|Stealing Sins: American Myth, Sports Journalism, and the 1919 World Series
by Brett Biebel
, Minnesota State-Mankato
In 1919, eight Chicago White Sox conspired to throw the World Series. The story of the 1919 World Series has since gained a great deal of cultural traction, spawning a number of books and popular films. Defenders of Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver are still able to passionately argue for their exoneration. The popular memory of the scandal has focused largely on the fates on individual players, owners, and gamblers.
This presentation argues that newspaper coverage of the 1919 World Series serves as a relevant example of sports journalism attempting to understand itself in the face of a traumatic event. The scandal was seen as an unforgiveable sin, a blight on the record of the purest American pastime. The media narrative of the 1919 World Series, provided most notably by Hugh Fullerton, Ring Lardner, and Grantland Rice, focused on blaming the players as and promoted punishing them as a means by which the game could reclaim its natural purity. This contrasts with the “muckraking” tradition of wider early 20th-Century journalism and provides insight into the unique dilemmas faced by those who cover sport. They are bound to convey essential information like scores and statistics while also touching on the cultural significance of games.
Modern journalism, is of course, in the midst of a similar identity crisis. This essay contends that coverage of the 1919 World Series can provide insight into the ways in which sports journalism can go beyond scores and engage with broad cultural and political themes.