Sunday, May 22, 2016

Uncle Scoopy's Ballpark: The Black Sox, Part V: Commy

Uncle Scoopy's Ballpark: The Black Sox, Part V: Commy

This is another in my series of articles about the 1919 World Series. This one deals with some of the misconceptions created by Eight Men Out about Charles Comiskey, owner of the White Sox.

In Asinof's view Comiskey was a parsimonious oligarch who ruled like a tyrant and became an arrogant plutocrat at the expense of his players. The Black Sox criminal trial is probably the source of that perception, because that had not been the common view until it was generated by the defense strategy in that trial. There was really no way for the defense team to claim that the defendants had not taken money to throw the Series. Four of the players had confessed at one time or another, and the others were implicated by two eyewitnesses. But a defense had to be made, so the plan centered on three things: first: the technical legal strategy that their clients never actually did anything illegal even if all the accusations were true (throwing ball games was not a crime per se, nor was accepting money to do so); second, the obfuscation strategy of saying that the players and penny-ante gamblers were being prosecuted while the masterminds went free; third, the sympathy strategy of turning the tables, thus placing Comiskey on trial and positioning the ballplayers to the jury as desperate victims held under the thumb of a tightwad roughly on a par with Jacob Marley. Most of the anti-Comiskey arguments crumble under scrutiny, but once such a perception is erected, it is difficult to dismantle.

Specifically, the article deals with these issues:

Did Comiskey underpay his players?

Did he cheat them on the per diem?

Did he cheat pitcher Eddie Cicotte out of a bonus?

Was he making a fortune while his players scraped out a living?

What was he like?

What caused Eliot Asinof, author of Eight Men Out, to get so much wrong?

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