100 Years Later: A five-part review of cards associated with the Chicago Black Sox Scandal of 1919
With the 100-year anniversary of the infamous Chicago Black Sox scandal of 1919 here, I thought a look back at the cards surrounding those involved was appropriate. The Black Sox scandal is one that has gotten so much coverage that it can’t adequately be covered in one part. Thus, I’ll be offering a five-part look at the players and cards surrounding the event with a new part being issued each weekday this week.
Part I: The 1919 Chicago Black Sox Remain Popular with Collectors
Part II: Interesting Cards of Cincinnati Reds Players in the 1919 Series
Part III: Cards of Others Associated with the Black Sox Scandal Have Drawn Interest
Part IV: Despite Ties to Scandal, Interest for Clean White Sox Players has been Tepid
Part V: Following Bans, Black Sox Players were Largely Forgotten in the Gum Card Era
So far, I’ve covered a little bit about the cards of White Sox and Reds players in the 1919 World Series. But the cards of some others that are also associated with the scandal surrounding the series have also drawn a bit of interest from collectors.
One of those near the top of the list is boxing great Abe Attell.
I’ve actually written separately about Attell in the past. Essentially, Attell was linked to gambler Arnold Rothstein and coordinated payments to the players involved. Attell denied wrongdoing in the scandal and was eventually was said to demonstrate to the jury that a different Abe Attell was actually involved. But today, almost all acknowledge that this was the Attell involved.
Attell’s boxing cards, as a result, have gotten a bump in interest from collectors. Boxing cards aren’t as desirable to most as baseball issues, so the interest isn’t tremendous. But Attell cards are sought after by some baseball collectors wanting to get a piece of the action in the Black Sox scandal.
One of his most popular cards is his 1908 Ogden Pugilists and Wrestlers card pictured here. The card is not only affordable (often starting around $15 or so) but is also considered to be his rookie card. Other Attell cards vary in price but others are equally affordable.
Sleepy Bill Burns
Burns was one of the gamblers that was trying to get Rothstein’s involvement. He, along with former replacement player and boxer Billy Maharg, worked with Attell on that front and also helped pitch the original idea to players, including Chick Gandil, cementing his involvement in the fix.
Burns was actually a former baseball player himself. While he lasted five years in the majors, he’s best known for his part in the 1919 World Series scandal. That’s partially because his career as a player wasn’t a great one. Over his five seasons, Burns played for several teams and had only a 30-52 record with a 3.66 ERA to boot.
What few know is that Burns not only has a tie to the scandal itself but to both of the teams involved. Burns played with the White Sox in parts of 1909 and 1910 while also appearing for the Reds in 1910 and 1911. Could that have been a reason for his jump starting of the fix?
One of Burns’ more interesting cards is from one of the most important pre-war sets in the T206 release. Burns’ card isn’t interesting simply because it’s a T206 card. Rather, it’s confused collectors for years because Burns is pictured wearing a glove that looks to be on the wrong hand.
Lots of theories have been bandied about for the possibilities behind this oddity. As I covered before, an ambidextrous glove may be the reason. Whatever the case, the picture and the scandal have generally made Burns’ card a little more popular than it ordinarily would be.
As the owner of the Chicago White Sox at the time, Comiskey is one of the more notable figures involved that was not a player.
Comiskey was often said to be a frugal owner and he is portrayed as such in the fantastic movie, Eight Men Out. His willingness to hold back money from players has been cited over the years as a reason why players opted to participate in the fix.
It is difficult to peg exactly how much the scandal has affected the value of Comiskey’s cards for a few reasons, though.
First, Comiskey was a player and manager in the 19th Century. His tobacco cards from that era would be somewhat expensive regardless of the fix simply because of their age and rarity. Second, Comiskey was also inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as an executive. That is a secondary reason why his cards would be valuable even despite the fix.
My personal belief is that the fix has contributed to his card values, though it is not to the degree of some, such as Buck Weaver or the other players. Comiskey is first found in a few 19th Century sets as a player/manager and his N28 Allen & Ginter card (shown here) is among his most common and popular. But he’s also in a few other 20th Century pre-war sets, such as the Cracker Jack and M101 Mendelsohn issues of the 1910s.
A lesser-known figure that was somewhat involved was former baseball player Jean Dubuc. He pitched for nine years in the majors, including the Cincinnati Reds in 1908 and 1909.
Dubuc’s name may be unfamiliar to you as he is rarely mentioned when the Black Sox scandal is brought up. There’s good reason for that. While Dubuc reportedly knew about it, he was not said to be involved in any of the payments or coordinating with players.
Instead, Dubuc was supposedly merely told about the fix by Burns. The trial showed that the two had communicated about it so that Dubuc could bet on the series and profit. While Dubuc was believed to have known about the fix, any penalty he received was not really known, according to Wikipedia. And in fact, he would become a scout later with the Detroit Tigers.
Dubuc is only found on a few cards, but is in the T206, M101 Mendelsohn, and 1915 Cracker Jack sets. Because of his light involvement, his cards haven’t taken off. They are, however, sometimes picked up on by those that have studied the Black Sox scandal closely.
Kenesaw Mountain Landis
Of the figures here, Landis is the only one that had no real involvement in professional sports before the scandal. However, he had arguably the biggest role to play when it was all said and done.
Landis was a baseball fan but was, more importantly, a federal judge that was brought in to be baseball’s commissioner after the fix occurred. Despite the not guilty ruling from the grand jury at the end of the trial, Landis still banned the eight players involved for their role.
In the case of Buck Weaver, particularly, that role seemed to be limited to knowing about the fix and not directly participating in it. Landis’ decision to ban the players was often seen by fans of Weaver and Shoeless Joe Jackson as unfair.
Landis cards are not all that common as he was only an executive and not a player or manager. I don’t even know that he has any traditional cards to speak of. But Landis is found as part series of booklets issued in the late 1920s called Men of America. His booklet includes some cartoon athletes on the front for baseball and cycling and could be as close to a true baseball card as it gets for him.