Major League Baseball Has a Gambling Double Standard

Cameron Clark, Pawprint Staff Reporter

In 1921, Major League Baseball (MLB) banned eight Chicago White Sox players for life after the knowledge of Chicago fixing the 1919 World Series became public. Two days earlier, a hearing in the Cook County Courthouse led to the eight men being acquitted. However, MLB commissioner at the time, Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, decided on his own that they were guilty and gave them the life ban.

Cambridge Dictionary defines game-fixing as “Dishonest activity to make sure that one team wins a particular sports match.” In this case, a gambler came to the White Sox and made a deal with them that if they lost the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds on purpose, they would each be paid a large sum of money. Eight players signed their names, some of them unknowingly due to being illiterate, and the scandal was underway.

One hundred years later, gambling in baseball is still prevalent. In 2018, according to CBS Sports, MGM Sportsbooks became the first official gaming partner of the MLB. This happened soon after the United States Supreme Court deemed sports betting legal. As a result, MLB must deal with the double standard created with this decision. 

One of the players banned for life was Joe Jackson, more commonly known as “Shoeless Joe” among fans of the sport. While Jackson did admit to being paid, he never admitted to losing those 1919 World Series games on purpose.

On his deathbed in 1951, Jackson was quoted as saying, “I am going to meet the greatest umpire of all – and he knows I’m innocent” (according to John Wilson, professor of history emeritus at Hillsdale University).

The MLB must do one of two things. They either need to reinstate the career .356 hitter who is currently the fourth-best in baseball history or cancel all partnerships with sportsbooks. If Joe Jackson can’t make money off of gambling, the MLB shouldn’t either.

Jackson deserves to be in the Hall of Fame if the MLB decides to keep their partnership with sportsbooks. If they want to put an asterisk next to his name, by all means, go ahead. But a hall of fame without Shoeless Joe is no Hall of Fame at all.

The current Commissioner of the MLB, Robert D. Manfred, needs to do something about this. For too long, MLB has tried to stick to its outdated rules.¬†Instead, they need to do the right thing and take another look at these players’ fates.

The greatest baseball player of all time, Babe Ruth, said the following, “I copied (Shoeless Joe) Jackson’s style because I thought he was the greatest hitter I had ever seen, the greatest natural hitter I ever saw. He’s the guy who made me a hitter.”