This one’s a tearjerker: the tale of the 1919 Chicago White Sox — arguably one of baseball’s greatest-ever teams — and legendary left fielder “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. It started when gamblers “Sleepy Bill” Burns and Billy Maharg, backed by the gangster Arnold Rothstein, managed to bribe eight players with a total of $100,000 to throw the World Series. The fix paid off, with the heavily favored Sox losing in eight games to the Cincinnati Reds. It wasn’t until September 1920, when an investigation into a fixed Chicago Cubs game eventually turned in the direction of the 1919 series, that the truth came out. The eight players (forever known as the Eight Men Out) were indicted and suspended from the sport for life.
But guilt got the better of Shoeless Joe — who earned his nickname when a blister once forced him to remove his shoes before going up to bat — and did his best to repent. He warned Sox owner Charles Comiskey about the scam but was ignored. When he asked to be benched for the series, his request was denied. And his stats during the Fall Classic were nothing short of stellar: he batted .375, had 12 base hits (a record at the time) and hit the only home run. Eventually a Chicago jury acquitted him and his seven teammates of any wrongdoing (though it should be noted that this was due to the mysterious disappearance of players’ testimonies). But even though many players have supported Jackson’s induction into the Hall of Fame, he still hasn’t been granted the honor. What we’re left with is one of baseball’s saddest stories and a (possibly apocryphal) boy begging Jackson outside the courthouse, “Say it ain’t so, Joe.”