Who is Frank G. Menke?
Frank G. Menke is one of the best known baseball authorities in the country. He has been associated with the game for more than 15 years, has studied the men who control its affairs, and known the curves of the men who play it. In this series Menke is seeking to write the truth. He has no ax to grind, no personal animus to get out of his system, but simply believes the public should know the facts and has set them down under his name. Menke, in this, the first article, and in subsequent articles, will give readers of The Sporting News any hitherto unpublished facts about the late gambling episode which should prove beneficial, not detrimental, to the game. With his personal knowledge of the case and the facts he has gleaned from the Milwaukee suit, he has woven together an unusually interesting series of stories.
The Sporting News April 10, 1924
EDITOR’S NOTE—This is the first of a series of four articles by Frank G. Menke which emphasize the amazing admission by Charles A. Comiskey that he knew the World’s Series games of 1919 were crooked two days they had been played. Other chapters of the morbid Series also were written by Comiskey in his testimony in the Jackson case and will be reviewed in these articles.
What Menke Charges: Exactly one day after the World’s Series of 1919 had been played, Joe Jackson walked into the White Sox office, displayed $5,000 in cash, and informed Harry Grabiner, the club secretary, that he had been given that sum by fellow players who had “thrown” the Series to the Reds.
Two days after the Series had been played, Charles A. Comiskey, president of the White Sox, knew the identity of the seven White Sox players who had been tools of the crooked gamblers.
Despite the knowledge which Grabiner had, and the knowledge which Comiskey had, neither man made a determined effort to ferret out the real secret of the World’s Series crookedness of 1919—and both of the officials permitted all of the crooked men to resume play in the White Sox line-up of 1920.
The startling facts above and many others, were established on the witness stand in Milwaukee in February, 1924, when Joe Jackson’s trial against the White Sox for $17,500 salary bonus and interest, was waged to successful conclusion by “Shoeless Joe.” For some strange reason, the real findings which that trial produced, and the amazing admissions made by Comiskey and by Grabiner were either buried in the general news stories—or, in some way, deleted. They never found their way into the public print.
The testimony which that trial produced writes an entirely new chapter concerning the crooked Series—and its bewildering aftermath. It’s a story, frankly admitted by Comiskey, whereby he knew that some of his players had been crooked, but rather than wreck the ball club, he permitted them to play the following season.
Ben Johnson Got Facts.
Only when Ban Johnson became suspicious and started an investigation did Comiskey make a bluff investigation of his own. And, to complete the bluff that he knew nothing about the truth to the reports that the Series was crooked, Comiskey boldly announced to the world:
- I will give $10,000 to any man who can prove to me that any of my players were crooked.
Comiskey made that declaration long after he knew, according to his own sworn testimony, that the Series had been crooked; and long after he knew exactly which men had been crooked, and long after he knew practically all of the details of the “sell out.”
Another admission by Comiskey, among the dozen that he made, was this:
- Although he knew two days after the series was concluded the identities of the men who had played dishonest baseball, neither he nor any of his representatives attempted to get a signed statement from the players; that in full knowledge of their ??? he permitted them to play in 1920, and that he started an “investigation” merely as a subterfuge to fall back upon in case Ban Johnson made a successful investigation.
Promised to Prove Point.
The story as it unfolded itself at the trial, under the grilling questioning and cross examination by Ray J. Cannon of Milwaukee, attorney for Jackson, is one of the most remarkable of the many the concern the morbid Series.
More than a year ago when Jackson went to Cannon and told him his story, Cannon made the prediction that Jackson’s case was so strong that Jackson could not lose in a jury trial. When some of the White Sox officials scoffed at the Cannon statement the Milwaukee attorney predicted that if the case ever went to trial it would expose the most revolting feature of the entire situation:
- I will prove that Comiskey knew about the crookedness of his player within at least a week after the Series was over.
And he proved that, and many other weird and strangest things in the suit which eventually resulted in the jury awarding Jackson a verdict for $18,213,40, which was full judgement as follows:
- Two years—1921 and 1922, salary at $8,000 per annum, $1,500 bonus.
Interest on both.
The second chapter detailing the facts will appear in next week’s issue of The Sporting News.
The Sporting News April 17, 1924
EDITOR’S NOTE—This is the second of a series of four articles by Frank G. Menke which emphasize the amazing admission by Charles A. Comiskey that he knew the World’s Series games of 1919 were crooked two days they had been played. Other chapters of the morbid Series also were written by Comiskey in his testimony in the Jackson case and will be reviewed in these articles.
It may be recalled that in December, 1919, there came whisperings that the World Series of 1919 had been thrown by the White Sox to the Cincinnati Reds. Eventually they were silenced, only to develop into a rumble of sound late in the summer of 1920. Then Ban Johnson started an investigation, hiring a force of detectives to learn the truth or the falsity of the stories.
Charles A. Comiskey, owner of the White Sox, assuming the air of a man shocked and stunned by the rumors, announced he earlier hired detectives to do some investigating,—and they had not uncovered any crookedness. The reason was due, largely to the fact that Comiskey, who knew the truth, kept it covered. He knew that when it became known his ball club would be wrecked by indefinite suspensions by Ban Johnson.
Comiskey knew that the Series was crooked—nearly a year before it became generally known. He admitted that on the witness stand in Milwaukee last February. He also admitted that none of his detectives had done a single bit of “investigating” beyond interviewing “Chick” Gandil and making a trip to the Pacific Coast and back.
Joe Jackson at the 1924 trial
Johnson Acts Immediately.
The Johnson investigators, however, uncovered the real truth, They established that the Series had been crooked, they learned who the players were and transmitted this knowledge to Johnson. He immediately took it to the office of the district attorney, asked for indictments—and secured them.
Immediately after Johnson learned who the men were who had been dishonest, he suspended them from the game. Then he banned them forever from baseball. That was in October, 1920.
In 1922, to the surprise of the baseball world, Joe Jackson sued Comiskey for two years salary—and Ray J. Cannon, of Milwaukee, announced that Jackson had an unloseable case agains the the White Sox. Cannon declared he would prove that Comiskey’s authorized agent, signed Jackson to a three-year contract after Comiskey had knowledge that Jackson received money from the gamblers who “bought” the Series.
Comiskey, under the cross examination of Cannon, did admit on the witness stand, that Jackson had been signed to a three-year contract after he (Comiskey) knew that Jackson had participated in the World’s Series spoils of 1919.
Jackson, it may be recalled, was always the mystery player of that Series. He out-battled every man on either team; he scored almost as many runs as the leading run scorer; he accepted 17 fielding chances without an error and played brilliant, remarkable baseball throughout.
Ignorant of Series Fixing.
It was, therefore, difficult for the public to believe that Jackson, in view of his remarkable record of play, could have played crooked baseball. Jackson’s story, told on the witness stand, and which was not disproved, explains it all. It went this way—
- Jackson did not know the Series was crooked until after it was over. When the final game had been played, “Lefty” Williams, one of the White Sox pitchers, went to him and handed him $5,000 in cash.
Jackson asked what it was all about.
Williams, according to Jackson’s according to Jackson’w story, told him that he (Williams) and some of the other players had “sold” the Series to a gambling clique that, Jackson would play crooked ball, too =, and that the $5,000 represented the money the gamblers wanted given to Jackson.
“I told Williams he had a hell of a lot of nerve using my name in the affair,” Jackson testified. “Also I told him that I was going to tell Comiskey just what had happened.”
Jackson testified that the following day, with the $5,000 in his pockets, he went to the White Sox office and asked to Grabiner to see Comiskey. Grabiner told Jackson that “the old man isn’t feeling well.” Then according to Jackson, he displayed the $5,000 to Grabiner, told him how he had come by it and asked him what to do.
Told to Keep Money.
“Grabiner told me to take the money and go to my home in Savannah” testified Jackson. “He told me if anything further was to be done, he or Comiskey would write me about it. A short time later I got a letter from Comiskey in which he said he might want me to go to Chicago if an investigation was started about the Series. I wrote Comiskey, or, rather, my wife wrote in my name, that I would be glad to there any time. I never heard from Comiskey after that about the Series or the money until after we were indicted.
“I did not see or hear from Gradiner or Comiskey again until along in February, 1920,” testified Jackson. “My contract with the club had expired, with the end of 1919. In February, 1920, Grabiner came to Savannah to sign me to a new contract. He offered me $8,000 a year for three years. My old contract called for $6,000.
“While we were discussing the new contract, I brought up the talk again about the throwing of the Series and reminded Grabiner that I had taken the $5,000 to Savannah as he told me. I asked him what to do about it. Grabiner told me that the only sensible thing to do was to keep the money as Cicotte, Williams and the others had wrongfully used my name. While we were talking about the matter, Grabiner told me that he knew who was guilty in throwing the Series, knew all the men and how much each man got for being crooked.
“I can not read or write and I didn’t know what was in the new contract. Grabiner told me that it was for $8,000 per season, which was true. He also told me the document contain a ten day release clause, but was an iron-clad contract. That was not so, for the contract contained a ten day clause. But I didn’t know that and signed up.”
When the contract expired in 1922, Jackson, although he had not played for two years, due to suspension, retained Cannon to file suit for him for the salary.
The third chapter detailing the facts produced at the trial, together with Jackson’s defense, will appear in next week’s issue of The Sporting News.
The Sporting News April 24, 1924
EDITOR’S NOTE—This is the last of a series of articles by Frank G. Menke which embrace the amazing admission by Charles A. Comiskey that he knew the World’s Series games of 1919 was crooked two days after it had been played and many other admissions by Comiskey for testimony which write a new chapter in the morbid play of 1919 for the world’s baseball championship
In February, 1924, when Joe Jackson’s suit against the White Sox for two years’ back salary—$16,000, and an additional $1,500 for bonus—came before the jury in Milwaukee, Ray J. Cannon, his attorney, opened with this declaration:—
- We admit that Jackson received $5,000 from “Lefty” Williams and that the money was reported to have come from gamblers who had paid to have the Series “thrown” to the Reds.
We deny that Jackson knew the Series was crooked until after it was played—and his record of faultless play will show that.
We maintain that the contract Jackson made for three years’ play at $8,000 a year is absolutely valid.
We will prove that although Comiskey knew Jackson received $5,000 crooked money at the time he signed him to a contract which waives all of Comiskey’s defense against payment of the salary for 1921 and 1922 to Jackson.
When Comiskey went on the witness stand, these admissions were drawn from him by Cannon:
- That two days after the Series he knew the names of the seven active White Sox who were involved in the throwing of the Series.
That he had called Chick Grandil to his office and accused him of being the ring leader in the deal with the gamblers.
That although he knew who the crooked players were he did not make any effort to obtain a written statement from them—in October, 1919—or later.
That he permitted all the known crooked players to remain in the 1920 line-up.
“Might Want Jackson.”
That he did write Jackson a letter after the Series of 1919, sending him to Savannah, Ga. that the letter stated that Jackson’s name was being mentioned in connection with the throwing of the Series; that he might want Jackson to come to Chicago, but never afterwards, verbally or in writing, did he mention the incident again to Jackson.
That soon after the Series was over he noticed a newspaper article by a Chicago writer stating that seven White Sox would be missing from the line-up in 1920; that shortly after the reporter called on him in his office, but that he never asked the reporter who were the players referred to.
That he hired detectives to “run down” the crookedness—but that the hiring of the men was merely a trick by which he could later show the public in case Ban Johnson began an investigation, that he (Comiskey) too, had tried to find out the truth.
That notwithstanding the fact that in October 1919 he accused Gandil of being the ring leader in the crookedness, and that he knew Gandil was one of the crooked players of the Series of 1919, he did send Grandil a contract for the playing of 1920, that he did sign him and did permit Gandil to play.
That in December, 1919 when a baseball reporter wrote a story saying that any one desirous of getting information as to the crookedness of the World’s Series of 1919, could get it from Abe Attell, Bill Burns, and Maharg, that he (Comiskey) did not attempt personally to get such information from them, nor did he he instruct his detectives to do so.
Joe Jackson at the 1924 trial with Happy Felsch
Another Point at Variance.
Comiskey, in giving deposition testimony in Chicago prior to the Milwaukee trial, declared that he had paid the detective agency $12,000 to $15,000. At the Milwaukee trial he fixed the amount at $9,000. The head of the detective agency testified at the Milwaukee trial that both statements were untrue; that the exact amount was $3,800.
Grabiner, on the witness stand, admitted knowing that Jackson’s name was strongly mentioned in connection with the throwing of the Series of 1919, but admitted that despite the fact he went to Savannah and signed up Jackson to a three-year contract at $8,000 per year for the seasons of 1920, 1921 and 1922.
Grabiner denied that he had discussed the Series with Jackson while in Savannah.
The jury brought in a verdict of $16,711.40 for Jackson and then added $1,500 to that amount, making a total verdict of $18,211.40. The extra $1,500 concerned a bonus which Comiskey had promised Jackson for his 1917 work.
In deposition testimony taken in Chicago quite some time before the Milwaukee trial of 1924, Comiskey in 1918 admitted that he knew about the $1,500 bonus that had been promised to Jackson. When testifying in Milwaukee, Comiskey said he never knew anything about this bonus until Jackson started his suit against him in 1922. The jury apparently decided to take Comiskey’s original statement as definite fact, declared in Jackson’s favor for the total sum of $18,211.40
AFTERMATH: Jackson said he got the money after the World Series as opposed to after Game 4, as he’d told the 1920 grand jury. Jackson said in 1924, but not 1920, that he’d used the money to pay his sister’s hospital bills.
Jackson’s story changed enough that after the 1924 jury ruled 11-1 in Jackson’s favor, the presiding Judge John J. Gregory set aside the verdict, reduced Jackson’s judgment to $1, and jailed him for a night for perjury.