Fix Allegations Leave World Series in Limbo as Tribe Clinches
Vince Guerrieri | On 20, Jan 2015
The Indians departed Cleveland for St. Louis on Sept. 25 hanging on to a half-game lead in the American League. If ever there was a time to put it away, it would be against the Browns, a fourth-place team that the Indians had been able to handle throughout the year.
The Indians scored three in the first inning, but Ray Caldwell got shelled in the bottom half of the frame, giving up five runs. Indians player-manager Tris Speaker turned to George Uhle, a second-year player who had won 10 games in 1919. Uhle had made just six starts that year, and his ERA was up over 5. But that day, he threw six shutout innings and helped start a third-inning rally with a two-run double. Stan Coveleski came on for the save and the Indians won 7-5. Meanwhile, the White Sox beat the Tigers 8-1 to keep pace.
Duster Mails took the hill for the Indians at Sportsman’s Park on Sept. 27, and the Browns countered with Dixie Davis. Mails gave up a bases-loaded single to George Sisler, putting the Browns up 2-0, but settled in for his seventh win of the season as the Indians won 8-4. Charlie Jamieson picked a great time for his first home run, hitting a three-run shot in the top of the eighth. The White Sox shut out the Tigers that day, 2-0, and once again, the Indians remained half a game up.
White Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte could stand no more. He went to owner Charlie Comiskey and confessed he’d helped throw the 1919 World Series. Comiskey said, “Don’t tell it to me; tell it to the grand jury.” And Cicotte did, testifying before a Cook County grand jury impaneled to look into allegations that the 1919 World Series was fixed. Shoeless Joe Jackson was next before the grand jury. Indictments were handed up for fraud. Fixing games wasn’t in and of itself a crime, but the grand jury charged that the White Sox had defrauded the public by fixing games.
Eight players were indicted – Cicotte, Jackson, Swede Risberg, Buck Weaver, Lefty Williams, Happy Felsch, Fred McMullin and Chick Gandil – and the seven active players who were indicted –Gandil had retired after the World Series – were suspended from the team. The White Sox weren’t mathematically eliminated, but it was virtually wrapped up for the Indians.
There were rumors that the 1920 World Series would be fixed as well – and some sportswriters even suggested not playing the Fall Classic. The Brooklyn Robins, who had already clinched the National League, met with the Kings County District Attorney to assure him that they would be playing on the up-and-up.
“This scandal does not concern Cleveland in the least,” said Indians owner Jim Dunn. “Our team has always been on the level, has been fighting for the pennant all year even when it went against one of the saddest accidents in the history of baseball.”
On Sept. 28, Jim Bagby finally got his 30th win of the season. He’s the only Indians pitcher to do so, and only three other pitchers have reached that milestone since, none since Denny McLain in 1968. Bagby scattered 10 hits, including a home run to George Sisler. It was his record-breaking 249th hit of the season. Sisler would finish with 257, a major league record that stood until Ichiro Suzuki hit 262 in 2004. Bagby aided his cause with a two-run double in the second. The White Sox were off, and the Indians stretched their lead to a whole game.
In front of a scant 300 fans on Sept. 29, the Indians beat the Browns 10-2, pushing their lead up to 1 ½ games and mathematically eliminating the Yankees from the race. The Tribe was off to Detroit to finish up the season with a four-game series. Three wins would clinch the pennant outright. Two would mean at worst a first-place tie.
The first game of the series was washed out and rescheduled as a doubleheader the next day. The Indians took a 4-0 lead, but a four-run Detroit rally off the Great Mails tied the game in the eighth and chased starter George Uhle. Jim Bagby came on in relief, but got tagged for the loss when Babe Pinelli singled in the bottom of the 10th to score Ira Flagstead. The Indians won a shortened nightcap 10-3, called on account of darkness. The White Sox lost to the Browns that day, 8-6. The Indians were assured at least a tie for the pennant.
Tris Speaker gave the ball to Jim Bagby the next day. He was staked to an early lead, and although he scattered 11 hits, none seemed to do a lot of damage, as the Indians won 10-1 to clinch the pennant.
“My sincere congratulations to you and to all members of the Cleveland base ball team,” owner Jim Dunn wrote in a telegram to Tris Speaker. “I am sharpening the tomahawks and I am sure we will scalp the Dodgers. You fought fairly and squarely and deserve the championship.” Dunn had made good on his promise to deliver a pennant to Cleveland, even if it took a year longer than he had originally thought.
The Plain Dealer said that the Indians had a little help from above. “The spirit of Chapman helped materially to lead them to their final triumph.” And in the raucous clubhouse after the pennant was clinched, Katy Chapman was voted a full World Series share.