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Tammy's All Things History

Bringing the Past to Life!

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Social History

The Black Sox Scandal-Fixing the 1919 World Series


During an online book discussion reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, I came across the mention of the 1919 World Series scandal involving the fixing of the World Series. I had never heard of it before and wanted to know more about it.

During the 1919 baseball season eight members of the Chicago White Sox baseball team were banned for life from the sport for fixing that year’s World Series. The fix was a payout reward for intentionally loosing the game and giving the title to the opposing team, The Cincinnati Reds. The scandal affected America in two ways. It caused doubt for those who loved and supported the sport and it became a way for social groups to expose other issues of the day. The issues of the day included dealing with race, ethnicity and labor problems.

The Black Sox Scandal, as it is commonly referred to, occurred right after World War I when Americans began recovering and reconstructing their lives. Newspapers and Presidential speeches were full of Americanism and rhetoric. This was created in order to infuse patriotism, a winning attitude and support for the spread of democracy. The idea of spreading democracy was to right a wrong (rid the world of ruthless dictatorship) and create a better future for Americans. When the scandal broke, Americans could hardly believe it and many did not even want to. Doubts were quickly squashed as Joe Jackson himself admitted to the folly when a young boy questioned him on the incident outside a courthouse as he was leaving. It is no wonder the scandal hit home and became embroiled in keeping integrity important in the sports world.

An influx of immigrants after the war, shady work practices by employers and racial tensions pushed the Americanism envelop further during the scandal because it exposed exploitation of workers by foreign gamblers and influences. Soon the lines between corrupt baseball and the labor industry became intertwined. If there was ever a time to voice a concern of the internal struggles of the factory worker it was at the time of the scandal.

Baseball was also used by each community as a spirit builder. It taught ethical responsibilities of working as a team for a common goal. Factory work was a major part of the work force in 1919 and much of it was organized by team work. Americans worked hard in the factories and deserved to enjoy some recreation such as watching a game. Ken Burns explains in his article, Sure, Baseball Has Its Issues, But Doesn’t Everything? that the sport was a national past time and family event. The sport also reinforced work ethics and values. Together these things fueled the spirit of Americanism; something that needed to keep the nation strong against the real world threat of emerging communism.

What challenged the integrity of baseball and the faith in the magic of the sport was in the teams that were fixed and the shock it caused. The game of the World Series in 1919 promised to be full of knuckle biting excitement because the White Sox were favored to win due to the success of their record for that year. The Reds, the White Sox’s opponents, were average, hard working players but were no match for the strong Chicago team. When it became known to the public that members of the White Sox agreed to accept a loss for a substantial payment, it put the game in jeopardy of being real. If the game could be fixed then everything Americans worked hard for in their personal lives, emulating players and looking forward to recreational family time was suddenly for naught. What a disappointing time that must have been.

Today baseball remains an American national past time as well as many other sports. The same principles of integrity are still held to the same standards and are guarded closely by agencies that police them. It still fuels Americanism and patriotism as before each game the crowd stands to the signing of the national anthem. It still holds the same ideas of working hard as a team for a common goal. It breeds heroism at defining odds and earning places of fame at breaking records in efforts to achieve whatever anyone has set out to do so. Once in awhile a new scandal breaks but America never lets it stop its determination of enjoying the recreation after hard day’s work to watch a game.

My Summer Reading 2012


History revisited-I indulged Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, a re-print from Dover Thrift Editions. It was coincidental for me because weeks earlier in one of my LinkedIn groups a fellow history enthusiast mentioned the latest trend of re-printing old history books. I had not of heard of this trend before and as I read the updated forward in the book, the re-printing confession caught my attention. The reason I wanted to read The Jungle was because it was mentioned in my reading of the,  The Family which also sparked my curiosity for two of my other blogs, The Black Buffers and the Washington DC riots of 1968.

 The Jungle, is what the newest introduction claimed that Sinclair’s subject matter came from Muckraking. A Muckraker was what a person was called when they exposed hidden atrocities through the use of media. It’s not the first time I have been exposed to muckraking. The industrial age in which this book was written, is full of media rhetoric that causes shock and awe. Just as I also found in researching of the Loray Mill Strike of 1929 in books that were penned after the strike ended to air truths not heard during the turmoil for fear of further retribution from social elite. It seems to me that the muckraking and media hype all fueled the socialism and red (communism) threat that would plague Americans for decades into the future. If you like drama and the darker periods in American history, I would definitely recommend reading this book and with a little sleuthing will bring much more, so much more where this book came from. Muckraking reached all Americans and was not partial to any particular ethnic group or race. Everyone felt it one way or another.

Today the economy is so bad after ten years of foreign war, outsourcing of business, loss of jobs, and wedges drawn heavily between wealth and poverty. In the early 1900’s America faced the same thing but with a less sympathetic ear from those in society able to help. I would bore those around myself to repeat the often too much said phrase of, “history repeats itself”, as similarities can be seen today. Rather, what is more fascinating to me is that in my studies and readings of history, topics seem to come back again and again. It is rewarding to see this as pictures become clearer and results in a greater understanding of the world in general. To me, this is the most important part.

The second book I read is Jesse Ventura’s, American ConspiraciesOriginally I had purchased the book as a gift for my husband who is intrigued by the stories. Soon after, being bored, I picked it up to read and see what it was all about. I am not into conspiracy theories so much but love the history they tell. Jesse mentions in his introduction of the topics of the book and how he was bored flying in planes going to speaking and other engagements. As a result of this he took up reading as a new hobby. His readings coincidentally brought him to a topic of interest: President Kennedy’s assassination. He was so intrigued by the first book that he continued to read anything he could get his hands on about the subject. As a result of his studies he formulated a question about the similarities of other prominent leaders’ assassination during the 1960’s. I do the same thing. As I read I encounter more interesting topics to learn about. Topics such as the Knights of the Golden Circle, a civil war spy group and Major General Smedley Butler, whom he mentions in passing conversations. I look forward to more readings from Jesse. I take the conspiracies with a grain of salt. Historians need factual evidence of things that happen to be valid and worth study or mention just as a scientist needs proof from their experiments to validate their research. In the future maybe Jesse’s ideas will be ones for the history books; proven and true.

My third and final book of summer reading (I am a slow reader) is Martha: The life of Martha Mitchell, by Winzola McLendon. This book is a used one and rough around the edges. I love used books! I was interested in Martha’s story after reading The Georgetown Ladies’ Social Club by C. David Heymann and doing further research on Katherine Graham for a paper in college. These two books are chalk full of history and what it was like to live and exist closely to the Watergate scandal in the early 1970’s. When I read books such as these, I can imagine life and how people were in a time when I was very little and my world revolved around play time and toys. The books bring to life many forgotten players both popular and long forgotten. From there other curiosities are perked and trails to explore come into focus.

Dancing around historic timelines can be daunting at times but it is important to be exposed to as much of it as can be. The past often is brought up again and again as people like to reference it, to understand the present and gauge the future. After a while being able to recall the information brings with it better understanding and can lead to interesting discussions with others.

Eugenics


Eugenics began as a science studied by Francis Galton and Charles Darwin, his relative, in 1883. The reason for the study was to find a way to make sure human beings in the future evolved into socially acceptable members of society. This meant both in physical form and intellect. The eugenics idea came from ancient times but became popular during Europe’s enlightenment period. It was a time when scientists began questioning who we are and where we come from. SinceDarwin’s theory of evolution explained how species evolved through natural selection, Galton theorized the same could also be done artificially in humans. It caused scientists and fellow enthusiasts to think about what society would look like if scientists could directly manage its members by either promoting yearned for characteristics or preventing unwanted ones from occurring.

In the first part of the 20th century, eugenics was seen as a tool to control a persons living environment so that they could live disease-free. Studies were done and the result provided information for better nutrition, new medical remedies and health education, to include prenatal care.

From the popular characteristics that were considered to be good, scientists began studying how genes could be identified and singled out in the later part of the 20th century. This study coupled with the evidence gathered of individuals who displayed high intellect and their results began to spread across scientific communities. Much was learned from them but the studies did not always yield positive results. Sometimes they drew wedges in social circles when it was deemed that bad behavior was due to having bad genes. Studies showed the bad genes as well as good were found in abundance in different areas of societies.

Ethical problems arose as well when arguments against the rights of women to bear children or use birth control as part of informed choices emerged in political discussions. One question that was raised was how would birth control contributed to the spread of genes good or bad if controls on sex were not social enforced? This gave radicals further fuel to debate with and placed a moral monkey wrench into the picture.

Forced sterilization emerged as a solution to the spread of bad genes that burdened society and deemed certain people unfit to reproduce. People started advocating new laws to prevent immigrating families of people with bad genes from entering the US. The Immigration Act of 1924 was passed in Congress to set rules and guidelines on immigration. Eugenics influenced this passing. The idea of forced sterilization and control of reproduction however met with resistance among those who opposed it in 1930 to include the Catholic Church. The science was reduced to that of genetic study under a microscope rather than delivered measures forced upon individuals. It remains as a foundation of genetic study that is done today.

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