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SportsCenter Flashback
SportsCenter Flashback looks back at the Black Sox ban.
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Monday, July 30
Baseball's gambling scandals
By Rico Longoria
Special to ESPN.com

"Any professional base ball club will 'throw' a game if there is money in it. A horse race is a pretty safe thing to speculate on in comparison with the average ball match." -- Beadle's Dime Base Ball Player, 1875

Gambling has been a part of baseball since owners began aspiring to turn a profit on their teams in the mid-19th century. New York newspaperman Henry Chadwick, one of the men most responsible for the rise of baseball in the 1800s, wrote that "every low-minded, vicious 'rough'," whose only enjoyment of baseball came from the gratification it offered "as a means of gambling, of various excitement, or of intemperance," was the enemy of the baseball institution.

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  • But baseball has always attracted gamblers who sought to determine the outcome of games. The 1919 Black Sox scandal was the most damaging example, but definitely not the first and certainly not the last. Some of the best players and managers in baseball history have been involved in betting scandals and often wagered on their own teams. Here are five of the most well-known instances of gambling infiltrating baseball.

    1865 - A betting scandal nearly destroys the Mutuals, a professional team organized by corrupt Tammany Hall boss William Marcy Tweed. The catcher, third baseman and shortstop, who claimed they were victimized by a "wicked conspiracy", were all banned from baseball for accepting $100 apiece to throw a game.

    1877 - After a great run early in the season, the Louisville Grays mysteriously lost seven games in a row. An investigation revealed that gamblers had bought off George Hall, Bill Craver, Al Nichols and Jim Devlin, and National League founder William A. Hulbert banned all four from baseball. The players claimed they threw the games because their owner had failed to meet payroll obligations and begged for forgiveness, but Hulbert would hear none of it and the players were never reinstated.

    1905 - John McGraw, manager of the National League's New York Giants, wins $400 betting on his team to win the 1905 World Series. McGraw had held his team out of the 1904 Series against Boston because of a grudge against American League president Ban Johnson, who had suspended and publicly ripped McGraw for his boorish on-field behavior during McGraw's tenure as an American League manager, but he agreed to take on Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's following the '05 season. Led by Christy Mathewson's three shutouts (thrown in a span of six days), the Giants beat the A's in five games and McGraw got his money and his revenge on Johnson. The winnings were known to the public, and would have gotten McGraw banned from baseball in a later day.

    1926 - Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker were permitted by Ban Johnson to resign from baseball near the end of the 1926 season after former pitcher Dutch Leonard charged that Cobb, Speaker and Smoky Joe Wood had joined him just before the 1919 World Series in betting on a game they all knew was fixed. Leonard presented letters and other documents to Johnson, and Johnson thought they would be so potentially damaging to baseball in the wake of the Black Sox scandal that he paid Leonard $20,000 to have them suppressed. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis exposed the cover-up and the eventual fallout forced Johnson out his job as president of the league he had created. Cobb and Speaker vehemently denied any wrongdoing, Cobb saying that "There has never been a baseball game in my life that I played in that I knew was fixed,? and that the only games he ever bet on were two series games in 1919, when he lost $150 on games thrown by the Sox. He claimed his letters to Leonard had been misunderstood, that he was merely speaking of business investments. Landis took the case under advisement and eventually let both players remain in baseball because they had not been found guilty of fixing any game themselves. It was after this case, though, that Landis instituted the rule mandating that any player found guilty of betting on baseball would be suspended for a year and that any player found to have bet on his own team would be barred for life. Cobb later claimed that the attorneys representing him and Speaker had brokered their reinstatement by threatening to expose further scandal in baseball if the two were not cleared.

    1989 - Commissioner A. Barlett Giamatti bans Pete Rose, baseball's all-time leader in hits and games-played, from baseball for life for betting on scores of baseball games, some of which his own teams had played in. Rose, just as Cobb and Speaker had years before, angrily denied that he had ever bet on baseball. But the evidence against Rose was damning. It included testimony that Rose had bet on his own players while managing, phone records to known bookies moments before ball games (while no other major sports were in season) and a betting slip filled out in Rose's handwriting and covered with his fingerprints. Giamatti weighed all of that against Rose's defense and banned him from baseball for "a variety of acts which have stained the game." Rose continues to lobby for his reinstatement to the game.