Turning on Hal Chase

In the book, I mention Hal Chase’s abominable reputation for cheating, both while he was an active player and afterwards. I don’t dwell on it there, but Chase was the most corrupt player I’ve come across. What’s interesting and appalling, though, is that while Chase was active, while everyone knew, no one really went after him. It’s a testament to how corrupt and how tolerated that kind of thing was that you can’t find contemporary outrage, calls for his banning, columns constantly attacking him when he came to town, even though the writers knew as well as people in baseball what he was made of.

But as the Black Sox scandal unravelled (and Hal Fullerton entirely vindicated for his coverage after the 1919 series), you can start to see that scandals are more easily aired. For instance, I came across this throwaway mention in the February 10, 1921 Sporting News:

The divorced wife of Hal Chase might make a good witness in the trials of the accused White Sox. In testifying for her divorce in Cincinnati recently she swore Chase told her a lot about how he had been mixed up in baseball cheating. She “knew his nature,” she said and her knowledge led her to believe that when there was any crooked work being done Chase was in on it.

Now, it required something to be out there for them to point to, but it’s also clear reading this that the Sporting News isn’t dismissing her allegations and in fact wants people to look into them.

This is a huge change from 1919. Then, reporters like Hugh Fullerton who wrote about the Series or the aftermath were mocked and savaged by voices of establishment publications. Baseball Magazine, for instance, took many opportunities to fire at Fullerton. Eight Men Out quotes them at one point taking a story about Lee Magee, thrown out of baseball for his connection to Hal Chase rumors (Magee also finished 1919 on the White Sox but was not in on the fixing, it seems):

Magee, after all, has not hurt the game in which he will no longer have a part. The greater harm was done by sensational writers like Hugh Fullerton, men for whose actions there was not the slightest excuse.

But only a year later, the Sporting News openly encouraged investigation of the man Magee was thrown out for associating with.