Oscar Stanage played fourteen major league seasons retiring as the Tigers all-time leader in games caught. He made up for his offensive deficiencies by playing above average defensively. However, the catcher also played in a dark period in the game’s history. Gamblers influenced results and even conspired to throw at least one World Series. In 1917, he was involved in a shady doubleheader. The Sox suspiciously stole 12 bases in the double dip. The White Sox swept Detroit and later sent the Tigers a cash “gift” two weeks later prompting rumors of a fix.
The White Sox held a 3 ½ game lead over the Boston Red Sox entering September 2 doubleheader with the Tigers. The Sox swept the twin bill 7-2 and 6-5. In the first game, they stole seven bases off Oscar Stanage. They swiped five against backup catcher Archie Yelle in game two. The following day, the two teams played another doubleheader. Chicago swept Detroit once more 7-5 and 14-8. The four victories extended their lead over Boston to 6 ½ games, which virtually assured the pennant. In the end, Chicago won the American League pennant by nine games.
At first, no one thought much of the sweeps. The White Sox fielded a tough team that won 100 games. The Red Sox won 90 games for second place. Meanwhile, the Tigers were a .500 ball club. On the surface, Chicago’s four victories appeared to be a great team picking up steam against a club playing out the string.
This view quickly changed two weeks after the doubleheaders. Each White Sox player donated $45 to the Tigers players after Detroit swept the Red Sox three straight to essentially cement the pennant for Chicago. The Chicagoans claimed they wanted to thank the Tigers. Rumors quickly spread that Detroit threw the games against Chicago in exchange for the payoffs. The White Sox success on the base paths and Detroit’s woeful pitching in the series served as circumstantial evidence. There is no way to know for sure, but many observers questioned the legitimacy of Chicago’s four game sweep.
In truth, no one knows for sure if Detroit intentionally tanked. However, gamblers and players did often fix games. The 1919 White Sox threw some World Series games in exchange for cash. Rumors persist to this day that the 1918 Cubs also threw the Fall Classic. The game was dirty, which explains Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis’ draconian punishments against players involved with gamblers. In the end, Stanage and his mates might have just played poorly. However, the payoff from the Sox remains suspicious and reverberates 90 years later. In 2007, MLB rebuked Torii Hunter for shipping the Kansas City Royals four bottles of champagne for sweeping the Tigers in an important series. The Hunter controversy stemmed from actions by players long dead.