Aug 9, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds mascot Mr Red Legs during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports
On October 9, 1919, the Cincinnati Reds wrapped up the first of their five World Series championships by defeating the Chicago White Sox, 10-5, but the celebration was short-lived. Heck, even before the Series started there were rumors that Chicago players were on the take, and the “Black Sox” scandal that ensued nearly wrecked the game of baseball, and certainly helped mold it into its modern form.
Eight White Sox players were cleared, legally, on all counts of conspiracy to throw the Series to the Reds, but baseball took a harder stance. Specifically, new commissioner Kenesaw “Mountain” Landis banned the whole lot of them for life, and set about cleaning up the sport, which eventually led to a set of rules around proper conduct.
Ironically, the Black Sox scandal was the genesis or Rule 21, which prohibits players from betting on baseball and which, 70 years later, landed Reds superstar Pete Rose on the permanently ineligible list. The parallels between Rose and Sox standout “Shoeless” Joe Jackson are striking and sad.
On a happier note, the Black Sox ushered in the era of Babe Ruth, who was trumpeted as the game’s savior and who lived up to that mantle. Whether or not some shenanigans were involved in padding his numbers, Ruth built the mighty New York Yankees team that still flexes today, and he swept in the new era of offensive baseball with his powerful bat.
So, happy 95th anniversary to the first Reds championship team, and to the modern era of baseball.