Major League Baseball, as well as all professional sports leagues, will need to continue to monitor how legalized gambling affects its game.  Continued adjustments to rules, policies, and procedures will be needed to ensure that there is no foul play by any parties involved in legalized gambling.  Nevertheless, by being proactive and keeping the integrity of the game at the forefront, all leagues can work to protect themselves from a damaging scandal like the Black Sox scandal 100 years ago.

 

Photo Courtesy:

Fortune.com

Chicago Tribune

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