Charles Albert The Old Roman” Comiskey was a larger-than-life figurea 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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About the Author
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 and was the third person to ever win SABR’s Bob Davids Award for meritorious service (1987). Hoie resides in San Marino, California.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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!
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.