Readers' list: Worst sports scandals
From the Page 2 mailbag

Nothing's better than a good scandal to get sports fans fired up.

Here's how Page 2 editors ranked our top 10 sports scandals of all-time:

1. 1919 Black Sox
2. College basketball point-shaving scandal of the late-'40s and early-'50s
3. Skategate I, starring Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan
4. Salt Lake City bribes the International Olympic Committee to get the 2002 Games
5. The Danny Almonte-Little League age scandal
6. Ben Johnson fails his drug test
7. University of Minnesota hoops academic cheating scandal
8. Jim Thorpe loses his pentathlon and decathlon Olympic gold medals
9. Pete Rose betting-on-baseball scandal
10. Skategate II: Canadian pairs and Russian pairs end up sharing gold medals

So after we offered our choices for the 10 worst sports scandals of all-time, we asked you to send us your suggestions. Page 2 readers responded with nearly 400 e-mails, and below are the top 10 choices. Vote in the poll at the right for your top choice.

1. 1919 Black Sox Scandal (93 letters)
Deprived Major League Baseball of one of its most outstanding stars, gave Kennesaw Mountain Landis the platform upon from which he would create the all powerful "Office of the Commissioner," set the stage for Babe Ruth to be the "savior," and altered the outcome of what was at the time not just the biggest, but arguably the only, relevant professional sports championship of the time. Barring a death, what more could you ask of a scandal?
Thomas Pitta
New York

At the time, baseball was the greatest thing going in America. There were no other professional sports, and college football, though wildly popular, didn't yet hold a candle to Americans' fascination with baseball. The scandal stunned America, and cost the nation what innocence it may have had left after World War I. No sports scandal has ever had as profound effect on the national psyche as the crushing blow of the White Sox of 1919.
Bill Goldman

More than 80 years later people still debate it. Did Shoeless Joe take the money? Should Buck Weaver have been barred from the game? Every time I go to a Reds game at Cinergy Field and see the 1919 World Championship banner, I can't help but think about what happened all those years ago ...
Ryan Abshear
Dayton, Ohio

2. Soviet Union beats United States in 1972 men's Olympic basketball final (82 letters)
I'm going to go with one of Page 2's dishonorable mentions ... the USA-USSR 1972 gold medal basketball final was the worst snow job in Olympic history.

The USA had won every single game between 1936 and the 1972 final. And the USA would have won that game, too, if it weren't for a British FIBA official telling the timekeeper to put three seconds back on the clock. It seems FIBA had to cheat in order to give another country the gold medal.

It's just too bad that the Soviet Union broke up in 1991 -- I was hoping the Dream Team would have wiped the floor in 1992 against the Soviets to get revenge in Barcelona on their Communist butts for what happened in Munich.
Eric VanSickle
Cedar Falls, Iowa

There was no way that the U.S. men should have lost the gold, and only a scam as big as the biased referees could possibly hand the title to the Soviet Union. I was not even alive for those Olympic games, but every replay I've seen of the last few seconds of the game angers me. It's not even a measure of national pride -- it's the fact that, of all athletic competitions, the Olympics are supposed to be fair. More than any other event, the game proved that anything, no matter how sacred, could be corrupt ted.
Mike Canter
West Orange, N.J.

The robbery of the U.S. team by the refs makes Winona Ryder's shopping habits look like child's play.
Chris Lotz
San Antonio

3. SMU Football receives the "death penalty" (42 letters)
I was shocked to see this one not even mentioned. How about the cheating scandal that surrounded the SMU football team in the mid-1980s, which ended with the NCAA giving the school the death penalty?

While it did not end up influencing future NCAA policy that much, it pretty much buried the football program at SMU, which enjoyed constant success along the same level as a school like Syracuse does today. The football program at SMU (alumni include Doak Walker and Eric Dickerson) has dropped off the national radar screen and may never reach the level it once did.
Eric Biderman
New York

How could you not list the SMU Mustangs getting the death penalty? I mean, the Texas governor gave his OK to pay players. The perennial powerhouse disappeared from the face of football. Even worse, I have to hear about it all the time from my wife and mother-in-law, both of whom are SMU grads.

Roy Jones Jr
Roy Jones Jr. was denied a gold medal by a controversial decision at Seoul in 1988.
4. Roy Jones Jr. loses decision after pummeling South Korea's Si Hun Park in light middleweight final at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul (36 letters)
I remember being 12 years old and watching this on TV and being outraged because the judges gave the decision to Park, just to make sure that there wasn't another "incident" like there was in the earlier fight. Probably the worst sports moment I've ever watched on TV. I still to this day wonder if Park can ever convince himself that he deserved that medal?
Timothy Peters

Honestly, has there ever been an instance where you said, "Wow, this guy is getting destroyed." Only to see him win?

What happened to the Canadian skaters was nowhere even close. Roy Jones Jr. absolutely dominated that fight.
Brett Walenz
Omaha, Neb.

5. Pete Rose betting-on-baseball scandal (33 letters)
In my mind, the worst sports scandal is Pete Rose's banishment from baseball. The 1919 Black Sox scandal ultimately did more harm to the game, but Rose's case was much more tragic. Here you have the manager for the Cincinnati Reds, the sport's all-time leader in base hits, and he gets thrown out of the game for illegally betting on baseball.

Pete Rose
Pete Rose was a Hall-of-Fame player, but a dubious manager.
He was a first ballot Hall of Famer, and he threw it away because he had zero self-control. And make no mistake about it, Pete Rose bet on baseball, he bet on the Reds, and he knew the consequences should he be caught. A manager who bets on his own team sacrifices the very integrity of the game, and Rose should never be allowed to manage or have a job in baseball again.

He should, however, be recognized in the Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a player, while noting his lifetime banishment for betting on baseball. To this day, ESPN has never covered a bigger story.
John Zile
Walnut Creek, Calif.

6. Danny Almonte Little League age scandal (26 letters)
The Black Sox scandal may be the most infamous scandal in Major League Baseball history, but the Danny Almonte situation from last year's LLWS absolutely reeks.

What could be worse than defrauding a child to gain an unfair advantage and beat up on a bunch of kids? The part that hurts the most is that we really believed in this kid. We thought he was the future of baseball, the next Randy Johnson, the representation of all that is good and pure about the U.S. pastime. But it was all a sham. We were had by Danny's father and the team coach. Sure he's good, but we were led to believe he was something he's not.

In a situation like this, everybody loses. And if Little League Baseball is no longer a sanctuary of innocence and sportsmanship, then what is?
Eric Hoffman
Solon, Ohio

You're supposed to wait until you're already in the major leagues before people find out you've been lying about your age. Everyone knows that.
Brian Smith
Buffalo, N.Y.

7. Skategate I, starring Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan (14 letters)
Tonya Harding
Tonya Harding was stripped of her '94 U.S. title because of her role in the Nancy Kerrigan attack.
There are many kinds of scandals, but when you are hiring people to attack someone, that is just over the edge. That is beyond cheating or lying. That is conspiracy, and I still think Harding should've been punished more.

It is funny though, that Kerrigan got silver and Harding did terrible. No wonder she needed to eliminate Kerrigan.

8. University of Minnesota hoops academic cheating scandal (eight letters)
What takes this one above the top was Clem Haskins' obscene insistence that he did nothing wrong. He should have apologized and accepted responsibility like a man. Oh yeah, and he should have relinquished any claim to further compensation for running the program into the ground.
Russ James

9. 1993 Florida State football "free shoes" scandal (six letters)
Not only did FSU get just a slap on the wrist for this violation, but it was followed by Warrick and Coles at Dillard's for the big discount, after which Warrick continued to play that season. Criminoles take the cake.
Pullman, Wash.

10. Jim Thorpe loses his pentathlon and decathlon Olympic gold medals (five letters)
Tough choice, but I'm going with the Jim Thorpe scandal. Thorpe was systematically and maliciously discriminated against entirely because of his ethnic background. I consider him to be the greatest athlete in U.S. history, perhaps next to Jesse Owens, and he was stripped of the greatest athletic achievements of his life by a group of bigots.

If Thorpe's medals had not been stripped, he would have had a more illuminating legacy and would have certainly opened the door for a greater number of American Indians to achieve their dreams. The message that was sent at the time was heard loud and clear: American Indians will not be allowed to win, even when they're the best.

Perhaps our country would have had a Lakota Nobel Prize winner, a Sioux World War II general, or a Cherokee congressman had Thorpe gotten the respect he deserved. Instead, white America chose to stain his image and paint him as a "cheater," merely because the man played a few games of minor-league baseball.

Olympic athletes armed with agents and multimillion dollar contracts are now revered. Go figure.
Steve Averett
Charlotte, N.C.

Also receiving votes

  • Skategate II: Canadian pairs and Russian pairs end up sharing gold medals
  • Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Marvin Hagler
  • Brett Hull's skate in the crease as Dallas beats Buffalo in 1999 Stanley Cup finals
  • Tank Black-Florida scandal


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