The relationship between baseball and gambling has been one stretching way back into history. It is a journey of significant growth and then almost destruction, yet still intertwined with each other. Gambling has been described as the vital fertilizer to the growth of baseball into becoming the nation’s favourite pastime entertainment. At the start of the 19th century, baseball was not much more than merely a game played by boys. Yet during that century, gambling started to attract a more adult interest into the game as it soon became to be seen as an investment into the sport.
Hence older fans started to show up at games. Gambling allowed for statistics to be almost idolized in the sport and the importance of statistics is still a crucial part of the competition today, serving as its heartbeat. At stadiums like Fenway Park, the best seats quickly became those favoured by serious sports punters. These punters were relentless in creating their betting categories, and wagers were placed on everything concerning the game from winning scores to ball calls.
Losing Out on Integrity
In the hype of all the sideline action, it was bound to happen. Players also started to share in the profits to supplement the pittance they were paid. Throwing games became inevitable. Hal Chase played mostly during his career for the New York Highlanders, and he earned himself a famous name for throwing games. The Black Prince of Baseball, he would be called. Chase threw games to win, for a friend, for money and sometimes only because he could.
Baseball on the brink of Disaster
Gambling built baseball up, and it took it down to its knees again. It was during the 1919 World Series. The White Sox was delivering once again the theatrical performance which they became known for by now. The players who were in on throwing the game played loosely, and the statistics showed just that. The return to resemble authentic play was reduced, and then Happy Felsch was reprimanded by his cohorts for performance blunders which they felt were too obvious. Sports journalists picked up on a story, and the press box became a hot box reporting on the looming scandal. It wasn’t long before big league games were accused of playing for the gamblers and not the crowds. Rumours started to surface that this would be the last World Series. The sport was nearly destroyed when Kenesaw Mountain Landis became the new commissioner of baseball, and he took a stance. No player who would even sit in a conversation where opportunities for throwing a game were discussed, would ever play professionally again.
A decision reinforced 70 years later by Bart Giamatti, commissioner at that stage, taking a stance and banning Pete Rose from baseball for life in 1989 for the same kind of offence. This complicated relationship is still going secure with MLB making FanDuel their gambling partner during August this year, once again hoping to strengthen attendance through gambling.