When it comes to players being banned for life of any type of association with the game of baseball, there are a number of different categories. Most have to do with gambling on baseball or impacting whether the game is being played on a level. Of course, that all came from the throwing of the 1919 World Series by the Chicago White Sox against the Cincinnati which we all refer to as the "Black Sox" scandal. Members of the heavily favored White Sox took money from gamblers to throw the World Series so that the gamblers could make more money. This became a national story and something needed to be done about it.
There are the eight White Sox players who were banned for life from that incident. Then there are the two unofficial blackballs imposed by MLB owners against Hal Chase and Lee Magee, two criminals who were mistaken for ballplayers. Then, of course, there is the Pete Rose situation- while more controversial, the fact that he was suspended for life is understood based on the rules that prohibit betting on baseball. Finally, there is the case of Benny Kauff, the only player in Major League history to be banned for auto theft. To make matters worse, he was found not guilty but power happy Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis refused to overturn the ban.
The last category of players is the group we spend too much time talking about in today's game. Maybe it is because it all happened too recently, anyways... everybody has to put their two cents in. The steroids era in Major League Baseball happened and players are paying the price. A price, in some cases, that is on perception of people who are not medical doctors and not in the correct position to make those kind of decisions. Less proof exists in cases where people say the player "looked like" they did steroids. Once again, as I have said on many occasions, the media and fans have become the judge, jury and executioner in regards to which players used PEDs and which did not.
Though these players are not banned for life, their perception is keeping them out of the Hall of Fame. For the exception of Mark McGwire, few implicated PED users have post playing baseball jobs. Because of this, there is a blackball that, similar but not as obvious on the ones put on Chase and Magee, that is keeping these players away from the game of baseball. And in some cases, there is not overwhelming evidence to even support the claims.
The movie Eight Men Out (based on the 1963 book) gives a deep description of everything that led to the games of the 1919 World Series being thrown. White Sox owner Charles Comiskey was known as a cheap skate, however, his actions and all around attitude exemplified the majority of the owners of that time. With the reserve clause in effect and the players having nobody to represent their interests, it was understandable why a rift would exist between the owner and his players. The owners did everything to treat these players like property- cheap property and in addition acted in devious and borderline criminal ways. They broke promises and the bottom line was, if they didn't want to pay a player a certain salary or bonus, even if it was agreed upon, they just simply would not do it.
Comiskey had a ton of power throughout the game of baseball, particularly in the American League- which was still in its infant stages of being. He was the poster child for what the owners did to the players and the way they were treated. Up to a point, it was understood why something like the Black Sox scandal was possible... no, probable. While there was a rift that existed on the team to begin with essentially Eddie Collins, Ray Schalk and Red Faber not associating with anyone else on the team, even the most straight edged player still knew Comiskey for what he was.
When it comes to the fix, the obvious players who were orchestrating the whole thing were Chick Gandil, Swede Risberg and the two pitchers, Eddie Cicotte and Lefty Williams. Happy Felsch, the team's center fielder, was also in on the fix and also included was utility infielder Fred McMullin. McMullin would not have been included had he not overheard players talking about it. He would demand to be included or he was to rat the players who were involved out. In all honesty, that should have been all the players who were banned for life for throwing the 1919 World Series.
History tells us that two other players, 3B Buck Weaver and LF Shoeless Joe Jackson as well as two MLB players who did not play for the White Sox, Hal Chase and Joe Gedeon were also banned for life by the tyrant of a Baseball Commissioner. Chase was already blackballed, as I mentioned before, but clearly had knowledge of the fix and was known to have bet a lot of his own money. Gedeon was a friend of Risberg and learned of the fix through him. At the time, Gedeon was playing for the St Louis Browns. Though I am not a fan of Landis as a person, I completely understand why Chase and Gedeon were also suspended.
Joe Jackson clearly was not like the other players included in the fix. No proof even exists that he ever agreed to be involved. It was also said that Jackson was threatened and by this bully Risberg and because he was illiterate and a little bit of a slow thinker, he was not always able to think for himself and therefore may have been included in something he never really agreed to. Williams, Jackson's roommate, insisted that Jackson was not involved and felt that the mere mention of Shoeless Joe's name kept the gamblers interested in making a deal. To me, the question of whether or not Shoeless Joe Jackson was involved in the fix had to do with him admitting to the Grand Jury that he received $5000 from the gamblers. If he did, he is just as guilty as those who were not playing the game on a level because he received said money. Only Joe and maybe his wife know for a fact of whether or not he received the money. If not, he should be reinstated and enshrined into Baseball's Hall of Fame.
The book and movie Eight Men Out are centered around Buck Weaver. Weaver was banned for life because of his guilt by association even though he clearly never involved, never received any money and played the best baseball of his career in that 8 game World Series. The more I research Commissioner Landis, the more resemblance I see between him and a dictator. I think he felt he was that much better than baseball, as if everybody should just bow down to him. Landis' stance on Buck Weaver was that he should have been a rat. If Buck Weaver knew that players on his team were orchestrating a fix of the World Series, or any game for that matter, he- and apparently just he- needed to tell his owner/ manager what was going on.
Was Buck Weaver the only one not involved in the fix of the World Series that knew about what was being discussed? I doubt it. If Buck Weaver was guilty by associating himself with teammates that were thinking about not being on a level, he was certainly not the only one. Why was he signaled out? Why weren't others implicated for "knowing something was up?" Most importantly, why was the fact that Buck Weaver heard others talking about the fix considered just as equal as those who were actually throwing the World Series games!!!??!
Out of the eight men out, Buck Weaver was the one of them that was left out once again. He was the one forced to pay a price and a sentence for something he did not do. And once again, there was never any evidence which proved any sort of involvement. He has already served a life sentence for a role in which never existed. His life has ended. His time has been served. Criminals who have been given a life sentence still get a funeral, if warranted. In the terms of baseball, Buck Weaver never even got that.
There are a ton of things the new MLB Commissioner can rule on, or change if he wishes. Pete Rose can be reinstated, the players involved with steroids can be pardoned or there can even be some drastic rules changes that can be put into place that will impact the game for here on out. While it is understood that Pete Rose being reinstated could put him in a position to hurt the games integrity since he is still alive, there is no harm in a reinstatement for Buck Weaver, or Shoeless Joe for that matter. Do you want Hall of Famers who are involved in stuff like this? Well... if you put Pete in you clearly have to put JJ in as well. And it is completely harmless to reinstate a player in Buck Weaver who was not Hall of Fame worthy anyways. To me, this decision is one of the easiest and less impact full than any one Manfred will have to make. I am sure it will mean the world to the Weaver family- many generations of people who have had to live with the injustice Buck had to endure. It is that simple, just reinstate Buck Weaver. A man of over 1300 career hits and a .272 batting average will never be considered for the Hall of Fame. And the man has been dead for almost 60 years! Like Nike says, "Just Do It."