100 years after Joe Jackson and the White Sox plotted the 1919 World Series, his ban was lifted and he earned a plaque. Rich Monetti asks what’s wrong with this picture.
Joe Jackson was clearly involved in a plot to throw the 1919 World Series. He, along with his White Sox cohorts, had to be suspended permanently for the survival of the game. But almost a hundred years later, can we lift the ban and give him a plaque in the hall?
As in, A. Bart Giamatti declined Jackson’s reinstatement in 1989, Bud Selig kept the consideration under review during his tenure and current commissioner Rob Manfred officially rejected the last petition. Come on, the utter hypocrisy.
Let’s begin with baseball’s original sin. The first ban on black players was instituted in 1867 by Pennsylvania State Convention of Baseball in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The official ban at the major league level occurred in 1890. The final straw, among a number of player mutinies, happened when the St. Louis Browns refused to take the field against the New York Cuban Giants.
I wonder if this action altered the outcome of any baseball games in the next 56 years.
This abomination in place, the players then got what they deserved when the owners missed the outcome of the Civil War. The Reserve Clause had its partial beginnings in 1879 and served as baseball’s Peculiar Institution for the next 95 years.
Of course, the U.S. Government didn’t find it a laughing matter when the Federal League sued the National League to apply the Sherman Antitrust Act to baseball. Preventing companies from colluding to set prices or pay scales, the Supreme Court ruled that baseball was amusement and not interstate commerce.
Someone should tell that to owners who ran Curt Flood out of the game when he challenged this system of legalized slavery. Charles Comiskey might take note also.
At the time, the rest of the baseball could. Forcing his players to launder their own uniforms, the White Sox responded in accordance to their stingy owner and were known to have the filthiest uniforms in the major leagues.
The amenities aside, salaries were certainly not commensurate with the powerhouse that the White Sox was to the era. But Comiskey could make his case easy enough, according to Tim Hornbaker’s Turning the Black Sox: The Misunderstood Legacy of Charles A. Comiskey:
“Not every athlete deserved the money they thought they were personally worth, and it was up to a discerning owner to figure out who truly merited the big bucks,” Hornbaker affectionately conveys Comiskey’s reasoning.
Such logic works perfectly in the absence of the free market. You know, the same place where Hornbaker can easily judge the value of his work and the location of the banks that the owners laughed all way to.
Anecdotally, Ty Cobb made $20,000 a year and Joe Jackson, his certain equal, made a paltry $6,000. Comiskey also sat out his star pitcher Eddie Cicotte to prevent him from winning his 30th game and earning a $10,000 bonus.
Window dressing to the larger crimes, again I’m not arguing against the immediacy that Jackson’s infraction required, but isn’t it time we let it go? Is there really a danger that baseball players will suddenly miss the message Commissioner Landis sent a hundred years ago – especially since the free market largely legislates the issue out of existence.
Pete Rose takes care of the rest, but if Joe Jackson continues to be left out of the hall, we diminish far more significant areas where baseball itself should be saying it ain’t so.
This article originally appeared on Rich Monetti’s Blog
Photo credit: Getty Images