100 Worst: No. 98 Claude Hendrix

By Chris Rewers on Monday, November 1, 2010

Pitcher, 1916-20

57-61, 2.84 ERA with Cubs

(Editor's Note: Third in a series identifying the 100 worst Cubs of all-time.)

Where there's smoke, there's fire. Suspicions about Cubs pitcher Claude Hendrix led to the uncovering of the biggest gambling scandal in baseball history - a scandal that nearly destroyed the game.


The end of the line for dishonest Cubs pitcher Claude Hendrix came on Aug. 31, 1920 (Library of Congress).

Hendrix was a decent middle-of-the-rotation pitcher on the World War I-era Cubs who landed on this list because of his dishonesty.

Hendrix was an athletic, good-fielding right-hander who shot to stardom as a 29-game winner for the Federal League's Chicago Whales in 1914. After the Federal League's collapse after the 1915 season, Whales owner Charles Weeghman purchased the Cubs and brought with him several of his better players, including Hendrix.

Hendrix 's first two seasons with the North Siders were marked by inconsistency. He was just 8-16 in 1916 and 10-12 in '17. But Hendrix rebounded and won 20 games for the NL champion Cubs in 1918.

But he was nothing special in '19 (10-14) or '20 (9-12).

Hendrix was scheduled to start at Wrigley Field (which was then known as Cubs Park) on Aug. 31, 1920 against the last-place Philadelphia Phillies, but was scratched by manager Fred Mitchell shortly before game time in favor of staff ace Grover Cleveland Alexander. The Cubs lost the game 3-0 and Hendrix was sent home for the rest of the season by club president Bill Veeck Sr.

The reason for the actions was explained Sept. 4 by the Chicago Herald-Examiner. The newspaper reported that the morning of the Aug. 31 game, Veeck received six telegrams and two phone calls informing him of an abnormal amount of wagering on the Phillies. The Herald-Examiner also reported that Hendrix had reportedly placed a wager on the Phillies to beat the Cubs with Kansas City gambler Frog Thompson.

It would be naive to think that this was the first time that Hendrix was complicit in attempting to fix a game or guilty of wagering against his team. And if Hendrix was an experienced game fixer, it would help explain his inconsistency during his tenure with the Cubs. Sure Hendrix was plagued by a lack of run support in many of his starts, but low-scoring games would give a pitcher more control in the outcome of a game.

A grand jury convened in Chicago on Sept. 7 to investigate the claims concerning the Aug. 31 game. It quickly expanded into a probe of gambling on baseball in general and soon thereafter focused on the suspected fixing of the 1919 World Series.

The 31-year-old Hendrix was released by the Cubs following the season, was blacklisted, and never again played in organized baseball.

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