This Day in Baseball History: March 8th, 1923

Why was Benton spared?

On March 8, 1923:

Commissioner Kenesaw Landis allows Rube Benton to play for the Cincinnati Reds.

Rube Benton was an average pitcher. His record was 150-144 (I guess winning 150 games should make you above-average) with a 3.09 ERA, but his ERA+ of 101 says average. However, he would be remembered not for his pitching but for his part in one of the biggest scars of baseball history — the 1919 World Series.

On September 24, 1920, a grand jury to look into the gambling in baseball brought in Rube Benton to testify as to what he knew about gambling in baseball. For now, Benton would only say that he knew of one time he had been approached about throwing a game. In 1917, he claimed Buck Herzog and Hal Chase asked him to throw a game against the Cubs, but he refused and won the game. Herzog responded by saying Benton never liked Herzog and always held a grudge against him. Then came the death blow. Herzog produced evidence that Benton won $3,800 as a result of the 1919 World Series fix.

The grand jury called Benton back in. Benton admitted to receiving money as a result of the fix, but he also stated that Chase won $40,000. Benton went on to name four Chicago White Sox players that were involved. Benton’s testimony would be crucial evidence forcing the “Black Sox” players to admit their guilt.

In 1921, Benton was suddenly released by the Giants after starting 5-2 with a 2.88 ERA. No official reason was given. Benton played in the minors, and in the 1923 off-season, the Browns and Reds expressed interest in azquiring his services. AL president Ban Johnson banned him from playing for an AL team, and NL president John Heydler did the same for the NL. However, in a surprising and contradictory move, Landis decided that no one could prevent Benton from playing if he wanted to and a team wanted him. Buck Weaver and Joe Gedeon were both banned from the game for knowing about the fix and doing nothing to stop it, but Benton would go on to play three more seasons.

Oh, and don’t forget to set your clocks up an hour. I forgot about it, and when I started my computer it had already switched. It took me a minute to figure out what had happened. Why do we have stupid Daylight Savings Time again?

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2 Responses to “This Day in Baseball History: March 8th, 1923”

  1. The Common Man Says:

    Benton’s an interesting case, and I didn’t know much about him or his role in the gambling/fixxing games scandals of the 1910s. There must have been some kind of deal in place for his testimony, yes? Something like, you testify and your suspension is unofficial and only applies to the majors, and lasts until the end of the 1922 season. Otherwise, why would he stick his neck out for a player to whom he had no other connection? Catching Benton is nowhere near as satisfying or as influential as Chase or the Black Sox.

  2. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    Seems like a plausible explanation.

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