Non-Fiction: Sports

Eight Men Out

The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series

Written by: Eliot Asinof

Published By: Owl Books

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

            There have been many scandals in baseball.  Most recently, the world of baseball was turned upside down by the steroid scandal in which numerous player were revealed to have used performance enhancing drugs while playing the game.  Baseball fans felt cheated – these athletes were cheating their way through a sport that Americans hold in high regard.  Baseball has been known for years as the American Pastime after all.  The only other baseball scandal which evoked such feeling from the fans was The Black Sox Scandal of 1919 and no book does the story justice as well as Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series by Eliot Asinof.

            Like the steroid scandal of today, The Black Sox Scandal involved cheating.  Eight members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds for a paltry sum of money.  Asinof doesn’t just discuss how the series was thrown.  He delves deeper, seeking understanding as to why the eight men accused would do such a thing in a game that each one of the accused supposedly loved.  Eight Men Out introduces the readers to the eight players, exposes their involvement in the plot and reveals the anguish each man went through during “The Fix”.  But the book doesn’t stop there – it describes how the fix was revealed, the Grand Jury investigation and eventual trial, the effects the scandal had on baseball itself and on the players.  The very end of the book gives us an idea of what it was like for each of the accused eight as they tried to move on with their lives.

            I had always felt disdain for anyone who would cheat at the game of baseball.  After all, over all other sports out there, baseball has always been my favorite.  I play baseball, watch baseball, listen to games on the radio and discuss it with any and every fan I meet.  Thus, before reading this book, I had no sympathy for the eight players who had thrown the series in 1919.  However, after reading Eight Men Out, I realized that there were more factors at work that caused these men to commit to the fix.  We sometimes elevate the baseball player to hero status, believing that this hero can never do anything wrong, and we forget that these players are only human and therefore fallible.  There were reasons behind what these men did.  Some of them – who would never be allowed to play major league baseball again – were not as guilty as others.  And some, Arnold “Chick” Gandil for one, appeared to me to be the worst scum the sport had ever seen.  And let’s not forget how persuasive and conniving the high rollers in the gambling community - Arnold Rothstein, etc. - could be when there was something that they wanted.  Although the players themselves are guilty of going through with the fix, they were planning this fix with some very heavy hitters and probably couldn’t have backed out if they had the chance.

            Eight Men Out is a book that all baseball fans, young and old, should get their hands on.  The Black Sox Scandal had an incredible effect on the world of baseball.  This scandal is solely responsible for the creation of a Baseball Commissioner.  It’s also responsible for the “no gambling” rule that has kept a player or two out of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  This scandal threatened to tear down the world of baseball and had it not been for the lively ball and the emergence of a powerful hitter named Babe Ruth, the fans might very well have walked away from the sport altogether.  So head on over to your local book store and pick up a copy of Eight Men Out by Eliot Asinof and learn a bit about the history of the game and how it affected the way baseball is played today.


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