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Uncovering the Fix of the 1919 World Series
The Role of Hugh Fullerton
I have never interviewed someone about his or her grandfather before. But that's where I found myself, not long after stepping onto the trail that leads back into the shadowy events of the 1919 World Series, the "Big Fix," its cover-up, and then its gradual revelation. The grandfather I was learning more about was the first whistle-blower on the "Black Sox Scandal." If he did it today, he might rate as Time's Man of the Year.
Hugh Fullerton V, who teaches journalism in a Texas college, got to know his grandfather, the sportswriter Hugh S. Fullerton, for a few years before he passed on in 1945. None of the memories they generated together involved baseball, but they did have fun playing together. Hugh recalled that his grandfather did the cooking in his family; his wife, the driving.
I was disappointed to hear that Hugh's grandfather left behind no papers or diaries. After all, in the stories he submitted just after the Series, he had names and dates and places—all edited out by his supervisors, either for fear of libel or perhaps at the request of Charles Comiskey. Hugh Fullerton and Commy were close, and from all accounts, Hugh was very loyal. When he called on baseball to end its shady dealings with gamblers, he exempted Mr.Comiskey.1 In one of his last interviews, Joe Jackson claimed to have told Comiskey about the Fix, in the presence of Hugh Fullerton, before the Series. How great it would be if a journal entry would confirm that tiny detail!
The story of the uncovering of the Fix begins with Hugh S. Fullerton. Hugh was born in 1873, and according to Norman L. Macht, he was "the best-known baseball writer in the country" for the first quarter of the twentieth century.2 "A titan of the Chicago press box," Fullerton graduated from Ohio State College and started writing in Cincinnati in 1889.3 He moved to Chicago seven years later and in 1919 was on the staff of the Herald and Examiner. He went on after that to write several books, including some fiction. He was one of the [End Page 39] founders of the Baseball Writers Association of America, and he was awarded the J. G. Taylor Spink Award in 1964.
Baseball historian David Q. Voigt quotes Fullerton often in describing how the early game evolved—with Fullerton lobbying for "more dash, less mechanical work, more brains by individuals and fewer orders from the bench."4 Fullerton argued in print for more discipline to curb rowdyism but also gave a voice to the players who felt stifled by the system. Voigt ranks Fullerton with Ring Lardner, Grantland Rice, and Franklin P. Adams—all-star company—as individual stylists. Voigt adds: "In 1919 it was Fullerton's detective work that unraveled the web of fact and rumor and exposed the crooked work of the 'Black Sox.'"5
Rumors of the Fix were "widespread and detailed" and were not confined to the playing field and locker room. A hundred reporters must have heard them, but Hugh Fullerton was "inquisitive" and "tracking down rumors was a joy of [his] life." Thou shalt not quit was the first of Fullerton's "Ten Commandments of Sports."6
Fullerton's "tireless digging" was assisted by Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson, who had covered the Series for a New York paper. Matty became Fullerton's "expert witness," diagramming each questionable play. According to Charles Alexander: "Comparing notes, [they] marked seven plays by the White Sox as highly suspect. In several articles over the winter, Fullerton not only questioned the honesty of the Series but discussed specific plays by specific players that had convinced him that something was amiss."7
Fullerton smelled something fishy before the first Series pitches were tossed. The rumors were...