By TARA BURGHART
CHICAGO (AP) – For years, George (Buck) Weaver tried to get reinstated to baseball following a scandal in which Chicago White Sox players agreed to throw the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Now, nearly 50 years after his death, Weaver’s niece is leading the effort to clear his name. “It’s time to be fair and give the man his due,” Patricia Anderson said about the man she considered her surrogate father. “I feel he got such a raw deal.” Weaver, who grew up in Pennsylvania, made his major league debut with the White Sox in 1912. He became one of the most popular players on the South Side, known for his smile and the dirty uniform that accompanied his energetic play.
In the 1919 World Series, he batted .324 with no errors at third base.
The gambling scandal wasn’t exposed until almost a year after the Series. Then in 1921, commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned eight White Sox players, including Weaver, from baseball although a jury acquitted them.
“No player who entertains proposals or promises to throw a game, no player who sits in conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing games are discussed and does not promptly tell the club about it will ever play professional baseball,” Landis said.
Anderson, her sister and cousin started pushing for Weaver’s reinstatement in the 1970s. The campaign got a renewed boost last year when a devoted baseball fan, David Fletcher, bankrolled an Internet site – www.clearbuck.com – and the hiring of a public relations firm.
Supporters of the “Clear Buck” campaign – who include Eliot Asinof, author of Eight Men Out, a book about the scandal – say he was guilty only of hearing about the scheme and not speaking out.
“He kept his integrity and character and refused to rat on his teammates. He was true to his teammates – that’s what he was guilty of,” said Fletcher, an occupational medicine specialist and professor at the University of Illinois. “And he didn’t think they were going to go through with the plot.”
In addition to sending baseball commissioner Bud Selig 10,000 signatures on petitions calling for Weaver’s reinstatement, the “Clear Buck” campaign pitched its cause at the all-star game, Cubs and White Sox fan festivals, an event at the Hall of Fame and the winter baseball meetings in New Orleans.
Anderson, now a 77-year-old retiree living in Kimberling City, Mo., worries that the way Pete Rose has handled his efforts to get reinstated could hurt her uncle’s cause.
She believes Weaver’s case should be considered along with that of (Shoeless) Joe Jackson, who led all hitters in the 1919 World Series with a .375 average. Supporters say Jackson tried to return the money.
“They certainly didn’t do anything that would hurt baseball,” Anderson said.
Weaver and his wife took Anderson, her older sister and the girls’ mother into their Chicago home after their father died in 1931. Anderson was only four.
It was the Depression, and Weaver took whatever jobs he could to support the
“Years later, I thought he worked so hard to raise what he considered his family. And I don’t suppose we ever could have been grateful enough for what he did for us,” Anderson said.
Anderson said her uncle never talked to her about his banishment from baseball as a member of the infamous Black Sox. He taught her and her sister how to catch and throw, and he gave baseball tips to neighbourhood boys.
After he died in 1956 at age 65, Anderson heard from Weaver’s widow, her aunt, how much he had missed the game.
According to Fletcher, Weaver continually pushed for reinstatement – as soon as one year after he was banned and as late as 1953. He wanted to manage a team or serve as a scout, but Landis and his successor as commissioner, Albert “Happy” Chandler, turned him down.
“Landis wanted me to tell him something that I didn’t know,” Weaver said in a 1954 interview with author James T. Farrell. “I didn’t have any evidence.”
Whether the “Clear Buck” campaign has any hope of getting Weaver reinstated isn’t clear. He isn’t eligible for the Hall of Fame because he only played nine seasons – one short of the requirement.
“He never gave up the fight, which is why it’s good that other people have taken up the fight for him,” said Gabriel Schechter, a research associate in the library of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. “It would just be speculation on whether anything will happen with it.”
Selig did not answer repeated requests for comment by The Associated Press for this story. But last month, he sent Fletcher a letter.
“As you know this is a very sensitive matter that none of my predecessors have seen fit to overturn,” Selig wrote, “but certainly at the very least we ought to thoroughly review it, and that’s what we are doing.”
Jerome Holtzman, the official historian for Major League Baseball, said of the more than a dozen players who have been banned from baseball, he considers Weaver the only one who “has a chance to be reinstated, or at least should be considered for reinstatement.”
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