How Major League Baseball Handled Its “Durham Report” A Century Ago

David Reavill
6 min readMay 19


Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Baseball’s First Commissioner

This week we received the following: REPORT ON MATTERS RELATED TO INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES AND INVESTIGATIONS ARISING OUT OF THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS, Otherwise known as the Durham Report, named after lead investigator US District Attorney John H. Durham.

If we can take the hyperbole and personalities out of this discussion, which is admittedly hard to do, we’ll realize that we’ve all seen this before. It’s not the Scandal that matters as much as how we react to it. The Scandal has been part of this country’s history since the beginning.

Let me tell you the story of just such a scandal in Major League Baseball and how our “National Pastime” almost fell apart. The year was 1919, the World Series between the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds. Rumors had been rife for days that the Sox had thrown the game. A group of gamblers had conspired to bribe the Sox to lose. Eight of the Chicago players agreed to let Cincinnati win.

But people talked, and soon the Clubhouse heard that some White Sox players agreed to throw the Series. Upstairs, the Press Box had listened to the same rumors and followed the conspiracy as it happened.

Sports writer Hugh Fullerton of the Chicago Herald and Examiner and Hall of Fame Player Christy Matthewson watched as the Chicago pitcher wound up and threw the opening pitch. Smack, it hit the batter square in the back, just like Fullerton and Matthewson predicted. It was the sign that the “fix was in,” and the Chicago players would let Cincinnati win.

But the Press Box wasn’t the only place that had heard the rumor and knew that the hit batter was the tip-off. Across the country, professional gambles went all-in for a Cincinnati victory. The odds changed from solidly in favor of Chicago to suddenly solidly for Cincinnati to win.

And it was this sudden and decisive change in betting that let those on the inside know that a Cincinnati victory was a certainty.

Unfortunately, most Americans were unaware of the chicanery behind this Cincinnati World Series Victory. To the average citizen of the day, another Baseball Champion had been crowned, just like had happened so many times before. “Hail the victor!” said one side. Wait. “Till next year!” said the other.

You see, 1919 was similar to 2020. Many of us felt the same after the most recent Presidential Election. “Hail the victor!” “Wait till next time.” We expressed the same sentiments as Baseball Fans a century ago after Baseball’s biggest Scandal.

It took time for the nation to realize that the 1919 World Series was tainted. While those rumors of corruption continued to grow, it took a player’s confession to reveal the entire scheme. A Grand Jury quickly impaneled, and the whole tawdry story was laid out for all to see.

That’s where we are today. The Grand Jury has just released its results. In 316 pages of excruciating detail, Judge Durham and his attorneys had detailed how a far-reaching conspiracy accused Donald Trump of colluding with the Russians to win the 2020 Presidential Election when the accusations were all false.

The Durham Report categorically states that there was no basis for that “Predicate.” The entire case against Trump was a hoax, cooked up to defeat him in the election. All the subsequent investigations and innuendos were false. The subsequent Muller Investigations into the “Russian Collusion” were based on unfounded speculation and should not have been allowed to proceed.

From that point on, the Durham report details the various methods and misstatements of the conspiracy to defraud an election. It’s a tawdry piece of history that is now laid bare for all of us to see.

In the Baseball Scandal of 100 years ago, the players were well-known. They had names like Chick Gandil, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Red Faber, and Eddie Collins. They were as famous then as any celebrity or politician is today.

Many fans were undoubtedly crushed to hear that their favorite player was involved. Many wanted the Scandal to simply disappear. At least one of those players, Shoeless Joe Jackson, was destined for the Hall of Fame. To pursue this Scandal would scuttle his chances for a spot in Canton, Ohio.

But the Baseball Owners would have none of that kind of compromise. They knew that if this Scandal were allowed to stand, it would infect the entire game. But how would they address the corruption?

They knew that Baseball’s governing body, the National Baseball Commission, had grown soft. Petty corruption was rampant, and minor violations were met with a wink and a note. The relationship between bookies and players was well known, so the Black Sox Scandal was just one more step on a long road that Baseball had been traveling for some time.

However, this time was different, if for no other reason than that the Owners recognized that this Scandal threatened the very existence of Baseball. Everyone in America had become aware that the 1919 World Series was a fake. The Chicago Team had overturned the American value of fair and honest play.

“Black Sox” was now an everyday expression for those who cheat. There was the genuine possibility that if the Owners let this Scandal stand, all of Baseball might fail. The reputation of the game was at stake. If Major League Baseball lost the support of their fans, the American People, it was lights out. It was an actual existential threat.

Fortunately for us, the Team Owners recognized that threat. Their first step was to abolish the thoroughly corrupt National Baseball Commission. In its place, they brought a hard-headed Judge from Indiana named Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Named after a famous battle in the Civil War, Kenesaw Mountain, Landis proved to be the right-thinking, iron fist-ed administrator that Baseball needed to get out of its mess.

His first action was to ban all players entangled in the Scandal from ever playing in the Major Leagues again. It was a harsh punishment, but it told all other would-be cheats that Baseball would never again permit that behavior. And as we noted, this ban was extended to their chances of becoming members of the Hall of Fame.

Landis went on to preside over Major League Baseball for the next quarter century, and during that time, not a whiff of Scandal would ever come to Baseball.

Today we are living in a time just like Baseball’s Defining Moment. A time when we, the American People, must decide to right a terrible Scandal that has infected our Political System. Today “Russiagate” has gained the same approbation as “Black Sox.”

We must recognize this Scandal’s existential threat to our Representative Democracy and how we elect our President. To root out this evil may involve some of our favorite “players,” politicians we root for and support, suffering the same fate as those Baseball players of long ago: banned from ever participating in an election again. We need to recognize the level of corruption, and if our favorites are banned for life, so be it. It is the price we need to pay to preserve the credibility of our political system.

A century ago, Major League Baseball had the courage and foresight to banish corruption from their game. They threw out the crooked players and Administrators who had taken a blind eye to wrongdoing and brought in real reform. It was a gut-wrenching time for Baseball that took real courage and perseverance.

Do we have that same level of courage and perseverance today?



David Reavill

David Reavill writer + finance +iconoclast + hiker + Pennsylvania #valueside daily podcast + medium + meditate