Baseball Primer Newsblog
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Thursday, October 25, 2012
From a new anthology, one historian’s lowdown on F. Scott’s interpretation of that A.K., A.R.:
But just what was the relationship between Arnold Rothstein and the 1919 World Series fix?
A recent investigative biography of Rothstein by David Pietrusza sheds new light on this question. Yes, Rothstein paid to fix the World Series. But he seemed to be one of several groups who were paying off players. It was multiply fixed. He fixed the World Series, but the World Series, contrary to the Fitzgeraldian myth, was no spectacle of innocence. Baseball games had been fixed with regularity by gamblers and players on the take at the time, and practically every American ethnic group had been in on it.
Unknowingly, I had accepted Fitzgerald’s Field of Dreams–style, Edenic sanctification of baseball and thus Fitzgerald’s unique diabolization of Rothstein as the first to ever dare tamper with the sacred sport. It’s a belief that seems ridiculous once viewed through the cold light of reality, as portrayed in Pietrusza’s biography.
Here’s just one sample of what Pietrusza has dug up about the reputation of baseball, and especially the World Series, before Arnold Rothstein entered the picture:
[Chick] Gandil [one of the so-called Black Sox, the eight Chicago White Sox players accused—but never convicted—of taking bribes to throw the Series to the underdog Cincinnati Reds] had heard the whispers about the 1914 Series. And you didn’t have to go back that far. The American League heard rumors that the 1918 Red Sox–Cubs World Series was fixed . . . There were even question marks surrounding the 1917 Series. John McGraw suspected his second baseman Buck Herzog of taking a dive in that one.
In other words, Fitzgerald’s myth of the noble national game despoiled by the greedy Jew ignores the reality that not just the Series but, as Pietrusza also points out, individual games as well were up for sale before the Series. Baseball was no field of dreams but a swamp of corruption, a field of schemes. Rothstein was in on the fix but so were a couple carloads of other wise guys of different ethnicities.
If you build it they will bet. If you build it they will bribe, and take bribes.
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