New book shows Reds' side of Black Sox series
Herald Staff Writer
Susan Dellinger smacked her hand on the top of the dining room table inside her spacious Tampa condo. Once. Twice. Three times.
"We earned that World Series," Dellinger said, during the first smack, her voice rising with each word.
"We had the better team."
"We had better pitching."
It was as if Dellinger channeled her late grandfather.
As if Edd Roush was talking to us through her.
Nothing like that, really. It's just that Dellinger spent so many summers at her grandfather's house, listened to so many interviews between Roush and reporters, conversations between Roush and former ballplayers, and once sat across a table from the Hall of Famer and asked pointed questions herself that she knew her grandfather's reply ver- batim.
History shows members of the Chicago White Sox conspired to throw the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.
Roush was the Reds center fielder. He maintained, until his death in March 1988 from a heart attack suffered at McKechnie Field, that gamblers played a smaller role in the outcome of the series than people believe.
Dellinger heard Roush's view so often she can recite it in her grandfather's voice. With his inflections. With his anger.
"We earned that World Series," Roush told anyone who would listen. "We had the better team. We had the better pitching."
A number of books have been written about the 1919 World Series, almost all focusing on the Black Sox side of the story.
Her book, "Red Legs and Black Sox," hit the bookstores last month. It's the first account of the series from the Reds side. The subhead is the tip off: "Edd Roush and the Untold Story of the 1919 World Series."
"Susan digs into how the gamblers were trying to get to the Reds," said Gene Carney, a member of the Society of American Baseball Research who specializes in the 1919 World Series.
His book, "Burying the Black Sox," a look at the gambling cover-up and how it was uncovered, came out last month. The two shared research into a subject that, nearly 90 years later, still fascinates baseball fans.
"We know a couple of games were tampered with," Carney said. "But did they throw the whole thing? I don't know."
Carney's interest in the Black Sox developed over years.
Dellinger's developed during the time she spent at Roush's home in Oakland Park, Ind., and later Bradenton.
"Edd Roush happened to be the most vocal in terms of talking about it, and the most famous, too," Carney said.
So, it was almost predestined Dellinger would tell her grandfather's side of the story.
Almost, because that wasn't her intention.
Originally, Dellinger wanted to write her grandmother's memoir, tell the story of Essie Mae Roush and the life of a ballplayer's wife in the early part of the 20th century. She began writing in 1972 while a graduate student at the University of Colorado, but publishers weren't interested.
She tried again in 1982 and received the same response.
Same thing in 1992.
In 2004, Dellinger joined SABR. That's where she met Carney and a number of other SABR members. She introduced herself as the granddaughter of the late Hall of Famer, and they'd ask questions like, "Didn't Greasy Neale play right field on the 1919 team?"
"And I'd say, 'Oh Greasy.' Then I'd start telling them stories about Greasy," Dellinger said.
To the SABR members, Roush and Neale were names they'd read about in books and newspaper clippings.
To Dellinger, they were her grandfather, the man she still lovingly refers to as "Daddaw," and his friends, the men she knew as a young girl.
"I knew what they looked like, what they talked like," Dellinger said. "They used to visit my grandfather's house and sit out back and smoke cigars."
Dellinger was aware her grandfather played baseball but never knew to what extent until 1962.
"We didn't know how famous Daddaw was until he went into the Baseball Hall of Fame," Dellinger said.
She also didn't realize how important the 1919 World Series was to the history of the game and to her grandfather.
"The most important part of his life was the Black Sox scandal," Dellinger said.
The SABR members convinced Dellinger to make that the focus of the book. Soon, she had a publisher.
And a lot more work.
"I'm not a baseball historian," Dellinger said. "I'm a granddaughter."
So reread her grandmother's scrapbook - "Newspaper articles and the occasional recipe," Dellinger said - and visited the library at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Her husband, Bob, once spent six straight hours at the library's copier machine.
Dellinger began searching archives of the Chicago and Cincinnati papers, looking for everything related to the Black Sox and her grandfather and made a few stunning finds.
She was able to uncover the identity of Jimmy Widmeyer, who up until now was a central, but anonymous figure in the scandal. By staying up half the night studying a photo taken of the Reds standing in front of their dugout before Game 1 in Cincinnati, Dellinger was able to prove accused gambler Abe Attell was actually at the game. That's Attell in the picture, almost standing between two players.
The events of the series remain somewhat fuzzy today, and the debate continues on whether the eight White Sox banned by commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis deserved such a fate.
What is known is the Reds won the series, tainted a year later by the news of the fix, and several Reds were approached by gamblers, Roush included.
"He refused to take the bribes. I heard him tell that story more than once," said Bill Marshall, who grew up in Oakland Park and played for an American Legion team coached by Roush. "I heard him say they would beat the White Sox. They had a better team."
A box arrived at Dellinger's condo in February. Inside were a dozen copies of her work: "Red Legs and Black Sox." A picture of a young Daddaw in his Reds uniform is on the cover.
"I just sat at the kitchen table and cried," Dellinger said. "I said, 'Oh Daddaw, I hope you like this.' "