In 1919, the Chicago White Sox are considered the greatest team in baseball and, in fact, one of the greatest ever assembled to that point, behind their greatest star, Joe Jackson. However, the team’s owner, Charles Comiskey, is a skinflint with little inclination to reward his players for a spectacular season.
When gamblers “Sleepy” Bill Burns and Billy Maharg get wind of the players’ discontent, they offer a select group of Sox—including star knuckleball pitcher Eddie Cicotte, who led the majors with a 29–7 win–loss record and has an earned run average of just 1.82—more money to play badly than they would have earned by winning the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Cicotte’s motivation for being involved was because Comiskey refused him a promised $10,000 should he win 30 games for the season. Cicotte was nearing the milestone until Comiskey ordered team manager Kid Gleason to bench him for 2 weeks (missing 5 starts) to rest the 35-year-old veteran’s arm for the series.
A number of players, including Chick Gandil, Swede Risberg, and Lefty Williams, go along with the scheme. Jackson is depicted as being not bright and not entirely sure what is going on. Buck Weaver, meanwhile, is included with the seven others but insists that he wants nothing to do with the fix.
When the best-of-nine series begins, Cicotte (pitching in Game 1) deliberately hits Reds leadoff hitter Morrie Rath in the back with his second pitch in a prearranged signal to gangster Arnold Rothstein that the fix was on. Cicotte then pitches poorly and gave up 5 runs in four innings—four of them in the 4th, including a triple given up to Reds pitcher Walter “Dutch” Ruether. He is then relieved by Gleason, though the Sox lose the first game, 9–1. Williams also pitched poorly in Game 2, while Gandil, Risberg and Hap Felsch made glaring mistakes on the field. Several of the players become upset, however, when the various gamblers involved fail to pay their promised money up front.
Eight Men Out is a 1988 sports drama film based on Eliot Asinof’s 1963 book Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. It was written and directed by John Sayles. The film is a dramatization of Major League Baseball’s Black Sox scandal, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to intentionally lose the 1919 World Series. Much of the movie was filmed at the old Bush Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Eight Men Out (1988)
Directed by: John Sayles
Starring: John Cusack, Clifton James, Michael Lerner, Christopher Lloyd, John Mahoney, Charlie Sheen, David Strathairn, Michael Rooker, Gordon Clapp
Screenplay by: John Sayles
Production Design by: Nora Chavooshian
Cinematography by: Robert Richardson
Film Editing by: John Tintori
Costume Design by: Cynthia Flynt
Set Decoration by: Lynn Wolverton-Parker
Art Direction by: Dan Bishop
Music by: Mason Daring
Distributed by: Orion Pictures
Release Date: September 2, 1988