The Last Person MLB Banned for Gambling Before Rose? A Team Owner!

Originally published by The Sporting News web site. Link here.

Prior to Pete Rose’s being banned from major league baseball by Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti–as upheld by current Commissioner Rob Manfred Dec. 13–the last person to be ejected from the game for gambling was William Cox, president and owner of the Philadelphia Phillies, in 1943.

The accompanying saga, beyond the pain once again inflicted on Philadelphia sports fans, was a sure bet to keep the audience glued to the sports pages and radio broadcasts over the months it developed.

Cox was supposed to be the answer to the ownership problems the Phillies had suffered under Gerry Nugent, whose financial struggles kept the team in the National League basement and in debt.

A local lumber magnate, Cox bought the team in February 1943 from the National League, which had to take it over and assume its debts a few months before.

Barely six months later, rumors emerged that Cox was betting on Phillies games. The supposed informant was Bucky Harris, whom Cox had dumped as manager on July 27, though a more likely source was Harris’s outraged friends.

Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who had been hired as the first commissioner after several Chicago White Sox players were paid off by gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series, asked Cox about the rumors.

According to the November 25, 1943, Sporting News, the Phillies owner lied (see a parallel here?) and told Landis that a business associate had made the bets and that Cox had instructed him to stop. Under Landis’s persistent questioning, Cox finally admitted in early November that he had bet on the Phillies until May 20, when he learned (or so he claimed) that an owner was not allowed to bet on his own team.

With that evidence in hand, Landis informed Cox November 15 that he would schedule a hearing on December 4 to address the charges. Without acknowledging anything, Cox replied to Landis three days later and said that he would resign as Phillies president and sell his team. He also stated that in view of those actions, he saw no reason to attend what promised to be a public flogging.

The commissioner/judge was not accustomed to such a response to his invitations and promptly informed Cox that he would be banned from baseball immediately and permanently. The team was sold to the Carpenter family, part of the DuPonts, who would own the team until 1981.

Cox added drama to the proceedings by appearing on WOR radio station the night after Landis’s announcement for a farewell interview. “I made some small and sentimental bets before I learned of the rule against this,” he said. In closing, he said, “Good luck and goodbye to everyone in baseball.”

Just as quickly, Cox had a change of heart and asked to attend the December 4 hearing, to clear his name. Landis opened the hearing to sports writers, to record the spectacle.

As reported by the December 9, 1943 Sporting News, Cox claimed that his confession was actually part of a plan to expose a disloyal employee and presented three witnesses who supported his story.

His version was contradicted by Nathan Alexander, a longtime friend, who said that the charges were also aired at a Phillies team directors meeting, where Alexander had called on Cox to resign. Harris came forward this time and also testified against his former boss.

Cox’s attorney attempted to flatter Landis as an “eminent judge of vast experience on the federal bench,” but the irascible Tennessean cut him short. “Save your energy,” Landis said with a dismissive wave of his hand. He upheld his decision, citing not only Harris’s and Alexander’s testimony, but Cox’s own words over the radio.

With that, Cox was out, and held the “last person to be banished from baseball” for the next 46 years, until Rose assumed the dishonor in 1989. Manfred’s statement citing Rose’s dishonesty had the same effect as Landis’s shutdown of Cox’s attorney – a dismissive wave of the hand that leaves Rose banished to baseball’s sideline, in the same hall of shame occupied by William Cox and eight members of the Chicago White Sox.

John Carvalho is an associate professor of journalism at Auburn University, where he focuses on sports media history. He is the author of an upcoming biography of Ford Frick, commissioner of baseball from 1951-1965. He discusses sports media issues on Twitter at @John_P_Carvalho.


The Kick Six and Me: An Oral History

I have seen several oral histories of the Kick 6, so I thought I would quickly jot down my memories of that night.  Add your own as comments, if you’d like.

I was at the top of Section 44 with a friend, Christie, who was at her first Auburn football game ever.  We had seen Sammie Coates catch the pop-pass and run it in, and we had booed with indignation when the officials restored one second to the clock.

I watched the attempted field goal, and from the North end zone stands, I had no idea that Chris Davis was back there.  Then I realized that he had caught the ball and started running it out.

My first thought was, “How quaint.  This player thinks he actually can do something fielding the field goal, and he is running fast too.”  I honestly thought he would be tackled and we would head to overtime.

Davis cut to the sideline, along with everyone else on the field, and when Cody Mandell and Dee Ford crossed in front of Davis, it was like a curtain opening and revealing Davis running toward the end zone with only Auburn players close.

As that curtain opened, it unleashed a roar as a huge wave cascading from all over Jordan-Hare, as I had never heard before, and suddenly we were all going crazy — cheering, hugging, screaming.

Two weeks before, after the “Prayer at Jordan-Hare,” I had tweeted, “I cannot believe what I have just seen.”  So I tweeted, “Again, I cannot believe what I have just seen.”

Our side of the stadium was not allowed on the field, so we got gridlocked in the stands for a while.  Like Mike Szvetitz quoted in the Opelika-Auburn News, I could not believe that they played “Celebration.”  A 1980 song?  Really?

For the next couple of days, I heard from relatives who did not even care about football (or so I thought) telling me they had seen the kick and they thought it was great.  My favorite was a phone message from my Uncle Mario, age 93, who would pass away the following summer.

I realized this was a moment shared not only with the college football world, but also sports fans across the country, a once-in-a-lifetime play.  Those of us who were there became fortunate witnesses to history, and were privileged to share in it.

I still get choked up seeing Auburn fans who were watching at home or in a restaurant or bar, realizing that the moment was theirs as much as ours in the stadium.

The next couple of weeks, Auburn was like Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth.  I remember seeing a campus tour pass in front of Tichenor Hall that next week, and everyone was gazing around them in wonder.  All that was needed was cartoon birds carrying “Welcome to Auburn!” banners and tour guides dressed as Snow White.

I realize we are mocked, often from another side of the state, for continuing to celebrate this moment.  But that’s what sport is about: the opportunity to share in such moments, and know that we were there, and that it really did happen.



This Blog Thing Here

OK, this looks better.  I’ve been planning to move my blog from Tumblr to WordPress for a while, and I have set up this blog, thanks to help from Rachel Pipan.  I’m easily impressed — most Auburn students know WordPress more than I do — but Rachel is wicked smart and talented.

(I’m also in the process of migrating my old stuff here. It’s a tedious process, but check back from time to time to check out the goods.)

To christen this new venture, I thought I would set down some thoughts on why I blog, why I tweet and from time to time, why I embarrass myself on sports talk radio.  I bring more to this process than a craving for attention — though I admit that, like every journalist, I love it when my stuff is read. Commented on. RT’ed. Linked to. You get the idea.

But how does it relate to my work as an associate professor of journalism for Auburn?  As we learn to always say in class with a smile, good question!  And this time I have an answer for it.

It is crucial that those of us involved in profession-related academic programs (education, business, pharmacy, yadda yadda yadda) engage with our profession.  The ivory tower is real to some folks both on and off campus, but we’re not compelled to keep office hours there.

I have found that Twitter in particular gives me an opportunity to engage — not only with professionals who are kind to respond, but also with sports media audience members, including my students.  Sports media as a research stream draws a little more interest than 18th Century Latvian poets.  I’d like to think that I have something to offer both in terms of insight and observation, from both my professional (15 years) and academic (21 years) experiences.

So what does this contribute to my academic career?  Directly, I would estimate somewhere around, ah, maybe, nothing.  None of it goes on my annual report or my CV. Which is fine.  Indirectly, of course, it adds a lot — to the classroom, to my research and to me personally.  Trying to word that last component sounded too California, so you’ll have to get it from that.

That said, let me quickly add that I have nothing wrong with the official stuff — the research that got me tenure and promotion (i.e., job security) in the first place.  At the risk of being celebrated as Captain Cool or Mr. Fun, I will confess that I enjoy my research into the history of sports media.

My blogging has slowed because I am currently gutting out a biography on Ford Frick, baseball commissioner from 1951-1965.  But when it comes to reading the old Sporting News editions online, I’m a geek and I can deal with it.

But I don’t want it to stop there.  When it does, academics are just talking and writing to each other at conferences and in journals, and rewarding themselves for it.  I enjoy the conferences and the journals, but there has to be more to the life of the mind.

If this is your first time at one of my blogs, you might notice that much of my stuff is based on academic research — my own and others.  The Bill Tilden piece for OutSports started as a journal article.  The ViceSports essay on racism in sports broadcasting summarizes the readings for a class lecture on the topic.  The BINGing and CORFing piece applied others’ research on social identity theory to the Auburn-Alabama rivalry in a football game weekend lecture — the Immaculate Reception of 2013, to be precise.

As I relate particularly the work of colleagues, it’s well-received, because it’s like an untapped treasure; many sports fans are not aware of the great media research that has been going on.

I always argue that the most important product of a college/university is not students — it’s knowledge.  We exist as a place where new ideas are tested that will benefit society.  In the social sciences, our mission is to help society understand the processes that affect everyone.

So to me, when I share it through my blogs, it’s an easy sell. There is some good product out there.

Yes, we then impart this knowledge to students, and I will also admit to loving the classroom too.  Teaching is like journalism to me — lecture prep is info gathering, lecturing is article presentation, and grading is editing.  I mean, what’s not to love?

My personal perspective in the classroom and on social media is old school in origin — having transitioned from typewriter to VDT to command-based PC to Mac to networks to Internet to social media.  I struggle to keep up with the tools, as demonstrated by the foray into Tumblr that Rachel had to rescue me from, but the principles still work.

So basically, I love everything about being a college professor (except the endless meetings, of course), and I love reading and writing, particularly as both relate to sports and the pros who write what I read.

I hope that shows through here, and that you enjoy what you read here. If it doesn’t, and you don’t, I can’t blame Rachel.