Source: Getty/APA/Hulton Archive
Shoeless Joe Jackson — bribes vs. steroids.
I saw Eight Men Out this weekend. You know, it's the classic baseball tragedy. In case the only scandal you can remember these days involves drugs you can't pronounce or acronyms you don't know, the Black Sox scandal used to be the worst thing to happen to the game (besides of course, the color barrier that existed for so long.) A group of Chicago White Sox players, fed up with a cheapskate owner, took money from gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series. I'm not a baseball fan the way Neal is, but I was struck by the yearning I felt for a simpler scandal — one that was about money, too, but in such a different way. The players were so incredibly used by both sides — the gamblers, the owners — and were so painfully unaware of the stakes. Now that the game is so much older, the players and their salaries have grown to impossibly muscular heights. We've had a bitter strike, a cheapened home run race, and now, the Mitchell report — a list of players that will do anything to hang on to another year of paychecks the 1919 White Sox would have never comprehended. I'm sad for baseball, and I'm sad for myself (though I always knew that a certain plump pitcher was a stinker), but most of all, I'm sad for poor Shoeless Joe. No wonder he haunted Kevin Costner.