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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Posnanski: The Dutch Leonard Affair

Maximum Poz!

[Tigers owner Frank] Navin and [American League president] Ban Johnson handled the [Dutch] Leonard unpleasantness in a way that will be familiar to everyone who watches political movies or followed the Tony Bosch Biogenesis story — they paid him off… At the end of the season, Ban Johnson told [Ty] Cobb and [Tris] Speaker that they needed to retire…

When the players saw Dutch Leonard’s rather flimsy evidence — two alternately specific and vague letters that did not have any word of a fix, specifically cleared Cobb of laying down a bet and did not mention Speaker at all — there was some fury. The players demanded that Dutch Leonard come to Chicago so they could face their accuser. Leonard replied that, no, he would not come…

Well, that really set off Cobb, Speaker and [Smokey Joe] Wood… They believed (and were generally right) that if people saw the smoky evidence, they would side with Cobb and Speaker. By most accounts, it was Cobb and Speaker who asked [Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain] Landis to release all the records…

It’s clear from Leonard’s response that he had already won his fight. Leonard had received $20,000 for two letters and he had cast doubt on the legacies of the two men he blamed most for running him out of the game… “I got my revenge,” he told the writer Damon Runyon…

On January 16, 1927 Johnson made a long statement to the press. It was, to be blunt, a complete and utter meltdown by the once great man…

Johnson was going Joe McCarthy, saying he had all sorts of secret information he had no intention of sharing with Landis … but he definitely had it. And he saved his angriest stuff for Landis, calling his release of information an attempt for personal publicity and saying he had this whole thing under control before the commissioner butted in…

When Johnson appeared before Landis in a hearing that the papers hyped like it was a heavyweight fight, he had to admit that he had nothing. He had been bluffing. And he was a goner…

My sense, based on the way Ban Johnson lashed out at Speaker, is that he had a personal grudge or hidden reasons to believe Speaker was dirty. He may have been guilty but, based on what we can prove, he should never for have been included in this scandal…

As for Cobb… I do not believe the 1917 game was “fixed” as we might generally view that word. I think the ethics of the time were different and on September 25, 1919 the Tigers had motivation to win and the Indians did not… if this had all happened In Pete Rose’s time, I think Cobb would have been banned for life even if nothing else was proved… Cobb was a great player who obviously played to win. He lived in a time, however, where gambling on baseball was rampant and tore at the fiber of the game. I’m not persuaded that he was was above his era.

 


 

 

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