Ring Larnder and the Black Sox scandal of 1919
The Chicago “Black Sox Scandal” of 1919 shook baseball to the core and nearly ruined the game. Sports journalist Ring Lardner was at the center of the story, regularly reporting on the subsequent trial and the ban on the eight players involved. The case shook Lardner’s belief in the game and robbed baseball of one of its best early writers.
Adapted from Eliot’s baseball classic Asin of 8 men out, director John Sayles brought Lardner back into the spotlight in baseball and literature during the 1988 Hollywood movie Eight Men Out. The movie featured some big name talents including John Cusack and John Mahoney (from many movies and later from Frasier fame). Sayles, himself an actor, played Lardner, who quickly realized that something was wrong behind the scenes of the Chicago White Sox. Strong criticism from major media and critics like the New York Times Janet Maslin (“A tale of youthful enthusiasm gone wrong in an overly grown-up world, Eight Men Out represents a home run”). It gave this movie its preverbal legs and is now considered a classic among baseball moviegoers.
Ring began his career as a sports writer in South Bend, writing for the South Bend Tribune and the South Bend Times. He moved to Chicago and wrote for the Chicago Inter-Ocean, the Chicago Examiner, and finally the Chicago Examiner. After hanging around for a few years, including taking time off to work on the fictional book You Know Me Al, Larnder returned to Chicago and resumed writing for the Tribune.
This brings us to the scandal itself. The official story is this: Many players within the Chicago White Sox organization were upset with the pay and negotiation tactics of White Sox owner Charles Comiskey. When Joseph Sullivan approached White Sox first baseman Arnold Gandil on behalf of New York mobster Arnold Rothstein, the time was right. Gandil was able to rally seven other players (for a total of eight) to pitch games against the Cinncinati Reds in the 1919 World Series. For this, the players were promised a total of $ 100,000.
Ring Lardner wrote articles for the Tribune after the series hinting and reporting on the rumors floating around in the majors at the time, that the players may have been “in the shot.” He continued with his stories, and eventually Major League Baseball began to investigate these claims. After the owners appointed a new commissioner in Judge Kenesaw Mountin Landis, the case was tried in a court of law. After a trial that was riddled with news coverage and most likely affected by public opinion, the players were acquitted. However, Judge Landis saw things differently, as he proceeded to ban the eight players who were involved in the scandal.
After the 1919 Black Sox scandal was exhausted, Lardner continued to cover baseball until he retired from the Tribune. According to the biographies, although Ring covered the sport, he began to subtly question the events and results of the games. Ring Lardner passed away at the age of 48 due to complications from tuberculosis in 1933.