Did Cubs Throw 1918 World Series?

By Chris Rewers on Friday, April 22, 2011

In a 1920 court deposition the Chicago History Museum recently published on its Web site, White Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte - one of the infamous "Eight Men Out" who were banned from organized baseball for life for allegedly throwing the 1919 World Series - claimed that he and his teammates had heard that several members of the crosstown Cubs were offered $10,000 to throw the 1918 World Series to the Boston Red Sox.

max flack.jpg

Cubs right fielder Max Flack's error allowed two unearned runs to score as the Boston Red Sox clinched the 1918 World Series championship with a 2-1 victory in Game 6(Library of Congress).

The 1918 World Series was interesting in several ways. To wit:

* The series started on Sept. 5 after the regular season was prematurely halted on Labor Day to comply with President Woodrow Wilson's "Work or Fight" order.

* The Cubs played their series home games at Comiskey Park because it had a larger seating capacity than Weeghman Park (later renamed Wrigley Field).

* Babe Ruth, then a 23-year-old lefthanded pitcher, won two games and allowed just one earned run in 17 innings of work (1.06 ERA). Ruth also produced a two-run triple in Boston's 2-1 Game 4 victory at Fenway Park.

* The players from both teams threatened to go on strike prior to the sixth and final game at Fenway Park in protest over their share of the gate receipts. The players, fearing a backlash from the wartime public, gave in and took the field but the game started one hour late.

* It was the last time the Red Sox claimed a world championship until 2004.

The most suspicious play of the series came in Game 6 when Cubs right fielder Max Flack's misplayed fly ball allowed the Red Sox to score a pair of unearned runs in their 2-1 victory.

Cicotte's vague accusation was a reflection of the times. Until the Black Sox Scandal, the specter of gambling haunted baseball.

The National League was founded in 1876 partly in response to the widespread corruption of players in its predecessor, the National Association. Four members of the Louisville Grays were banned from the National League for life after three of the players were suspected of throwing games during a late-season collapse that saw the team surrender first place to Boston. Over the next 40-plus years, there were constantly rumors of game fixing.

Some players were notorious for being crooked, especially Hal Chase, a star first baseman with several teams during the first two decades of the 20th centrury. But the owners looked the other way and didn't do anything about it until they had to.

It's possible that there were hundreds of games that were fixed, including the sixth game of the 1918 World Series by the Cubs. But with all the players from that era long dead, we will likely never know the answer.

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