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View Full Version : Totally Biased Book Review: Red Legs and Black Sox


Baby Fisk
02-28-2006, 02:36 PM
Red Legs and Black Sox: Edd Roush and the Untold Story of the 1919 World Series - by Susan Dellinger (2006, 350 pp.)

Edd Roush was a Hall of Fame outfielder who won the National League batting title in 1917 and 1919. He was the star of the Cincinnati Reds team that faced the White Sox in the 1919 World Series, and was the last living participant of that series, dying in 1988.

In the decades before his passing, Roush often recounted the events of 1919 from his point of view as a Cincinnati player - what he saw, what he heard, what he suspected. One of the keenest recorders of Roush's recollections was Susan Dellinger, his granddaughter.

Dellinger has compiled various historical accounts, interviews, and her own conversations with Roush into Red Legs and Black Sox: Edd Roush and the Untold Story of the 1919 World Series.

This book tells the story of 1919 from the Cincinnati side.

The big eyebrow raiser here is that Roush was privy to a couple of startling revelations – during and after the Series - implicating Reds players in a counter-fix to that of the Black Sox. A fix not necessarily to throw the entire series, but perhaps to prolong the series by a couple of games (giving gamblers in the know more games on which to bet and reap their profits).

Is it possible that both teams were trying to throw certain games in the series? Dellinger offers no direct proof against any Reds' players, but uses Eliot Asinov's method of "reconstructed conversations" to paint a couple of scenes involving Roush and some shady characters.

A new character in this saga is Cincinnati newsstand operator Jimmy Widmeyer. Widmeyer was a small time gambler, but aspired to run with the big players. He ingratiated his way into the circle of midwest gamblers who would be linked to the Black Sox scandal and its kingpin, Arnold Rothstein.

Widmeyer learned of the plot to fix the World Series and that several White Sox players had agreed to throw it. He bet accordingly and did well. But he didn't stop there. Either he was foolishly brazen, or concerned for Edd Roush, whom he knew as an acquantance. Whichever, Widmeyer approached Roush on two separate occasions during the series to disclose some shocking information.

After Game Two of the best-of-nine series, Widmeyer told Roush that he knew the White Sox were throwing the series. The news deeply troubled Roush, a man of humble Indiana farm roots. Then Widmeyer approached Roush again prior to Game Eight. This time he implied that some of Roush's own teammates had fallen under the gamblers' influence and were playing accordingly. Roush was stunned, but reflective. A couple of Reds' pitchers had made bad plays at inopportune times in the series... was it possible?

Roush gnawed on this information, then exploded at his teammates as they suited up at Comiskey Park for Game Eight. Before the entire locker room, Roush reported what he had been told and threatened all present that he would not tolerate any dirty business by Reds players.

Immediately, Reds manager Pat Moran hauled Roush aside and demanded to know what he was on about. Roush revealed his suspicion that some Reds pitchers might be in cahoots with gamblers. Moran called that day's starter, Hod Eller, over. Eller was asked point blank if he was up to something:

"I want the truth right now," Moran said to Hod. "Did any gamblers offer you money to throw today's game?"

Hod didn't miss a beat. He raised his thick, black eyebrows and looked directly at his manager and said, "Yup. I had breakfast and went upstairs, and a guy got on the elevator with me. He got off the same place I did and followed me to my room in the hotel in Chicago. As I was unlocking the door, he said 'Wait a minute.' He walked right up to me and held up five thousand-dollar bills. He said 'These are yours if you throw the game tomorrow. And there'll be five more just like them for you after the game.' I told him to get out of my sight quick, or I'd punch him right square on the nose." His dark eyes flashed with anger. "And I would have, too. I don't have no use for those kind of guys."

No one could doubt the young pitcher, and Edd felt a surge of pride in his teammate.

Moran said, "Okay, Eller, I'm going to start you today. But if I see anything off-kilter, if they start hitting you, I'm gonna yank you. Understand?"

Eller responded with a simple "Yup." He walked back to his locker and continued to adjust his gear. He didn't seem the least bit upset. In fact, he looked relieved to have the story out in the open. Now it was time to play ball.

The Reds shellacked the Sox 10-4 in that game to clinch the championship after Lefty Williams’s infamous first inning collapse.

But manager Moran hadn’t needed to worry about Eller. It was the Reds’ Game Six starter, Dutch Ruether, whom Dellinger implicates.

Jumping forward: Roush injured a stomach muscle in 1928 and convalesced in a St. Louis hospital with a peculiar roommate. At first, Roush mistook the man for a fan – the stranger possessed an uncanny knowledge of the 1919 series and some of Roush’s key plays in the outfield. But Roush realized that the man was somehow too familiar with the players and their performance in the series. Their talk naturally turned to the fix. Roush’s roommate let on that he knew of the fix and who was behind it (even using the word “we” instead of “they” to describe it). Unable to contain his curiosity, Roush asked if any Reds players had been in with the gamblers. The man immediately named some of Roush’s teammates, including Ruether. Over the years, Roush forgot the name of the man in the other hospital bed, but the disturbing conversation stayed with him.

Seeing as the Reds won the series, and the pursuit of justice focused on the Black Sox during 1920 and 1921, the actions of Reds players may have been under far less scrutiny at the time.

We may never know if Dutch Ruether ever accepted a bribe to throw Game Six to Chicago and prolong the series. The innuendo is there, but Dellinger’s evidence is not strong enough. Roush’s memories of his conversation with the man in the hospital, and recollections of Ruether being seen drinking with gamblers prior to the start of the series, offer some circumstantial evidence at best. Enough to base part of a book on anyway!

Dellinger’s book does clearly illustrate the depths to which gambling had seeped into baseball in the 1910’s. Players openly socialized with known gamblers, drinking on their tab and legitimizing their presence at ballparks. Sorry stuff.

The only major grief I have with this book is its lack of an index – an inexcusable omission for a publication at this level. Still, an interesting addition to the Black Sox library.


Susan Dellinger’s website: www.redlegsandblacksox.com (http://www.redlegsandblacksox.com)


Postscript:

A final note on Edd Roush. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962 after a solid career, mostly with the Reds and Giants.

Roush broke into the American League in 1913 as a member of the White Sox. He played all of nine games in the outfield and went 1-for-10 before being sent down.

The following season, Roush signed a contract to play for Indianapolis of the upstart Federal League (a rival league that lured players from both the American and National Leagues before folding after 1915). From there, he moved back and forth between the Giants and Reds through the rest of his career.

Based on his gleaming portrayal in Red Legs and Black Sox, one wonders if there may never have been a Black Sox scandal if more honest gents like Edd Roush had played for Chicago.




--Baby Fisk

MarySwiss
02-28-2006, 02:41 PM
Great review, Baby Fisk! Sounds like a good read. Thanks. :smile:

vegyrex
02-28-2006, 03:04 PM
In one of the Baseball Hall Of Shame books they joked about the Reds playing like they were trying to lose the series as much as the Black Sox.
Cincinnati committed as many errors as the Sox.(12)

In game seven alone the reds commited 4 errors.

Interesting. :cool:

EastCoastSoxFan
02-28-2006, 03:05 PM
Edd Roush also gave a lengthy interview to writer Lawrence Ritter for Ritter's book "The Glory Of Their Times", a series of interviews with turn-of-the-century era players who reminisced about the way the game used to be. These interviews were begun shortly after Ty Cobb's death in 1961 and published in 1966.

In that interview Roush claimed that the team meeting in which the manager asked pitcher Hod Eller if he knew about or was involved in any fixes occurred before the first game of the series, not the last game. The overall tone of Roush's interview in TGOTT when it came to the 1919 World Series was sour grapes -- he even claimed that his 1919 Reds team was better than the 1919 White Sox, the obvious implication being that his team would have won the '19 WS with or without a fix.

I'd be curious to see if there's any documentation in this book on when the rest of Roush's "information" was spoken / assembled. In the early 1960's he seemed pretty convinced that not only had no one on his team participated in any fix, but that his was the superior team anyway.

Baby Fisk
02-28-2006, 03:11 PM
Edd Roush also gave a lengthy interview to writer Lawrence Ritter for Ritter's 1961 book "The Glory Of Their Times", a series of interviews with turn-of-the-century era players who reminisced about the way the game used to be.

In that interview Roush claimed that the team meeting in which the manager asked pitcher Hod Eller if he knew about or was involved in any fixes occurred before the first game of the series, not the last game. The overall tone of Roush's interview in TGOTT when it came to the 1919 World Series was sour grapes -- he even claimed that his 1919 Reds team was better than the 1919 White Sox, the obvious implication being that his team would have won the '19 WS with or without a fix.

I'd be curious to see if there's any documentation in this book on when the rest of Roush's "information" was spoken / assembled. In 1961 he seemed pretty convinced that not only had no one on his team participated in any fix, but that his was the superior team anyway.
In her closing chapters, Dellinger makes a pitch that the 1919 Reds did not wear a "tainted crown" and yes, Roush did harbour some sour grapes over that series. He felt that the Reds were good enough to beat the Sox without a fix, but that's impossible to prove one way or the other.

EastCoastSoxFan
02-28-2006, 03:15 PM
In her closing chapters, Dellinger makes a pitch that the 1919 Reds did not wear a "tainted crown" and yes, Roush did harbour some sour grapes over that series. He felt that the Reds were good enough to beat the Sox without a fix, but that's impossible to prove one way or the other.
This is true, but based on this book taken together with Roush's early-1960's tape recorded interview for TGOTT, Roush seems to have at least a couple of different stories about the 1919 World Series -- either that or just an incredibly fuzzy (or selective) memory...

Baby Fisk
02-28-2006, 03:40 PM
This is true, but based on this book taken together with Roush's early-1960's tape recorded interview for TGOTT, Roush seems to have at least a couple of different stories about the 1919 World Series -- either that or just an incredibly fuzzy (or selective) memory...
Perhaps he felt that Ritter should have his "official" take on things, while confiding more to his granddaughter?