DraftKings. FanDuel. Chances are if you are a baseball fan, or a sports fan in general, you have seen the commercials or even placed a gambling wager before. In the year 2021, it is about time baseball fans are allowed to gamble on their favorite team to win a ball game or even their favorite player to hit a home run. It gives baseball fans more reason to watch a game, and it allows the casual fan to really dive into a game and learn the ins and outs of baseball. There is an underlying issue, however, with gambling and baseball. That underlying issue? The hypocrisy that comes with Major League Baseball allowing online sports gambling into its games while also denying the history of gambling in baseball.
History of Gambling in Baseball
The Black Sox Scandal
The year is 1919. It is World Series time, and the Cincinnati Reds are playing the Chicago White Sox for the title. All eyes are on baseball and what is going to happen in this World Series between two of baseball’s most storied franchises. There is just one little problem. The Chicago White Sox are not playing to win. Weird right? Who would not want to win the World Series? What a strange thing to ponder.
Except for there is no need to ponder at all. The White Sox were throwing the World Series. Known as the Black Sox Scandal, the 1919 World Series is one of the biggest scandals in baseball history, and it is really hard to tell the story of baseball without mentioning this scandal. To make a long story short, the Chicago White Sox were the best team in baseball at the time and were going to steam roll the Reds in the series. However, two different sets of “bookmakers” were approached by a few White Sox players, guys like first baseman Arnold Gandol and Eddie Cicotte, who were looking for an even bigger payday during their careers. They approached Joseph Sullivan, a Boston bookmaker, about how they were going to throw the series in favor of getting paid. As the series began, Cicotte hit the Reds leadoff hitter, Morrie Rath, and the fix was in.
The scandal ended on October 9, 1919 when the White Sox lost and rumors quickly swirled around the country of the games being fixed by bettors and bookmakers. Even though the White Sox players were acquitted of all charges in August 1921, then federal judge and inaugural Commissioner of Baseball, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, decided he had seen enough and banned the eight players involved in the scandal from ever participating in any organized baseball activities ever again.
Pete Rose, also known to some as “Charlie Hustle,” might be the most controversial athlete of all time. There is no denying how great of a baseball player Pete Rose was. Rose is the all-time leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), and at-bats (14,053). However, Rose not only loved baseball, but he loved to gamble. As both a player and manager for the Cincinnati Reds organization Rose bet on baseball games. Rose took it so far as to even bet on games his team was playing in. It all came crashing down around Rose in 1989 when Commissioner Bartlett Giamatti was given permission to look into Rose and his gambling habits. Ultimately, Pete Rose was banned from the game of baseball and baseball’s highest achievement: the Hall of Fame. Years later, Rose admitted to gambling on baseball and even went as far as saying “I bet on my team every night. I didn’t bet on my team four nights a week. I bet on my team to win every night because I loved my team, I believed in my team,” he said. “I did everything in my power every night to win that game.“
Oh The Hypocrisy…
Baseball getting into the online gambling game is a smart move. It will allow for baseball not only to bring in money hand over fist, but it will also allow baseball to reach a newer audience that enjoys sports gambling. A huge win-win for the game when you think about it. What does not quite make sense is how we as fans are going to pretend like the Black Sox and Pete Rose are still bad guys. Sure they bet on games and fixed games (allegedly) but is it not hypocritical that baseball now looks to gambling as a way to grow the game and add revenue? Of course it is. But how about we examine a little further:
To Gamble or Not To Gamble
In both instances above, players were gambling on the outcomes of baseball games which is a no-no. What is interesting is how both DraftKings and FanDuel allow fans to bet on games. You can bet on run lines, over/unders, and teams to win outright with a few clicks on your phone. You can also bet on how many strikeouts a player will have, if a player will hit a homerun, or the outcome of each inning. There are so many options, it is easy to get lost in all of them. However, there is no telling if a player is gambling before first pitch. How will we know if players are actually playing or if a player has bet on himself to improve his odds for someone not involved? The only thing baseball has on their side is the proverbial “honor system” which we know has not been the best way to keep the “integrity” of the game. Sure players can say they will not gamble on games, but players said they were not using steroids and well we know how that turned out.
There is no doubt that players gambling on baseball is wrong. However, if you ask many baseball fans they will tell you that there have been worse scandals within the game that give baseball a bad name. We are looking at you, Houston. It makes no sense that baseball can now allow gambling on baseball, advertise for gambling on baseball, and make a profit off of gambling on baseball, but will not allow Pete Rose to be apart of any sort of baseball activities or allow him to be a Hall of Famer. It makes no sense that while baseball will allow people to bet on outcomes of games and that guys like Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was found innocent in a court of law, to be mentioned when it comes to some of the greats who played this game we all love. If you allow modern day fans to bet on baseball, it is time forget about the past mistakes made by players who bet on baseball.
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Main image credit Embed from Getty Images