Major League Baseball has had an exciting and fascinating history. Despite all the great players and memorable games that have enchanted fans of the sport, the game of baseball has not been without its share of scandals.
Prior to 1920, scandals were more prevalent. In 1877 four players from the Louisville Grays were caught throwing games in return for bribes from gamblers. An umpire and a team physician were suspected in a 1908 bribery attempt to help the New York Giants win a playoff game against the Chicago Cubs resulting in the team physician being banned for life.
During the 1914 World Series, players from the Philadelphia Athletics were suspected of not playing well to get back at their stingy owner Connie Mack. The game resulted in a four-game sweep of the A’s by the Boston Braves. World Series fixing during the 1917 and 1918 games also raised suspicion that a few corrupt players and gamblers could potentially influence the outcome of the game.
The most famous scandal in baseball history happened during the 1919 World Series. With the help of a professional gambler named Joseph “Sport” Sullivan, and a New York gangster, Arnold Rothstein, eight players from the Chicago White Sox hatched a plan to throw the series against the Cincinnati Reds. The players were promised a total of $100,000. At that time the Chicago White Sox were one of baseball’s better teams. The eight players involved in the scandal included the great hitter “Shoeless” Joe Jackson; pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Claude “Lefty” Williams; infielders Buck Weaver, Arnold “Chick” Gandil, Fred McMullin, and Charles “Swede” Risberg; and outfielder Oscar “Happy” Felsch. Known as the “eight men out”, they were banned from organized baseball for life.
As a result of the 1919 scandal and recurring game-fixing incidents, the office of the Commissioner of Baseball was established by team owners in 1920. The installation of baseball’s first Commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, was an attempt to keep players in line and punish corruption. Landis, a federal judge, was given unlimited power over the game and the authority to ban any player, manager, executive, or anyone connected with the league for offenses having to do with gambling or conspiring to fix the outcomes of games, violating their playing contract, and other reasons involving illegal activities off the field.
A person banned from Major League Baseball cannot work for or maintain business ties with MLB or one of its franchises, or act as a sports agent for an MLB player, coach, or manager. The banned person cannot be inducted to the Hall of Fame regardless of whether they are living or deceased. The Commissioner of MLB can, however, decide to reinstate a banned person.
Later scandals that have tried to tarnish the public image of baseball was the 1980s Pete Rose betting scandal. He was accused of betting on Major League games while he was manager of the Cincinnati Reds. This resulted in his lifetime ban from baseball. Other incidents include the 1985 cocaine scandal involving Pittsburgh Pirates players and spotlighted the problem of cocaine use and abuse in baseball.
Recently baseball has also had to deal with steroids investigations of some of the game’s top players that began during 2005 and is still ongoing.