WEAVER: WRONG MAN OUT
By: Greg Couch
Expulsion and alleged participation of baseball player
in fixing of 1919 World Series Third baseman never threw
any game in 1919 Series or accepted money from gamblers--his
only mistake was knowing about the fix and not informing
authorities about the scandal.
The thing to know is that he never took one penny. He
never agreed to the plot. He never did anything but
play his best through the World Series.
And while other White Sox players did take gamblers'
money to fix the 1919 Series, he, as one sports historian
so delicately put it, "got screwed."
Thurmond and the U.S. House and Senate and Hollywood,
and baseball legends have been demanding that major
league baseball lift the lifetime ban on Shoeless Joe
Jackson and clear his name.
is looking into it, and, it isn't looking good for Jackson.
Here is the reason the uproar isn't working:
is in support of the wrong player.
If any of the eight banned Sox players should be cleared,
according to several sports historians, it is Buck Weaver.
"The case against Buck is that he didn't talk. That's
all," said Irving Stein, who wrote The Ginger Kid: The
Buck Weaver Story. "He did attend a meeting with gamblers
and he wasn't sure who was in and who was out. "He was
out. But he didn't tell what he knew. So OK, suspend
him. But why is his punishment equal to those who took
the money and lost?" There were efforts for years, from
Weaver and his fans, to get him reinstated. But Weaver
died in 1956, and the fight and his memory have faded.
But on reading a story about Jackson, Stein took up
the effort again. He wrote to commissioner Bud Selig
with a last push for Weaver. And Selig, Stein said,
wrote back saying he would re-open the case and have
Jerome Holtzman, baseball's official historian, look
into it as soon as he finishes his report on Jackson.
a former Chicago baseball writer, said he would be glad
to research Weaver. And what is his initial thought
on Stein's belief that Weaver's name should be cleared?
probably right," Holtzman said. "Buck Weaver was not
a participant, but he knew the fix was on. He was in
on the meetings and never told anybody about it. That's
why he was barred."
It is the same story from several sports historians
and Black Sox experts.
only one of those players who should be exonerated is
Buck Weaver," said Rich Lindberg, who wrote the White
Sox Encyclopedia. "He just doesn't have the national
cache that Shoeless Joe has.
all these do-gooders really wanted to right a wrong
here, it would not be in helping Shoeless Joe, who admitted
to taking money from gamblers and throwing games. Buck's
never even been accused of taking money, and baseball
officials always knew he turned the gamblers down."
Asinof brought the scandal back into the spotlight with
his book, and subsequent movie, Eight Men Out. Asinof
made sympathetic characters of some of the players,
including Weaver, who was played in the movie by Chicagoan
John Cusack. Yet, Asinof told the Wall Street Journal
in 1992 that all of the players deserved the lifetime
It is true that major league baseball officials never
accused Weaver of taking money. But when Judge Kenesaw
Mountain Landis, baseball's commissioner at the time,
banned the players, he said no player who throws games
or agrees to throw them or "sits in conference with
a bunch of crooked players 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
Weaver was the odd man in. And Landis never budged,
responding to one of Weaver's appeals by saying, "Birds
of a feather flock together."
was made commissioner partly because baseball needed
cleaning up. It was overrun by gamblers, and team owners
couldn't clear them from the parks. So Landis had to
make an example Of the eight players by showing no leniency.
He also needed a strong statement, historians say, to
let the owners know he was more powerful even than them.
if Weaver was innocent, why didn't he tell what he knew,
rather than let the Series be thrown?
really about the differences between social classes,"
said Gerald Gems, a Chicago sports historian at North
Central College. "There were two different perspectives
of what honorable was.
middle class learns right and wrong in church or in
school. But in the working class, which Weaver came
from, the system of honor is that you don't rat on your
buddies. For him, it would have been less honorable
to turn the others in than it was not to."
hit .324 in that Series, and didn't make any errors.
So he spent the rest of his life assuming that eventually,
he would get back into baseball. In his late 30s, he
played in a semipro league for a few years.
his pleas were rejected repeatedly. He died of a heart
attack in 1956 while walking down the street.
"In some respects, the rest of his life was kind of
sad," said Daniel A. Nathan, an assistant professor
at Miami University in Ohio, who wrote a book on the
scandal. "He coached a girls softball team. Worked in
a parimutuel window at a racetrack.
"The guy was incredibly frustrated. Here he is and he
didn't do these things. He was acquitted in court with
the rest of the players. Yet, he had the passion of
his life taken away from him."
case, though, has been picked up in recent years for
Jackson, who confessed to throwing games for money:
"They promised $20,000, and paid me $5,000," he said.
the confession has been overlooked and Jackson portrayed
as an innocent or at least a dupe, and used first by
his teammates to take the money, then by lawyers of
former Sox owner Charles Comiskey to confess.
latest push for him started with the movie "Field of
Dreams." It has escalated until even the U.S. House
and Senate passed resolutions asking to clear Jackson's
name. Baseball great Ted Williams is fighting for Jackson,
not Weaver? Likely because Jackson was more of a star.
was the best third baseman of his time, and Ty Cobb
once said he was the best of all time. But with the
suspension in the final week of the 1920 season, Weaver's
career lasted just nine years. His lifetime average
the Hall of Fame, he likely would be one of those borderline
players. But had he been able to keep playing, who knows?
His numbers were improving every year.
1920, his final season, he reached career highs in batting
average (.331), at-bats (629), hits (208), doubles (34)
and runs (102) while driving in 74 runs at the age of
could have said, `OK, Buck, you screwed up and you're
out for a month, suspended,'" said Steve Riess, sports
historian at Northeastern Illinois. "That's what they
should have done. At least now, maybe they could look
into the case and say `Listen, we apologize. You got
a raw deal.'"
facts not in dispute, Weaver's chances likely will come
down to Selig, and whether he feels the punishment was
too tough. But with everyone dead and little hope for
the Hall, why bother now?
the sake of doing the right thing." Stein said. "It's
a question about justice."
COPYRIGHT 2001 Century Publishing
COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group