MLB Approves Gambling On Baseball, Maybe Its Time To Reconsider “Shoeless” Joe Jackson’s Lifetime Ban
“Shoeless” Joe Jackson, believed by many to have been the greatest natural hitter of all-time, was banned from baseball for life after the 1920 season by Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis.
Jackson had a .356 batting average in his abbreviated 13 year career. Controversially, Jackson remains on baseball’s permanent ineligible list, meaning he can never be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. His alleged crime, as many people know, was participating in the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal. Eight members of the Chicago White Sox including Jackson were influenced by gamblers with promised payoffs to throw the World Series.
As the old car commercial goes “Baseball, Hot Dogs Apple Pie and Chevrolet, they go together in the good ole’ USA.” Where does gambling fit in? Apparently right beside baseball.
Gambling On Baseball Is Okay Now
After decades of distancing itself from gamblers and gambling, suddenly Major League Baseball is embracing the legalization of gambling.
In 2019 MGM Resorts International will be MLB’s official gambling partner. MGM will become an MLB-authorized gambling operator and will promote itself with teams and on the MLB Network, MLB.com and the MLB At Bat app. MGM will have a presence at baseball’s top events.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced in November, “Over the past 18 months we’ve had various senior people in the office involved various aspects of the sports gaming project. I think that we have ensured ourselves on the integrity front by updating our policies, making clear what employees and players can and cannot do on the one hand, and on the other developing clear guidelines for the commercial activity that central baseball, meaning Major League Baseball will engage in and similarly the kind of commercial activities that will be allowed on the club level, as well.”
Let’s be honest about this. This change of heart is not about protecting the sanctity of baseball or the integrity of the game. The “commercial activity” is gambling, which was abhorrent to baseball until 2018.
It’s really about the money and MLB reacting to the seismic changes to what our culture now deems legal or illegal behavior. Will pot-smoking be allowed for players in certain team’s states where it is legal? If a catcher goes to the mound and points out Front Row Amy’s assets in a derogatory way to the pitcher and the lip readers watching TV pick it up and complain about his inappropriate behavior, will he be suspended?
As far as betting on baseball, MLB sees that it is better to get in on the action as soon as possible rather than be an outsider looking in. The deal insures that MLB will get a big cut of gambling pie.
MLB’s stance on legalized gambling has shifted according to Manfred because, “We have to take advantage of every opportunity to drive engagement by fans.” At the same time Manfred proclaimed, “No matter what happens in terms of legalization, there will always be a rule that prohibits betting on baseball. That’s the bedrock of our integrity.”
Which gets us back to Joe Jackson. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson allegedly took money to throw the World Series. If he did, it is doubtful the illiterate Jackson fully understood the implications of his alleged compliance. During the 1919 World Series, Jackson committed no errors in the field, batted .375 and had 12 hits, a World Series record which stood for the next 45 years. So much for trying to lose. If Jackson never took any money, the crime is against Landis and MLB for depriving him of his livelihood and besmirching Jackson’s name for nearly a century.
Jackson did not gamble on the World Series, and he may or may not have been bribed. The whole case against Jackson and Sox third baseman Buck Weaver remains on shaky ground and deserves another look.
Gambling was a crime, but MLB has adjusted their stance – tempted by money. Without being hypocritical, shouldn’t MLB re-examine Jackson’s case, who was accused of – being tempted by money?