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What might have been . . .The Black Sox

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  • What might have been . . .The Black Sox

    About a month or two ago I finally read the book Eight Men Out , something that I had put off for awhile. After reading that book it got me to thinking about what would have happened in the 20's and also how we today would view baseball history. Especially Babe Ruth, the Yankees, and 20's baseball.

    First some history to lay the groundwork. Some members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox agreed to fix the World Series. I won't go into detail on who and why since that in itself would touch off a debate. A debate which I am not interested in debating on this thread. The Sox lost the World Series. The next season the White Sox were in contention through out the year and losing out in the end because by that point Comiskey had suspended them from the team and a trial was coming up. After 1920 the White Sox slip into mediocrity for the next 30 years or so. Meantime the Yankees acquire Babe Ruth win a few World Series and ever after dominate baseball talk past and present. That is the history in its most general form.

    Here is my theory. Had the White Sox not fixed the World Series in all probability they win the 1919 World Series. Also in 1920 they win the pennant. Why? Because it is also believed and there is some evidence that does suggest this that the 1920 team was also throwing games to keep race to the pennant close. It is possible that they could win the 1920 World Series as well since at this time the AL was a much better league than the NL and the Cleveland Indians had won the World Series in 1920. So now we have a great team that has won 3 World Series in 4 years playing with a set of players that are largely in their prime. In 1921 the two best teams were the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians. That year the Yankees finished 4.5 games ahead of second place with 98 wins. More importantly though they won 9 games against a mediocre White Sox team. In fact in 1921 the White Sox were the only team they had a losing record against. Part of this I think because of Comiskey Park had such an effect on the sluggers. The Yanks went 4-7 at Comiskey while going 5-6 at home. I think it is entirely possible that either a) the White Sox with their star players still on the team could have won more total games than the Yanks or b)won enough games against the Yanks that somebody else would have won the crown. The last part is a little harder to pull off since the Indians had a great record against the White Sox which would have changed if the real White Sox had played. I think the first part is more likely. Now then I don't know if the White Sox had enough to beat the Giants in the World Series.

    Now comes 1922, and in this season the Yanks only win 94 games and win the league by one game over the St. Louis Browns. This time the Sox play the Yanks poorly and they have a losing record. By this time I think even if White Sox had started to show their age they could have wounded the Yanks enough to keep them from the pennant or made the race close enough to make a 50/50 shot.

    1923 is probably the first real time where the Yankees would win the pennant even with the real White Sox playing. By this many of the players would have aged considerably and some would have probably been out of baseball. The only argument one could make is that the Sox having had success on the field for many years and the financial windfall that it brings would have brought in more stars to maintain this.

    Then of course comes 1924 and 1925 when the Yanks fail to clinch the pennant, and Ruth has a very stressful 1925 season.

    After this starts the dynasty and again it is worth noting that both 1926 and 1928 were both close pennant races. Races that even an aging White Sox team or a modified White Sox could have effected.

    Which brings me to the point of all this verbiage. Had the White Sox not become the Black Sox it is possible that we could be talking about how great the White Sox were back then not how great the Yankees were. It is entirely possible that the Sox could have won five or 6 World Series from 1918 to 1928, or at the least five or six pennants. Also it is worth noting that the White Sox, New York Giants (the team that beat the Yanks in the WS in 1921 and 1922), and the Cleveland Indians (who won the 1920 WS and was one of the top teams at the start of the 1920's) were all conservative old time baseball teams. They used small ball tactics and relied on pitching and defense, whereas the Yankees relied on power. It is in my opinion that had the Sox maintained their dominance that we would probably be viewing Babe Ruth differently and that the presence of the home run ball would have been stalled in its introduction. If Sox had still been around it is highly likely that Babe and the Yanks would not have won a pennant until 1923, instead of when they actually did in 1921. Even then they might not have won in 1923. Which means their first pennant could have come in 1926 or 1927. If either was the case it is entirely possible that the Yanks could have either changed Ruth's role or traded him. Many baseball insiders at the turn of the decade believed that the Home Run ball was a novelty and not really useful to winning it all. This belief was reinforced by the fact that the New York Giants (small ball wizards) had beaten the Yanks twice in a row in the World Series. What would these insiders be saying if the Yanks were not even able to win the pennant and maybe not even finish in second place behind two small ball teams? Is it possible that they might then switch Babe back to pitching or trade him away? Many teams when they are succeeding will blame their best players, incorrectly fixating on their shortcomings instead of focusing on their strengths. Everyone knows that Babe Ruth was a handful would people want to put up with it if they were not winning championships? Rogers Hornsby bounced around teams a lot, perhaps it is because he didn't bring home the Championship often enough for teams to put up with him.

    Last evidence would be the financial side. Comiskey's White Sox before the scandal was one of the best financially run teams in the game. After 1919 the White Sox saw a huge increase in attendance and revenue. I believe they almost double their revenue. By maintaining their success on the field the Sox in all likelihood would have maintained their financial success off of it. If that being the case in all likelihood it would have been easier for the Sox to acquire future star players. Also instead of having to plug 6 or 7 holes like Comiskey had to after the suspensions he would have probably only had to fill a hole once a year or two. Definitely easier than fixing 6 or 7 holes at once. Then consider it from the Yankees side. The Yankees had a huge financial stake in the early Yankees teams. They spent a lot of money acquiring Babe Ruth and other top-tiered talent. The Yankees saw a huge upsurge in attendance when they got Babe and others, but how long would the fickle New York fans continue to flock to the park if they continually failed to win?

    Basically to sum it up. Had the White Sox stayed clean it is entirely possible that people could be fondly remembering the great Sox team of the 20's instead of the Yankees and Babe Ruth would be just another footnote in baseball history. Or if that is too much for you then just another great player in the pantheon of baseball greats. Plus Landis would never have become Commissioner and integration might very well have happened a lot sooner than 1947.
    Last edited by cubbieinexile; 07-24-2003, 03:15 PM.

  • #2
    Good scenario and well-thought out, cubbieinexile. I don't find your theory far-fetched at all.

    You didn't want to get into the actual history of it, and that's fine. Baseball was pretty corrupt around that time, and if the gamblers were kept in check, not just with the Black Sox, but throughout the league, who knows what would have happened? That's a great what-if situation.
    Dave Bill Tom George Mark Bob Ernie Soupy Dick Alex Sparky
    Joe Gary MCA Emanuel Sonny Dave Earl Stan
    Jonathan Neil Roger Anthony Ray Thomas Art Don
    Gates Philip John Warrior Rik Casey Tony Horace
    Robin Bill Ernie JEDI

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    • #3
      Thanks,
      If you want to discuss the Black Sox, the gamblers, and so forth feel free to start a new thread about it. I will gladly engage you in conversation on this new thread about those subjects. On this thread I didn't want the actual scandal to be the main point only its aftermath.

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      • #4
        That's been done, though, many times over.

        One thing I'd like to see around here is more historical speculation like this. It's interesting, if indeed presented in a manner such as this. It's very easy to say "Sandy Koufax would have broken every pitching record possible if he didn't have arm troubles" or throw out statistics 10 years down the line for him. There's no way to prove anything there.

        But historical speculation like the Black Sox is very intriguing when done right. I'm trying to think of a few other situtaions right now. Anything to keep my mind off this training I'm developing.

        What other events could have changed history entirely had they not happened? Besides the obvious (Ruth being sold to the Yankees.)
        Dave Bill Tom George Mark Bob Ernie Soupy Dick Alex Sparky
        Joe Gary MCA Emanuel Sonny Dave Earl Stan
        Jonathan Neil Roger Anthony Ray Thomas Art Don
        Gates Philip John Warrior Rik Casey Tony Horace
        Robin Bill Ernie JEDI

        Comment


        • #5
          There is the other obvious.

          Free Agency

          Just imagine how good the A's of the 70's could have been (or I should say how much greater) and again how that would have impacted the Yankees. Afterall a good deal of the late 70's success was due to former A's players. Just imagine how much worse Steinbrenner would have gotten if he didn't win one back then.

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          • #6
            Can I have some details on this book? With all the hype about Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe going around, I'd like to look at that book.
            If the people don't want to come out to the ballpark, nobody's going to stop them -- Yogi Berra

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            • #7
              They did, no doubt, rob themselves as much as they robbed the fans. The White Sox were special. Had they won all of those pennants and money maybe they would have landed Ruth, hmmmm. The Yankees were always Johnny on the spot. The Red Sox had a fire sale at the end of the teens, the White Sox were decimated by the bannishings and the new ball shifted the balance of power altering the whole baseball world as it was known. The Yankees took advantage of signing the entire Red Sox pitching staff and half of their day to day players and the gaping hole left by the White Sox' absence from the top and made the most of the situation. You have to respect the Yanks I guess but it is easy for fans of both Sox to say what if.
              If you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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              • #8
                www.amazon.com

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                • #9
                  There is some speculation for you Cpt C Nose, what if they hadn't started messing with the ball. What if the "dead ball era" of the first few decades hadn't ended. What if tampering with the ball hadn't been illegalized? Before the new ball and Ruth, 9 homers in one year was an amazing feat. So how much would that have changed the game as we know it? Would Ruth then only be known as the awesome Boston pitcher who won almost 30 games a year? He almost certainly wouldn't have been made a fielder had it not been for the homeruns he was hitting. He more than likely wouldn't have been traded to NY either. Would the Yankees even have lasted as a team? Remember they were still kind of an expansion team at the time and the twenties success is what brought them into their own. Lot's to speculate on there. I'm going out on a limb and saying that the new ball introduced in the 20's and the hitter friendly rule changes from the same time are the biggest altering event in the history of professional baseball. They made and destroyed franchises and changed the sport forever.
                  If you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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                  • #10
                    But even with the new ball the 1920 White Sox were one of the best teams in the AL and didn't lose the pennant until the players had been suspended. Also it is believed that they were throwing games throughout most of the season. Plus look at teams that did win the 1920-21-22 World Series. They were old-fashioned dead ball teams.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Gingerkid
                      There is some speculation for you Cpt C Nose, what if they hadn't started messing with the ball. What if the "dead ball era" of the first few decades hadn't ended. What if tampering with the ball hadn't been illegalized? Before the new ball and Ruth, 9 homers in one year was an amazing feat. So how much would that have changed the game as we know it? Would Ruth then only be known as the awesome Boston pitcher who won almost 30 games a year? He almost certainly wouldn't have been made a fielder had it not been for the homeruns he was hitting. He more than likely wouldn't have been traded to NY either. Would the Yankees even have lasted as a team? Remember they were still kind of an expansion team at the time and the twenties success is what brought them into their own. Lot's to speculate on there. I'm going out on a limb and saying that the new ball introduced in the 20's and the hitter friendly rule changes from the same time are the biggest altering event in the history of professional baseball. They made and destroyed franchises and changed the sport forever.
                      The New York Yankees were a well funded team back then, they were one of the haves, not one of the have-nots. It is one of the reasons why they were able to acquire players. Boston because of its owners underfunded situation (which lasted until Yawkey took over) would have likely sold him off regardless of whether he was a star pitcher or star hitter. Back then teams like the White Sox and Yankees were well funded while teams like the A's and Red Sox were not.

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                      • #12
                        There would have been no throwing of the 1919 World Series, and therefore no "Black Sox", if Charlie Comiskey wasn't, arguably, the cheapest s.o.b to own an MLB team. At least until Marge Schott, the reincarnation of Ilsa Koch.

                        Bob

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                        • #13
                          Charlie Comiskey was not the cheapest s.o.b. in the MLB. That has been the excuse most people use to excuse the throwing of the World Series. Many many years later Bill Veeck found contracts stashed away in an unused elevator shaft that revealed how much a lot of the players on the Sox were getting paid at the time. Plus during the trial their salaries were revealed also. While some were on the low side they were not excessively so. Plus he had several contracts they paid the player in question quite well. While others, mainly Joe Jackson, had contracts that dated back to other teams. So if they were being paid poorly it wasn't because of Comiskey but because of a players former team. The whole cheapskate thing is BS. Games were being thrown left and right in that era because the money was easy and you were not going to get caught. Heck the it is believe that the Giants threw the 1917 World Series against the Sox, and you don't hear anything about how cheap the owners were of the Giants.

                          Was Comiskey cheap by our standards? Yes and no. He had the money but saw no reason to waste it. Was Comiskey cheap the standards of his day? Absolutely not.

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                          • #14
                            Re: What might have been . . .The Black Sox

                            Originally posted by cubbieinexile
                            Here is my theory. Had the White Sox not fixed the World Series in all probability they win the 1919 World Series. Also in 1920 they win the pennant.

                            Basically to sum it up. Had the White Sox stayed clean it is entirely possible that people could be fondly remembering the great Sox team of the 20's instead of the Yankees and Babe Ruth would be just another footnote in baseball history.
                            I first became a baseball in 1946, in sixth grade on the South Side of Chicago. AT that time the White Sox were a terrible team, and had not won an AL pennant for nearly 30 years. Somehow we all "understood" that this was continuing punishment for the Black Sox sins of 1919. If not for that, things would be different!

                            What if the Chicago Bulls had a similar fate to the White Sox of 1919? If Michael Jordan were the modern Joe Jackson there would be no "Three-peat" NBA titles for Chicago. Too bad for Chicago that the White Sox didn't stay "clean" -- they "could'a been a contender" for many years.
                            Last edited by Appling; 07-20-2003, 01:26 PM.
                            Luke

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by cubbieinexile
                              But even with the new ball the 1920 White Sox were one of the best teams in the AL and didn't lose the pennant until the players had been suspended.
                              Look at the change in Rogers Hornsby's hitting stats once the live ball appeared. I think Joe Jackson with the livelier ball would have been AT LEAST AS GOOD A HITTER AS HORNSBY -- with more power than Hornsby. Too bad, too bad. What a waste!
                              Luke

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