The Curse of the Black Sox

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The Curse of the Black Sox, or the Curse of Shoeless Joe was a jinx that was believed to prevent the Chicago White Sox from winning the World Series between 1920 and 2005. The Black Sox Curse was one of longest running purported sports curses.

How did the Curse of the Black Sox Begin?

The Black Sox Curse started with the infamous Black Sox Scandal of 1919 which involved eight members of the White Sox team, most notably Shoeless Joe Jackson throwing the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Charles Comiskey, then owner of the White Sox was known for his pinchpenny tendencies. He was enough of a miser to have 29-game winner Eddy Cicotte benched for the remainder of the season to avoid paying him a 30-win bonus. Whether it was to seek justice or for the cash, the White Sox players dishonored the game greatly and many believe the baseball gods were out to get retribution.

Effects of the Black Sox Curse

In 1920, the White Sox seemed to be headed for another pennant win and World Series appearance. However suspensions for the 1919 Black Sox Scandal late in the 1920 season saw them knocked out of the race. At that time, the Sox held a 95-56 record and had won their last three games in a row. They were just slightly behind the Cleveland Indians on the league table but after losing two of their last three games, they finished the season with a 96-58 record. Had the Sox won their final series against the Browns with the Indians’ record staying intact, there would have been a first American League pennant playoff. With the Sox still missing eight suspended players, they slipped to seventh during the 1921 season and it was not until the mid-1930s that the team managed to finish in the upper half of the league again.

They had to wait until 1959 to win their next pennant and made it to the World Series. The 40-year wait they had endured was the longest any team had gone without appearing in the World Series at the time. To some believers of the curse this was a sign that the curse had been lifted but the Sox failed to capitalize and lost the series to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games. They then went into a long slump that saw them wait till the late 1970s to seriously contend for honors.

The won the American League West division in 1983 and 1993 as well as the American League Central division in 2000. The White Sox had their next league championship win in 2005, the first since 1959. In the ensuing World Series the beat the Houston Astros, to win their first World Series Championship in 88 years. The Black Sox Curse was symmetrically aligned with another curse that afflicted the Boston Red Sox. In 2004 the Red Sox won their first world series since 1917 which made it an 87-year wait, the same as the Black Sox curse had inflicted on the White Sox.

Away from the field, the Black Sox Curse had far reaching implications on the landscape of the game. The scandal caused baseball owners to come together to form a formidable force against player power and tighten the reserve clause. It also saw the introduction of the first commissioner, Kenesaw Landis, a racist who refused to allow the introduction off black players to the league. In 1938, he publicly encouraged pitchers to walk Detroit slugger Hank Greenberg in order to prevent a Jew from breaking Babe Ruth’s homerun record.

Credibility of the Curse of the Black Sox

Although the Black Sox Curse has many believers, most fans see it as total hogwash. Skeptics see it as an exaggeration by the media in order to increase ratings. They instead attribute the team’s misfortunes to mismanagement particularly during the Comiskey era.

The Comiskeys were very miserly spenders and they are blamed in many quarters for the scandal itself. They gave up ownership of the team in 1958 to Bill Veeck, an innovative marketer who albeit lacked resources to support the team. The very next year, the Sox won the National League pennant after a forty year wait. The 2005 World Series Championship came on the back of another ownership change, this time to Jerry Reinsdorf, also the owner of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls.