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Saying It's So

Saying It's So: A Cultural History of the Black Sox Scandal

Daniel A. Nathan
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Saying It's So
    Book Description:

    The story of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and his teammates purportedly conspiring with gamblers to throw the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds has lingered in our collective consciousness for more than eighty years. Daniel A. Nathan's wide-ranging, interdisciplinary cultural history is less concerned with the details of the scandal than with how it has been represented and remembered by journalists, historians, novelists, filmmakers, and baseball fans. Saying It's So offers a series of astute reflections on what these different cultural narratives reveal about their creators and the eras in which they were created, producing a complex study of cultural values, memory, and the ways people make meaning. _x000B_A volume in the series Sport and Society, edited by Benjamin G. Rader and Randy Roberts _x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09198-8
    Subjects: Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    In early October 1919, the Chicago White Sox lost the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds, five games to three. By most accounts, the underdog Reds should not have beaten the Sox, who had won the World Series in 1917. In 1920, several prominent White Sox players testified before a Cook County grand jury that they had conspired with gamblers to lose the series. All told, eight ballplayers—most famously, the outfielder “Shoeless” Joe Jackson—were implicated. Shock waves of disbelief and indignation rippled across the country. Although eventually acquitted of conspiracy charges, the eight men, their names forever sullied,...

  5. 1 History’s First Draft: News, Narrative, and the Black Sox Scandal
    (pp. 11-57)

    “Reducing events to stories and getting stories into print,” writes the historian Robert Darnton, “is a matter of cultural fit—of narrative conventions and newsroom traditions that work as a way of imposing form on the booming, buzzing confusion of the day’s events.”¹ For the journalists who first tried to reduce the 1919 World Series scandal to articles, the “buzzing confusion” must have been extraordinary. Though there had been rumors that the series was crooked—some circulated even before it began—it remained a difficult story to write and publish. There was no hard evidence of any wrongdoing and few...

  6. 2 “Fix These Faces in Your Memory”: The Black Sox Scandal and American Collective Memories
    (pp. 58-91)

    A week after the Black Sox scandal became a national front-page sensation, the Sporting News, then commonly referred to as “Baseball’s Bible,” ran photographs of the “eight men who were charged with selling out” the game. The headline implored: “FIX THESE FACES IN YOUR MEMORY.” The pictured ballplayers are wearing their uniforms and stern expressions. Encircled by his teammates, the veteran White Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte, the first player to confess to throwing the World Series, occupies a special place of disgrace in the middle of the collection. The caption reads:

    These are the White Sox players who committed the...

  7. 3 The Novel as History, a Novel History: Bernard Malamud’s The Natural and Eliot Asinof’s Eight Men Out
    (pp. 92-118)

    The Black Sox scandal obviously remained active in American collective memories during the first half of the twentieth century. But by the early fifties nearly two generations of Americans had no living memory of the event. Moreover, those old enough to remember the scandal firsthand probably developed somewhat blurred and disjointed recollections of the labyrinthine plot. After all, memories usually fade and become entangled with one another rather than remain vivid and distinct. For many others, no doubt, time had effectively simplified the complicated. When these developments occur, contends the historian David Lowenthal, when events become increasingly distant from “personal...

  8. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  9. 4 Off the Bench: Historians Take a Swing at the Black Sox Scandal
    (pp. 119-148)

    Given how many people are still passionately interested in the Black Sox scandal—and the revisionist nature of writing history—it is not surprising that Eliot Asinof has not had the final word on it. Seemingly, every season produces more Black Sox narratives. The very year Eight Men Out hit bookstores, John Durant published a brief history of the Big Fix in Highlights of the World Series (1963). Much like the rendition of the scandal he tells in The Story of Baseball in Words and Pictures (1947), Durant characterizes the event in his later book as an unfortunate aberration and...

  10. 5 Idyll and Iconoclasm: Retelling the Black Sox Scandal in the Eighties
    (pp. 149-189)

    “Much as they may deplore the fact,” observes the historian C. Vann Woodward, “historians have no monopoly on the past and no franchise as its privileged interpreters to the public.”¹ Woodward’s observation is particularly germane when we consider how the Black Sox scandal was rendered in the post-Watergate United States, especially during the eighties. For many reasons, the Black Sox scandal became a popular subject (and commodity) during the “decade of money fever,” to use Tom Wolfe’s apt phrase.² In addition to several novels—W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe (1982), Eric Rolfe Greenberg’s The Celebrant (1983), and Harry Stein’s Hoopla (1983)...

  11. 6 Dreaming and Scheming: The Black Sox Scandal at the End of the Twentieth Century
    (pp. 190-216)

    When Katie Jackson, Joe Jackson’s widow, died in 1959 she left her estate to the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society. Years later, after the two charities discovered the value of Joe Jackson’s signature—one autograph was sold in 1991 for over $23,000 and some sports memorabilia collectors thought it was worth more—they argued that Joe’s will was Katie’s personal property and now it belonged to them.¹ In 1993, frustrated by their inability to procure the document, the two charities sued Judge Diane Smock of the Greenville County Probate Court and the county itself to obtain it....

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 217-222)

    The eightieth anniversary of the Black Sox trial was commemorated with an Internet auction on eBay for Joe Jackson’s famous bat, Black Betsy. Hyping the sale, one baseball memorabilia expert described the forty-ounce hickory bat as “the Holy Grail of sports collectibles.”¹ Black Betsy eventually sold for over $577,000, believed to be the highest price ever paid for a single bat.² In American culture, infamy sells well, especially when a miscarriage of justice may have taken place. But that in and of itself does not explain why the Black Sox scandal has been retold so many times, in so many...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 223-276)
  14. Index
    (pp. 277-286)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 287-290)