Gambling and baseball have gone together since the mid-19th century, back when owners realised they could turn a profit on games. But baseball has a complex history with betting too, with scandals taking place at various points in history, most notably with the 1919 Black Sox scandal that damaged the affiliation with the sport. Some of baseball’s most famous players and managers have been involved with betting on their own teams and similar underhand activity, leading to a complex relationship between baseball and gambling.
Although many think of baseball as a sport played in large metropolitan areas, it actually was more common in small country towns, where there was no access to Timeform casino. Rural people quickly identified with the sport as it was a game of competition, skill and chance, much like their day to day work on farms where unpredictability and proficiency played a big part. Here, rivalries quickly came into being between neighbouring teams. Almost all games featured gambling to varying degrees on both sides, from how many hits or runs a certain team were going to score to how many innings the game would last. Players weren’t paid a regular salary, they earnt their money through betting. Gambling was such a big feature of baseball that modern day fans would likely have a difficult time recognising the sport as it was then compared to today.
There have been many instances throughout history of betting scandals in relation to baseball, such as in 1905 when John McGraw, the manager of the New York Giants, won $400 while betting on his own team to win the World series. McGraw had held the team out of the previous year’s series against Boston due to an argument with American League president Ban Johnson, who’d publicly suspended and torn down McGraw for his behaviour on the field. The Giants won five games and McGraw got his money, despite the winnings being known to the public – something that he wouldn’t have got away with today.
One of the biggest scandals in the sport was in 1926 in relation to the 1919 Black Sox game. Ban Johnson permitted Ty Cobb and tris Speaker to resign towards the end of 1926 after it became known that former pitcher Dutch Leonard had joined them in better just before the 1919 World Series to bet on a game they had all known was fixed. Johnson believed the scandal to be so damaging to the sport that he paid Leonard $20,000 to keep the evidence concealed. When the cover-up was revealed, Johnson was forced out of the job and ruling later came into play that any player found betting on his own team would be suspended for life.
Such was the case for one of baseball’s all-time leaders in hits and games played, Pete Rose, when he was banned in 1989 for betting on the scores of baseball games, many of which he’d played in. Although Rose denied any wrong-doing, the evidence was clear and included a testimony that Rose had even bet on his own players while he was managing. While the sport no longer has such strong affiliations with gambling, its long history with betting has made it unique in the world of sports.