White Sox, meet your ghosts
As the Chicago White Sox hit Cincinnati, some unforgettable history is recalled
BY JOHN ERARDI | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Attention, Chicago White Sox players: When you walk or ride the five blocks to the ballpark today from your hotel at Fifth and Vine, don't peek into any back alleys.
The ghosts of Eddie Cicotte, Lefty Williams, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and the other White Sox players involved in throwing the 1919 World Series might be staring back at you.
If ever a city and a time could haunt a dead ballplayer's afterlife, it would be 1919 Cincinnati.
Today marks the third time the White Sox have visited Cincinnati since 1919. But some recent developments - including a new book about that Series written by Reds star Edd Roush's granddaughter, and a 1919 exhibit at the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum - make this weekend's visit by the progeny of Shoeless Joe particularly poignant.
And it got us to thinking ...
How full of 1919 spirits might Cincinnati be?
Full enough that you, the 2005 world champions, might feel as though you're walking through a Stephen King novel as you pass between the Westin Hotel and Great American Ball Park.
There used to be an old hotel on the spot where you are staying.
One of the greatest pitchers of all time boarded here when he was the Reds' manager.
It says so in the 1917 city directory: "Mathewson Christy playing mgr Cincinnati Baseball Club rm 24, 7 E. 5th bds Hotel Alms."
It is Mathewson who blew the whistle on two of his Reds players, Hal Chase and Lee Magee, for allegedly throwing games in 1918. Baseball swept it under the rug for two years.
Experts say that had Baseball listened to Mathewson and suspended Chase and Magee, there might never have been a Black Sox scandal.
Take that, visitors from ChiTown.
It is all right here.
The street grid of Cincinnati from 1919 hardly has changed.
MONEY UNDER THE PILLOW
Are you walking uptown after the game tonight to get a steak, Chisox players?
May we suggest a route?
Turn left out of the players' gate, then make a quick left onto Second Street, go three blocks to Vine, turn right and go two blocks north to Fourth Street.
On the southeast corner of Fourth and Vine is the National City Building.
Used to be the Sinton Hotel.
The old site of the Sinton is within full view of the lights of Great American Ball Park.
The Sinton is where, in effect, eight ballplayers' careers came to an end. The plot to throw the World Series already had been hatched by the time the 1919 White Sox arrived on the morning of Monday, Sept. 30, the day before the opening of the World Series.
But it was underneath a pillow in Room 710 that the road to hell officially began.
That's where White Sox Game 1 starter Eddie Cicotte found the $10,000 he'd been promised by gamblers.
He spent part of the night sewing the $1,000 bills into his suit jacket.
In the lobby of the Sinton, and all across town, there were men waving $1,000 bills in the lobbies. Many were trying to stir up bets on the White Sox. Most of the well-connected gamblers knew the fix was in.
There were meetings among the gamblers and White Sox players at speakeasies (Prohibition was on), meetings in their rooms, meetings in back alleys and confrontations of players by managers.
There were drunken fans stumbling through the lobby of the Sinton after Game 2, repeating a song they'd heard famous baseball writer Ring Lardner sing in a Bellevue roadhouse that night. The song was sung to the same melody as "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles."
The new words: "I'm forever blowing ballgames."
Lardner sang it again to the White Sox players on the train from Cincinnati to Chicago for Game 3.
ON TO THE METROPOLE
Keep traveling north up Vine, past your hotel at Fifth Street, Chisox.
Look to the right, one block east, and see, on the southeast corner of Fifth and Walnut, a place called "Fountain News."
This is where Jimmy Widmeyer's newsstand used to be.
The 38-year-old fight promoter and hustler was a conduit of inside information for Cincinnati's gamblers about the World Series fix. His room at the Sinton was 712, right next to Cicotte's. Widmeyer eavesdropped on the Black Sox.
Continue north on Vine, then turn right on Sixth, and walk past Rock Bottom Brewery.
This is where Shevlin's Oyster and Chop House used to be, where the fight and horse crowd loved to hang out with owner Jimmy Shevlin, the gregarious son of Irish immigrants. Abe Attell, the former world featherweight champion connected to Arnold Rothstein from New York City - both principals in the fix - hung out here.
Now turn left up Walnut.
You are only a block from your $48.95 bone-in filet mignon at Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse, Chisox.
You will see the bright lights of the Aronoff Center for the Arts.
Look to the left.
It is 1919 now.
You are out front of the Metropole Apartments, formerly the Hotel Metropole.
The façade looks exactly as it did in photographs from 1919.
Sure, the inside of the Metropole has gotten a bit long in the tooth since 1919.
But this was one swank joint in 1919. Says so in that same directory where we found Christy Mathewson's name.
"Finest Turkish bath in the state. Rates $1 to $2.50. 'A Home for the Man Away from Home.' 609 to 617 Walnut. Phone Canal 5100."
But the Turkish bath isn't where you're going.
'THE FIX' GETS OUT
Out front of the Metropole is where then-Reds star Edd Roush first learned - on the evening of Oct. 2, 1919, just after the Reds had beaten the White Sox 4-2 for a second straight World Series victory - about "The Fix."
Listen to Roush's words:
"And that night we all hung out at the Metropole Hotel ... We'd congregate there and then we'd get cabs to go down to the station and this fella came over to me and says, 'Roush, come over here. I want to tell you something.' "
This friend was Widmeyer, who had walked the block up to the Metropole, from his newsstand at Fifth and Walnut.
" 'Did you hear about the squabble the White Sox got into last night (at the Sinton Hotel)?' " Widmeyer asked Roush.
"I said, 'No. What kind of squabble?' He said, 'Well, the gamblers got to them and they're throwing the Series to the Cincinnati ball club.'
"He said, 'They were supposed to get so much money last night after the ballgame and the gamblers didn't give it to them and they had a meeting up in (Eddie) Cicotte's room.' And he said (White Sox manager) Kid Gleason found out about it.
"He said he (Gleason) went up there and they had a helluva go-around and he said they didn't get their money so they decided to go out and win if they could."
BANNED FOR LIFE
Roush told author Lawrence Ritter this story in the mid-1960s during an interview for Ritter's book, "The Glory of Their Times."
The audio tape of that interview is part of the exhibit at the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum.
Roush died in 1988 at age 94. He went to his grave swearing that if the White Sox threw any games to the Reds, that it was only Game 1. The evidence says otherwise.
There is no doubt that even if the other White Sox were trying to win it, White Sox starter Lefty Williams intentionally lost Game 8 (the final game).
Before the game, Williams was threatened with his and his wife's lives by a thug sent by the gamblers. He gave up five first- inning runs and the Reds went on to win 10-5.
Williams also probably threw Game 2, and there isn't much doubt that Cicotte threw Game 1.
They and six other Black Sox were banned from Baseball for life. Among the banned players were left fielder "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and third baseman Buck Weaver.
The man who banned them was commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who attended the 1919 World Series in Cincinnati. He was a federal judge at the time. He was born and raised in Millville, 30 miles north of downtown Cincinnati.
There is no evidence Weaver ever did anything but his best. And current wisdom (see "Burying the Black Sox") is that Jackson might have done the same.
But, yes, Shoeless Joe did know about the fix. He didn't turn in his teammates.
A LINGERING SONG
Pull back from downtown and look at the bigger picture.
Susan Dellinger can see it. Roush's granddaughter has written a new book about the 1919 Series called "Red Legs and Black Sox."
In a chapter edited out of the book, Dellinger describes Roush's route to the park from his home at 2945 Gilbert Ave.
"Soon it was time for Edd to leave for the ballpark. Redland Field was about 3 miles due west from the Gilbert apartments," Dellinger writes. "He'd catch the trolley that went straight down Liberty Street and then he'd walk the three blocks up Dalton and enter the park through the west gate.
"The 'west end' of Cincinnati had always been the poor side of town. ... There were some rough little neighborhoods within walking distance of the field. That was no problem ... because there were no night games and even afternoon double-headers were usually over by 4:30."
And after those games, many of the Reds walked the six blocks to Foss-Schneider Brewery on Freeman Avenue and drank ice-cold draft beer in the cellar and sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."
Can you hear it?
As for the Black Sox, they were singing a different tune.
It's still out there, too.