Tammy's All Things History

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labor history

Time Travel

Strikes, Ladies Tailors, N.Y., Feb. 1910
Someone posted an interesting blog a few days ago. In the discussion the question was posed: what era of history would you travel back to if you could and why?

I have often thought about time travel. I do not know if it is something for me or not. When I visit museums I feel like I have traveled back in time. The artifacts and displays bring the past to life for me as I imagine what it must have been like. Now that I have been trained to really study history professionally it seems a bit different. There are so many questions and so much information to consider it seems impossible to really know what it was like. I like diaries and memoirs because they offer an idea about what the atmosphere was like. Still, it is only one point of view and how accurate is it really?

The blog article was great and a good one to follow with many more interesting topics. I love to read labor history. What is even greater about it is the fact it fits into a huge puzzle and when more pieces are added it makes sense and really comes to life. I always end up coming back to it again and again in my readings. I am definitely drawn to the 1800-1900s. I definitely would like to travel back to this time.

What era would you like to travel back to?

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.

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