Pissing Off the Baseball Gods Vol. VIII: This is Why You Don’t Bet on Baseball

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January 23, 2014 by NowhereButPop

by Andrew Doscas

Baseball is an incredibly superstitious sport; from players such as Wade Boggs and Justin Verlander, and instances like a black cat walking across Ron Santo in the one deck circle, it’s a sport that is steeped in superstition as much as it is rooted in tradition.  The reason for such is that much the same way that the course of the NBA is dictated by David Stern, the MLB is governed by the baseball gods.  They are the committee that controls the flow of the game and the outcome of events.  Like the gods of ancient mythology however, they are not infallible and from time to time have been stymied by the actions of a certain player or team.  As such, there comes a price for crossing the gods and their plans for baseball.

Pissing Off the Baseball Gods: is a 30 part anthology wherein I will go through each of the 30 franchises in the MLB and give an example of how they crossed the baseball gods, and give the ensuing penalty that arose from their transgression.  Essentially, a gigantic dose of karma, each team has had to pay for a victory they shouldn’t have had, or having unfavorable players on their team.  Most of the examples provided may seem disassociated and incongruent, but given the superstitious nature of baseball, chances are it’s just the price to pay for pissing off the baseball gods.

What most people don’t know is that the infamous 1919 Chicago White Sox that threw the World Series weren’t nicknamed the “Black Sox” because of their cheating ways, they garnered that nickname because the owner of the team, Charles Comiskey, was a notorious cheapskate who refused to pay for clean socks for his players.  The player’s socks became so disgusting due to all the caked dirt and sweat that their socks actually turned black.

So naturally, the perfect way to stick it to your stingy, prick of a boss is to purposefully lose the World Series, and as a result earn a lifetime ban from professional baseball.  Not so much.  While the Red Sox had to wait 86 years to win another championship, the White Sox had to wait 88 years, and that sentence was brought about by the baseball gods.  Why 88 years?  Because that’s how many games the 1919 White Sox had won, so for every game that they won, the gods sentenced a year onto their punishment, backtracked to 1917, the last time they actually won a championship.

If the gods hate one thin above all others, it’s cheaters.  Look at A-Rod, look at Pete Rose, look at the spitball, anything designed to create an illegal advantage and anyone who uses such advantages have been severely disciplined.  But, what separates Pete Rose and the 1919 White Sox from PED users and spitballers is that they committed the cardinal sin in all of baseball: gambling.  For a game with such a storied history and an innate sense of integrity that makes the NFL look like a drive by, destroying that integrity by gambling on the outcome of its games, especially to purposefully lose is unforgiveable.  The 1919 White Sox broke the biggest rule of baseball, and called its integrity into question, that’s why all the players involved in the scheme were banned for life.  And that’s why the franchise had to wait 88 years to win another World Series.

Not only did the Black Sox throw games, they accepted money from mobsters, gamblers and murderers to do so.  The effect it had on baseball was so enormous that Congress had to get involved.  Having not been around for this, and having been only 3 years old in 1994, I don’t know what was worse, having a team intentionally lose the World Series, or cancelling it because of a player’s strike.  But without a doubt, the Black Sox scandal, and the 1994 baseball strike are numbers one and two on the list of worst things to happen to the MLB.

Baseball, basketball, and football all have crimes that are prevalent and uniquely descriptive of them.  For football it’s rape and murder (Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Hernandez, Ray Lewis), for basketball it’s illegal gun possession and assault (Gilbert Arenas, Latrell Sprewell, Allen Iverson), and for baseball it’s drugs and gambling (Tim Raines, Pete Rose, 1919 Chicago White Sox).  The Black Sox scandal was what gave the MLB its first foray into controversy, and because of all the infamy and the magnitude of the scandal the crime of gambling on games has become the cardinal, most unforgivable sin in the MLB.  That’s why the majority of the starting lineup, including Joe Jackson, have earned a lifetime ban.  Gambling became the cardinal sin because of the Black Sox.  As punishment for their crime, the gods sought to make them wait one year for every game they won that year until they’d win another championship.  We’ve learned that baseball gods are cruel, their sentencing of the Black Sox however showed us just how poetic their sense of justice can be.

Next Week: Minnesota Twins

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