Watch: Rare footage of 1919 'Black Sox' World Series surfaces

Friday May 2nd, 2014

The 1919 World Series has become infamous in baseball's history as one of the sport's low points thanks to the Black Sox Scandal, in which members of the Chicago White Sox conspired to throw the series to the opposing Cincinnati Reds. That ended up largely overshadowing the series itself, which Cincinnati won, five games to three (that series, like a few others in the 1910s and 20s, was a best-of-nine), and footage of the games has been just about impossible to find. But now, thanks to some historical researchers, roughly five minutes of actual video from the games has been unearthed.

The video was shot by a British newsreel company named Pathe News and was discovered in the archives of a Canadian library by a White Sox fan trying to make a documentary about lost films. The film of the series ended up in the Canadian Yukon and was then consigned to a basement of a local library. In 1929, the film, along with hundreds of other cans of footage, was dumped into an empty swimming pool that was being converted into a hockey rink. The films lay preserved below the ice and dirt until 1978, when the rink was bulldozed and the cans were uncovered. From there, the films were sent to the Canadian national archives in Ottawa and remained in storage there until filmmaker Bill Morrison unexpectedly found the 1919 Series footage in January.

There's a boatload of cool on-field stuff in the film (which is unfortunately silent), including shots of White Sox ace and knuckleballer Eddie Cicotte, one of the ringleaders of the conspiracy, getting shelled in Game 1, a 9-1 Cincinnati win. Cicotte—who won 29 games in 1919 and later admitted to throwing the series—hit the first batter of the game, Morrie Rath, with a pitch, a pre-arranged tip-off to Arnold Rothstein and other gamblers that the fix was in. He ended up allowing six runs in four innings, including a five-run fourth inning that knocked him out of the game. Footage of Cicotte's outing starts at the 3:20 mark of the video, and while it's a little hard to tell exactly what's going on, you can see that Cicotte is, at the very least, not all that enthused about covering his position or other bases as he gives up hit after hit. Game 1 wasn't the only sign that something was up with Cicotte; in Game 4, he committed a brutal fielding mistake to allow the Reds to score the first run of what ended up being a 2-0 win, giving Cincinnati a 3-1 series lead.

The film also shows footage of White Sox rookie Dick Kerr, who wasn't in on the fix and threw a three-hit shutout in Game 3, warming up, as well as Reds manager Pat Moran and Reds ace and Game 1 winner Walter "Dutch" Ruether. Also included are shots of a crowd in New York keeping track of Game 1 via a mechanical scoreboard, and what may be sports history's first recorded blimp-cam shot courtesy a plane flying above Cincinnati's Redland Field. All told, eight members of the White Sox, including Cicotte and star outfielder Shoeless Joe Jackson, were banned for life from baseball in 1921 by commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis. Players were also tried in criminal court over the fix, but no one was convicted. The scandal was later memorialized in Eliot Asinof's book "Eight Men Out," which was given the film treatment in 1988 by John Sayles.

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