Dark Days of Baseball:
The Black Sox Scandal

The story of how eight players on the Chicago White Sox
took money to lose the 1919 World Series
and were thrown out of baseball.  
An in depth documentary series telling the full story for the first time. 

Watch the Sizzle

Sizzle for six episode docu-series on the Black Sox Scandal.

Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked ballplayers and gamblers, where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball again.

- Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis

The Pitch

For fifty-seven years, the story of the Black Sox Scandal has had but one narrative: the players who threw the 1919 World Series were the victims. The victims of corporate greed and abuse. However, none of that is true. Contemporary research has shown that the players were more likely driven by greed and the belief they would not get caught. Comiskey was not the bad owner he has been portrayed as. Why is the story most know inaccurate?  For fifty seven years the story of the Black Sox Scandal has relied heavily on one source: Eight Men Out by Elliot Asinof.

The myth has been further perpetuated by the movie of the same name. This series will explore the new narrative and exploit the old. Finally, the series will conclude by looking at the real victims of the 1919 World Series: The team that won - the Cincinnati Reds.

We propose to make an in depth six episode documentary series about the Black Sox Scandal. Starting with the culture that led the players to throw the series, to the infamous 1919 season to the trial, to when the players were banned and finishing up with what they did after it all.

The story will follow Eddie Cicotte and Chick Gandil as they plot to throw the World Series. Although these two men were the initiators of the fix, once caught both men took different paths. An analysis will be done of which games were thrown. We will explore the tangled web of which gamblers agreed to pay and which players received if any of the money they were promised.

The Cincinnati Reds will be shown to be a worthy opponent even as some of their players were also approached to fix games. 

We will interview leading experts in the field, including several who have written books on the subject and are members of Society of American Baseball Research (SABR). We hope of have a famous actor record voice over throughout the series, such as Jon Hamm, Billy Bob Thornton or John Cusack. Although this is a historical documentary series we hope to have debate between our interviewees. This is a search for the truth and what really happened, but we may never know the ultimate truth.  

Other Characters

  • All the Black Sox
    Eddie Cicotte, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver, Lefty Williams, Fred McMullin, Oscar Happy Felsch, and Swede Risberg. 
  • Cincinnati Reds
    Edd Roush, Dutch Ruether, Hod Eller, and Slim Sallee.
  • MLB Management
    Charles Comiskey, Ban Johnson, Kid Gleason
  • Clean White Sox                                
    Dickie Kerr, Ray Schalk, Eddie Collins
  • Gamblers
    Bill Burns, Bill Maharg, Arnold Rothstein, Abe Atell, Carl Zork, Ben Franklin, Hal Chase


  • Black Sox Experts
    Jacob Pomrenke - Chair of SABR Black Sox Committee
    Bill Lamb - Author, Black Sox in the Courtroom
    Dr. Susan Dellinger - Author Redlegs and Black Sox
    Mitchell Conrad Stinson
    Renee James
    Mike Nola
  • Potential Interviewees
    Bob Costas, John Thorn, Peter Gammons, Pete Rose, Jeff Proops, Tim Kurkjian, Sean Casey, John Sayles, Ken Burns, Rob Neyer, gambling experts
  • Potential Voice Over Artists                                              Jon Hamm, George Clooney, Kevin Costner, Dan Patrick, Charlie Sheen, John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Billy Crystal, Robert Redford, George Went, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Dumel, Fred Savage
  • Ex-Players                                
    Sean Casey, John Smoltz, someone who played in 80s, a current MLB player, a Pete Rose teammate.  Players in other sports scandals (Tennis, Soccer)

The Black Sox Documentary Series

Story Synopsis   

The Black Sox Scandal

In 1917 the Chicago White Sox won their first World Series.  In 1919 they had reached the championship again, but this time they saw an opportunity to make some money.  Contrary to popular belief, starting pitcher Eddie Cicotte and first baseman Chick Gandil approached gamblers about throwing the series for money.

The price would have to be high and after eight players were recruited it was agreed by one gambler that the series would be thrown for $100,000.  Deals were made with several sets of gamblers and not all the players were clear on how much or when they would be paid.  Some players got some of the money, but others had to wait.  Some players agreed to not play their best and others simply went along, took the cash, but still played to win.  

Cicotte pitched poorly in Game 1 and the Sox lost.  Lefty Williams, usually a control pitcher, was wild in Game 2 and the Sox went down 0-2 in the Best of 9 series to the Cincinnati Reds. The scandal was an open secret.  "Everyone knew it was going on."  Some of the clean Sox claimed they didn't know anything about it.  Reds Hall of Famer Edd Roush was told of the fix after Game 2.  However, the players weren't being paid.  Now things start to get murky.  The Sox won Game 3 by a hit from none other than one of initiators, Gandil.  The fix was off.  It is unclear which games were thrown after Games 1 & 2 and which players were still on the take.

When the series was 4-3 Reds (In 1919 The World Series was a best of 9 game series), Lefty Williams was allegedly threatened to lose Game 8.  He pitched poorly, sealing the win for the Reds.  Eliot Asinof, author of Eight Men Out, claims he made this threat up.  Some of the Reds were even bribed for some of the middle games as well.  

Rumors circulated in the off season.  Owner of the White Sox, Charles Comiskey did an internal investigation which found the fix was true, but instead of losing most of his best players, he paid them more than the previous year to keep quiet.  

In 1920, The White Sox were again in the playoff hunt for the pennant when in the last month, the scandal broke to the public.  Cicotte and Joe Jackson confessed to Comiskey and a grand jury in Chicago that they had been part of the fix.  All eight players were suspended.  Buck Weaver who was part of the eight and knew of the fix, says he never took any money and protested the suspension.  

At the trial, the jurors were White Sox fans and after the eight were acquitted, they all went out to lunch together.  Newly appointed Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis would have none of it.  He suspended the eight players from baseball for life.  To this day, none have ever been reinstated nor admitted into the Hall of Fame.  

Where did that leave the Reds?  The team they had never returned to the World Series.  Even now it is said that the White Sox were the better team and they would've won had they played fully.  

Joe Jackson, who finished with a career .356 batting avg, and once hit .408, is not in the Hall of Fame.  Many believe he should be even though he took money as part of the fix and admitted it in court.  He played to win and was the White Sox best batter during the series.  Should an admitted fixer be allowed in the Hall of Fame?  Is what he did as bad as the steroid era or what Pete Rose did?

Buck Weaver knew of the fix, but never agreed to take money or participate.  When Comiskey suspended the eight players, Weaver protested he had nothing to do with it.  Comiskey assured him the suspension would be lifted once the trial was over.  Weaver even requested a separate trial from the other seven players.  Once the eight were acquitted, Landis banned them all from baseball.  Weaver tried many times to be reinstated, but was denied. 

Part of the sadness of the Black Sox Scandal is that good players like Weaver and Jackson had their careers cut short.  Jackson could've been a Hall of Famer.  However, Landis spoke about them when he said that any player who knows about a fix and doesn't do anything about it will also be banned.  They were the sacrificial lambs that really cleaned up baseball.  Did their crime deserve such a harsh penalty? One thing is for sure, it has been effective in cleaning up the sport.  

It is interesting to note that MLB is currently partnering with companies in Las Vegas to allow gambling on games.  Will this just be a money generator or will this corrupt some players and create a new Black Sox Scandal?  We want to interview sports gambling experts that cover sports other than baseball.

The Series

The docu-series will consist of six one hour episodes.  

EPISODE 1 - The Myths & Motivation

Players on the White Sox took money to intentionally lose the World Series in 1919.  When the fix was discovered and investigated, eight White Sox were permanently banned from baseball, thus becoming the Black Sox. None of the players have been reinstated to this day.

The main reason typically give as to why they did it is they were underpaid by their owner Comiskey.  When gamblers approached them, they took the money.  The first 2 ideas to knock down in episode one are the players were under paid and that the players initiated with the gamblers, not the other way around.  In telling the story, we will introduce the eight players.  Where do we get the commonly known version of the story from?  Eliot Asinof and Ken Burns.  We know more today because we have access to many more newspaper and historical documents from across the country.  Happy Felsch was the only player to speak with Asinof while writing the book.  

EPISODE 2 - Gambling Culture

How common was gambling in sports in 1919 and before?  The Pacific Coast minor league had a similar scandal, boxing has had it's share of fixing, and the 1918 series might've been thrown.  1917 White Sox sent “reward money” to the Detroit Tigers for losing down the stretch.
Other players were later banned.  Hal Chase
Factions on the team: the have's and the have not's.  
1919 was a shortened season due to World War I and 1918 Flu.  The players were paid less.
What did it mean to play in the big leagues then?  Some players wanted to be traded to the west coast minor leagues to be closer to family.
White Sox lacked pitching depth so easier to fix with just getting Williams and Cicotte.
What happened in Games 1-2?
The first pitch was the signal, supposed to hit the batter, but was a ball.  The second pitch hit the batter.  Why didn't he hit him the first time?  Second thoughts, bad aim?  What if the first batter gets a hit, would the fix have been off?
Different gamblers made deals with sox.  They didn’t know where money was coming from.

EPISODE 3 - Double Crossed

The gamblers don't pay what was agreed.  Some players say the fix is off.  
Which gamblers promised what and who go what money?
Gandil wins Game 3.  
Which games were thrown in series?
Was Lefty Williams threatened?
How did players play during the series?  Which plays did they make to lose?
Who knew that wasn’t one of the eight?  Somehow other White sox players claimed they didn't know about the fix.  
Reds were approached to throw games.

EPISODE 4 - Redlegs

Tell the story of the Reds winning from a Reds fan perspective, as if they knew nothing of the scandal. Celebrating a normal World Series win.  
Reds were robbed of a World Series.  
Edd Roush, Hall of Famer, the Reds best player.
Computer simulation 1919 Reds vs White Sox.
What happened in 1920?  White Sox played and were in 1st until last month of season when scandal broke and they were suspended.
Gandil quit before 1920 season and was rumored to have won $35,000 on scandal, an amount ten times his salary.  
Reds players may have taken money.
If it bleeds it leads.

EPISODE 5 - Crime & Punishment

The year after. Scandal breaks.
How did it all come out? Reporter Hugh Fullerton.
When did Comiskey know and what did he do about it? Jackson tried to tell Comiskey but too busy to talk to Jackson.
Players suspended.  
Investigation by Comiskey
Comiskey & Ban Johnson rivalry
Re-signing players. 
The League's cover up
The trial. Conspiracy to defraud the public.
Testimony lost, but not really.
Jackson and Cicotte admitted to Comiskey and to a grand jury they took money.
"Say it ain't so Joe."
Maharg and Burns, the gamblers, were key witnesses too. Testimony is available to us today.
Jurors asked for autographs after and then went out to lunch with players.
Buck Weaver wanted his own trial and didn’t want to be suspended either.
8 players acquitted.

EPISODE 6 - Banned

Kenesaw Mountain Landis becomes commissioner.
8 players banned from baseball.
Was it fair?
Did it work?
What would be the punishment today?
Jackson separate trial
Buck Weaver appeals.
Should some make it into the Hall of Fame? Are there any Black Sox items in the HoF?
We show where they all went after. Trying to get reinstated.
Outlaw baseball out West.
Gambling in today's game. Could this type of thing happen again? Examples in other sports Tennis, Soccer, Boston College Basketball.


Justin Seibel is a writer/director and editor working in Hollywood today.  He has edited documentaries, reality, talk and scripted shows.  Justin received his MFA in Film Production from Chapman University in 2008.  

Michael Puro is a director, producer and editor in New York who has made and overseen over 300 feature length Names, Not Numbers documentaries telling the stories of Holocaust survivors.  His most recent documentary aired around the country on ABC
and won the Wilbur Award.


Charles Harrison is a producer working in Hollywood. He is currently developing a docu-series on music producers for Netflix.



Ken Burns

The gold standard for historical documentaries and part of his series Baseball covers the Black Sox scandal.



History Channel 6 part docu-series. An example of a historical docu-series. 


Alex Gibney

One of the best documentary filmmakers working today. 


30 for 30

The best sports documentaries by ESPN. Closer looks at unique stories in sports history.  


Disagreeing Experts

This story has such a tangled web of truth and all of the participants have passed away in the 100 years since the scandal occurred.  We will show this disagreement to give the audience a sense of the web of truth, lies and unknowable grey areas.  


OJ: Made in America

Historical sports docu-series. A true crime story too.


  1. Purchasing Archival Photos - This is a historical documentary about events from 100 years ago.  We will need to use old photographs to tell the story.  
  2. Hiring staff to shoot and post production - Editors, Assistant Editors, Post Production Supervisor and archival producers.  
  3. Travel to locations - Filming in Chicago and Cincinnati would be ideal.  Cooperstown would be a great visit.  Possibly New York or LA if we need to interview a bigger celebrity. 
  4. Research - Tons of pre-production research and writing of the series prior to filming.  


Chicago White Sox Stadium
333 W 35th
Chicago, IL 60616


Email: postseibel@gmail.com

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