Turning the Black Sox White: The Misunderstood Legacy of Charles A. Comiskey

Turning the Black Sox White: The Misunderstood Legacy of Charles A. Comiskey

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by Tim Hornbaker
     
 

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Charles Albert “The Old Roman” Comiskey was a larger-than-life figure—a man who had precision in his speech and who could work a room with handshakes and smiles. While he has been vilified in film as a rotund cheapskate and the driving force, albeit unknowingly, behind the actions of the 1919 White Sox, who threw the World Series (nicknamed the

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Overview

Charles Albert “The Old Roman” Comiskey was a larger-than-life figure—a man who had precision in his speech and who could work a room with handshakes and smiles. While he has been vilified in film as a rotund cheapskate and the driving force, albeit unknowingly, behind the actions of the 1919 White Sox, who threw the World Series (nicknamed the “Black Sox” scandal), that statement is far from the truth.

In his five decades involved in baseball, Comiskey loved the sport through and through. It was his passion, his life blood, and once he was able to combine his love for the game with his managerial skills, it was the complete package for him. There was no other alternative. He brought the White Sox to Chicago in 1900 and was a major influential force in running the American League from its inception.From changing the way the first base position was played, to spreading the concept of “small ball” as a manager, to incorporating the community in his team’s persona while he was an owner, Comiskey’s style and knowledge improved the overall standard for how baseball should be played.

Through rigorous research from the National Archives, newspapers, and various other publications, Tim Hornbaker not only tells the full story of Comiskey’s incredible life and the sport at the time, but also debunks the “Black Sox” controversy, showing that Comiskey was not the reason that the Sox threw the 1919 World Series.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Hornbaker makes a sound case for why Comiskey has long been an inappropriate fall guy for the [1919 'Black Sox'] scandal. . . . His depth of knowledge of this era of baseball history shines through."
Kirkus Reviews

“It is engrossing and provides a much-needed reassessment of the man and his impact on the sport. Verdict: A worthy read for Black Sox buffs and baseball history fans.”—Library Journal

“In Turning the Black Sox White, Tim Hornbaker reviews Comiskey’s entire career and restores his reputation to its former state, with clear eye, fair mind, and thorough study.”
—John Thorn, Official Historian of Major League Baseball and author of Baseball in the Garden of Eden

“I’ve always been a sucker for stories about Charles Comiskey and the 'Black Sox' scandal of 1919. Tim Hornbaker takes a new and different look at the situation. It’s a pleasure to come along for the ride.”
—Leigh Montville, New York Times bestselling author of Ted Williams and The Big Bam

“Charlie Comiskey is one of the giants of baseball history: a remarkable innovator as a player, manager, and mogul; a fierce competitor yet an extraordinarily charismatic fellow. In this richly detailed work, Tim Hornbaker makes an open-and-shut case that, contrary to modern depictions of Comiskey as a greedy villain, he deserves to be remembered as a good as well as a great man.”
—Edward Achorn, author of The Summer of Beer and Whiskey and Fifty-nine in ’84

“As a portrait of a major league baseball mogul in the early 20th century and as a cutaway view of the game before World War II, ‘Turning the Black Sox White’ works well.”—Allen Barra, Chicago Tribune

“Those who revile Comiskey see this as a gross injustice. After reading this book, they just might change their minds.”—Paul Hagen, MLB.com

“Succeeds in humanizing an important-yet-oversimplified figure in baseball history.”—SB Nation

Library Journal
02/15/2014
One of the great ironies of baseball's Black Sox scandal—in which eight members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox were found to have helped fix the World Series for gambling interests—is that team owner Charles Comiskey came out as one of the villains in the affair. If that tightfisted owner had only paid his players what they were worth, so the conventional wisdom goes, they wouldn't have been tempted to cheat in the first place. It is this characterization that Hornbaker (Legends of Pro Wrestling) wishes to correct. The book spends less time on the scandal than the title implies; it is really a comprehensive biography of Comiskey. Either way, it is engrossing and provides a much-needed reassessment of the man and his impact on the sport. Hornbaker makes a solid case for rehabilitating Comiskey's reputation. VERDICT A worthy read for Black Sox buffs and baseball history fans, providing an antidote to the portrayals of Comiskey in Eight Men Out and other books on the scandal and the era.—Brett Rohlwing (BR), Milwaukee P.L.
Kirkus Reviews
2014-01-05
An attempt to restore the reputation of one of professional baseball's seminal figures. Charles A. Comiskey (1859–1931) was a giant in the early days of baseball. A fine player in the last third of the 19th century, Comiskey's career segued from the playing field to management to ownership when he established the Chicago White Sox as a founding franchise in the American League. In Comiskey's day as a slick fielder and savvy, innovative manager, leagues and teams would form and disperse, oftentimes in the middle of a season. With the establishment of the American League, the basic, stable structure of major league baseball as we know it today emerged. Hornbaker's (Legends of Pro Wrestling: 150 Years of Headlocks, Body Slams, and Piledrivers, 2012, etc.) book serves two purposes. The first is to restore Comiskey to his rightful place as one of the vital figures in the history of the sport. Although the author is not a particularly elegant stylist, his depth of knowledge of this era of baseball history shines through. His second main purpose is to redeem Comiskey, who has long taken a disproportionate share of the blame for the 1919 Black Sox scandal, in which eight White Sox players threw the World Series, allegedly as a result of Comiskey's tightfisted ways. Hornbaker makes a sound case for why Comiskey has long been an inappropriate fall guy for the scandal. But this story only takes up a small part of Comiskey's life and this book. Why, then, give the book, which is not in fact about the Black Sox scandal on the whole, such a peculiar title, and why make it the foundation of the book's marketing campaign? In so doing, the author and the publisher do the larger story he tells a disservice. The history of baseball might be far different without Comiskey's role in it. This serviceable biography ensures that his role will not be forgotten.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781613216385
Publisher:
Sports Publishing LLC
Publication date:
03/04/2014
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
538,161
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Tim Hornbaker is a lifelong sports historian and enthusiast who attended his first baseball game at the old Comiskey Park in 1981. Turning the Black Sox White is his third nonfiction title, which also includes Legends of Pro Wrestling. He continues to research sports history and lives in South Florida with his wife, Jodi.

Bob Hoie is a baseball historian and member of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research). He has appeared in two documentaries on the Black Sox produced by ESPN (2001, 2005), and another by the MLB Network (2010). His article “1919 Baseball Salaries and the Mythically Underpaid Chicago White Sox” was a finalist for the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award, and was the third person to ever win SABR’s Bob Davids Award for meritorious service (1987). Hoie resides in San Marino, California.

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Turning the Black Sox White: The Misunderstood Legacy of Charles A. Comiskey 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Ckruschke More than 1 year ago
I leapt at the chance to preview "Turning the Black Sox White: The Misunderstood Legacy of Charles A. Comiskey". What baseball fan hasn't heard all about Charley Comiskey and his money-grubbing ways which drove poor White Sox players into accepting money from gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series. Between Eliot Asinof's "Eight Men Out" and other similar books, there can't possibly any wiggle room here - right? Comiskey is the villain and the players were merely victims of Comiskey's penny ways - right? Or was Comiskey simply a man of the times and the players looking for a quick buck? Enter Tim Hornbaker's book. As he slowly "peels back the onion" on Charles Comiskey's life, we see him as a youth as he spites his father to pursue a career in professional baseball. As he winds his way through such spots playing and managing the St. Louis Browns, Chicago Pirates, and Cincinnati Reds, he gains the reputation as a hard worker, excellent tactician, student of the game, and, above all, someone to be respected by his peers. Through his friendship with American League founder Ban Johnson, Comiskey buys the St. Paul Saints and in his five years there, makes the team a winner. He then takes an opportunity to return home to Chicago in order to establish the Chicago White Stockings. So what does this say of Comiskey's treatment of his players? As a 12-year player and manager he certainly understood the game. He also was keen on winning and scoured both the country looking for talent and spent $1000s to acquire it. He also gave out lavish contracts to try and make the White Sox a winner. When the White Sox won it all in 1917, they had the 2nd highest salary in the majors - behind only the New York Giants. So what created the 1919 "Black" Sox? First, gambling in the early years of baseball was rife and prevalent. Second, the salary war created by the 1913-1915 Federal League saw player salaries inflated and once that league collapsed, owners were intent on bringing them down. Third, Comiskey was a tough negotiator and never allowed players to back him into a corner. If a player did not agree with his final number, he could either hold out or retire. Finally baseball had grown in stature as a business and both the owners and the players were making considerable money and where there is money; there will always be disagreements over money. As we see in Asinof's book, one's opinion often depends on your point of view. However, this is not the case with Hornbaker's book. Instead he faithfully reports the history of Comiskey, the American League, the White Sox, players (noteworthy and otherwise), and the game in general with a neutrality that is pretty refreshing all with an honestly overabundance of references. A research book of this type can be boring even if the subject matter is not (one prime example is James Hansen's biography of Neil Armstrong - which is encyclopedic in length and reads like it). Indeed, it is that very rare book that is both THE authoritative research book on a subject and gripping page-turner. Hornbaker's book is one such product. I caught myself actually reading EVERY footnote after I completed a chapter as a lot of material is in the references. When you are LOOKING FORWARD to looking at the author's reference material, you are clearly not only enjoying the book - you are absorbed in it! I cannot possibly give this book a higher rating and strongly recommend it to any baseball fan!
A_Sloan More than 1 year ago
Restore and Redeem To save the reputation of Charles Comiskey, the author and publisher of this book take a little dig of their own. While I am happy to have learned a more comlpete picture of who Comiskey was and why he is a vital figure of baseball history, this book definitely does not dive deep into the 1919 Black Sox scandal as the title made me believe. (Although, on further thought, the title really does just seem to be a play on words) For those curious about his role with the Black Sox and the White Sox, I recommend this book. Baseball is always an interesting lens to look into American history, as I have found time and again with books like My Own Story by Jackie Robinson and Bigger Than the Game by Dirk Hayhurst.