The series is over and the favored White Sox lost. The Mafia who bet the entire series collected their winnings while players in on the fix were hung out to dry. This post will cover post season totals for White Sox players throughout the 1919 World Series and then some background into these players.
Game box scores typically involve a matrix of numbers which are mostly 0s. The box score format this model now uses shows Plate Appearance which is a measure of time, Runs and RBIs, a measure of run production, Total Bases, Hits, and Walks, a measure of hitting. Measures of hitting are game stats, measures of runs are value stats. Runs win baseball games, hits can score runs with “can” being the key word.
OBP was chosen to display over batting average because it uses plate appearances which is the measure of time for this data model and it incorporates Walks. Batting averages are displayed in long form player reports taken from official sources. Total Bases is used to calculate Slugging Percentage and the dreaded OPS which this model shuns as even a game stat. Total Bases is useful to display in box scores however and it’s used as a basis for calculating run creation which is fodder for another post this off season.
The above is a consolidated summary table for the entire series sorted by the Run Production (RP) column from highest to lowest. Run Production is simply Runs + RBIs — not too complicated. RP is the foundation for calculating WAA.
Shoeless Joe had the highest Run Production of any White Sox player during the 1919 World Series with 11. Five of those runs came in Game 8 which was a lost cause after the first inning. Chick Gandil, the organizer of the fix for players comes in at #2. Although Buck Weaver hit 0.324 (he had no walks so his OBP=BA) as he claimed in the movie, he had very poor run production.
Top of the order guys like Shano and Eddie Collins, both not in on the fix, hit poorly and had very low run production. Let’s look at errors and the unearned runs given up because of them.
The White Sox gave up 6 runs over 12 errors. Historically there are around 2 errors per unearned run. In 1919 teams gave up an average of 113 unearned runs per team over 140 games or around 0.8 unearned runs per game. That ratio was around 60/team in 2019 so there were about twice as many errors committed then than now. Giving up six unearned runs as a team over 8 games is virtually league average and nothing out of the ordinary. Let’s see what the Reds’ error numbers for this series look like.
They look about the same even though Reds had a much better Unearned Runs above average than White Sox in regular season.
Cicotte only threw one bad game which was Game 1. He signaled to the mafia guys the fix was on by hitting the first batter which he did according to retrosheet event data. Dickey Kerr pitched above his weight and Lefty Williams was the guy who blew three games in a row almost on his own.
Reds still needed 5 to win. According to the movie the mob guys started stiffing players when they won Game 3 after an awesome pitching performance by Dickey Kerr, the only CHA starter not in on the fix and the pitcher most likely to lose on his own.
None of the above numbers are unusual. Nothing here proves or disproves a rigged series or who is in on the fix just by looking at them. When you get 8 players in on a conspiracy along with all the handlers funneling money to them it’s a virtual impossibility this could be kept secret for long — especially after players in on the fix got ripped off by the mob guys just like Charles Comiskey ripped them off over their pennant bonus.
Based upon Eddie Collins’ poor performance one could suspect him being in on it. It would seem impossible the other players didn’t know — especially catcher Ray Shaik. In the end, according to the movie, the new commish Kenesaw Mountain Landis proclaimed just knowing there was a conspiracy and not reporting it was punishable. Buck Weaver may not have taken money but he did nothing to stop it.
It is possible that after CHA won Game 5 and 6 they might have wanted to win out to double cross the mob guys screwing them. The movie kind of suggested that. Had Williams not totally blown Game 8 in the first inning the White Sox should have won that with 5 runs and Reds’ weak lineup. Dickey Kerr would have pitched Game 9 with CHA’s poor relief to back him up. Eyeballing the handicapping; that game could have been around a 50/50, even steven event. The mob guys got mad after CHA won a few games, imagine how mad they would be if they lost the series after Cicotte signaled the fix was on with the first CIN batter in Game 1.
The conspiracy didn’t really unfold until almost the end of the 1920 season. Comiskey suspended Gandil for that season on his own which may have cost White Sox another World Series appearance. The rest of the 8 played one more year before being banished from baseball for good. Let’s look at some careers.
Cicotte had a mediocre last season in 1920. The movie mentioned outlawing the spit ball in 1920 which presumably was a pitch Cicotte relied upon. He had three tremendous seasons in 1913, 1917, and 1919. White Sox played the Giants in 1917 in the World Series. 15 years is a decent career. His total WAA probably doesn’t get him into HOF had he not been banished.
Shoeless Joe had a career year in 1920 and his total WAA puts him borderline into HOF. Ron Santo has a career WAA of 56.53 and he just barely made it in. Had Jackson played a bunch more years he probably would be clearly eligible according to this data model but that’s all water under the bridge now. Even if they remove his banishment MLB can’t put him in for value he would have gained had he played several more years.
Lefty Williams had a terrible 1920. He was probably traumatized over being threatened by mob guys and standing out as the most visible among the eight after single handedly blowing 3 World Series games. White Sox fans probably weren’t very kind to him at home games. 1919 was his career year and it wasn’t that great either.
Buck Weaver had a pretty average career with 1919 and 1920 being his best. We saw above how Buck had a Run Production (R+RBI) of 4 during the 1919 World Series, one of the lowest of the CHA lineup. He also had a low RP of 4 in 1917 when White Sox played the Giants in that World Series. By the time he figured out how to play baseball he got banished. He wouldn’t have been HOF material but he could have helped the White Sox during the 1920s.
Comiskey suspended Chick Gandil for 1920. Swede Risberg and Fred McMullen had their short careers ended after all 8 got banished.
That’s all for the 1919 World Series. It was interesting to do a game by game analysis of this series because it is the only major fixing scandal in over a century of US professional sports. The numbers we examined during this series don’t prove or disprove this series was fixed. The only reason we know is because the probability of a leak in a conspiracy is proportional to the number of people involved in that conspiracy. Now that we know the picture became clear. And they made a movie and wrote books about it. It’s also prominently featured in Ken Burns’ 9 part documentary on baseball — along with Disco Demolition. 🙂
Probably won’t do a game by game playoff series again but one offs of certain high profile games might be interesting. Next up minor league compilation and a look see into who the Cubs and White Sox have (or don’t have) waiting in the wings for next Spring. Until then ….