While debate always rages among baseball fans about all aspects of the game, there’s little argument the Black Sox Scandal of 1919 is the biggest scandal in baseball history. Eight Chicago White Sox conspired to throw the World Series and were banned from Major League Baseball for life.
Of course, debate continues over the Black Sox Scandal. For example, did “Shoeless” Joe Jackson deserve the lifetime ban? People still argue that Jackson deserves his place in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Because of the lifetime ban, none of the players are eligible for inclusion in the hall.
It’s worth noting that Jackson hit .375 in that World Series, drove in 12 runs, hit a home run and never committed an error. It’s also worth noting that a jury in 1921 acquitted all eight players on charges of taking bribes to throw the series. But the decision to ban the players made by Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the first commissioner of baseball, was not overturned.
Baseball’s Biggest Scandal
The lingering questions about the Black Sox Scandal are part of what makes it the biggest scandal. It also is at the center of one of the best baseball movies, “Field of Dreams,” which is about forgiveness as much as it is baseball.
Some of the other top scandals in baseball history include the following.
Pete Rose also is banned from baseball and from the hall of fame after then-baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti had Rose investigated for betting on the sport. The resulting investigate report, called the Dowd Report, found that Rose had indeed bet on the game and provided many details of his gambling activities.
This would be a huge controversy with any great player, but Rose is one of the greatest to ever play the game. His fans still support his admission into the hall. Rose has tried to get the ban overturned but to no avail.
One of the remarkable things about baseball is that the issues that affect the country also weave into the game. Never is this more apparent than in the relationship between owners and players, which mirrors the longstanding friction between owners and employees over the years in the United States. Many note the Black Sox Scandal itself had its beginnings in the meager pay players received at the time from owners. Free agency in sports started in baseball.
These issues came to a head with the collusion of owners in the 1980s to keep salaries for players low and contracts short. The players union eventually filed grievances, but many believe collusion is one of the factors that led to the 1994 players strike.
The Mitchell Report
Released in 2007, the Mitchell Report shined a very bright light on the use of steroids in baseball, naming 89 players in the report who illegally used performance-enhancing drugs. They included stars such as Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, Kevin Brown, and Miguel Tejada – but most notably, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
There’s debate over this one, too, as many argue that athletes will use whatever they can to stay competitive when the other guy is using drugs for a better performance. But the report was a scandal in the eyes of most Americans, leading to fans referring to the Steroid Era and casting the 1998 home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire in a different light.
These are some of the biggest scandals in baseball history. The hope for all baseball fans is that we go many more years before we have another one.