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Spotlight On The “Eight Men Out”: Buck Weaver
“There are murderers who serve a sentence and then get out…Not me, I got life.” –Buck Weaver, commenting on his lifetime ban from baseball.
Yesterday was the 96th anniversary of a sad day in baseball history: On January 18, 1922 Buck Weaver applied for reinstatement in professional baseball. Unfortunately, as we all know, his appeal was denied.
After “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, Buck Weaver, with his ever-present grin and his happy, optimistic disposition, is probably the most recognizable of the eight players banned for life following the 1919 “Black “Sox” scandal. His suspension resulted from what was termed “guilty knowledge” rather than “crooked play.” No one had ever suggested that Weaver gave less than 100% effort, batting .324, with 11 hits. He also played errorless ball, lending much credence to his lifelong claim that he had nothing to do with the fix.
Many baseball historians view Weaver’s lifetime ban as a gross miscarriage of injustice. Weaver always claimed that his loyalty to his teammates compelled him not to inform baseball authorities what he knew about discussions to throw the series.
A strong case can be made that he did not deserve a lifetime ban. Author Gene Carney, in his highly acclaimed book, “Burying the Black Sox,” repeatedly made the point that there were different levels of guilt in the affair, and that should have been reflected in the punishments. Instead, all the players, including Buck Weaver, received a “one size fits all” lifetime suspension.
Buck Weaver played eight years in the major leagues, all with the White Sox. Over his career, he hit .272, with 1308 hits, 421 RBIs, and 172 stolen bases. He started as a shortstop, but moved to third in 1917 when Swede Risberg joined the team. An excellent fielder, Weaver was known as the only third baseman in the league that Ty Cobb would not bunt against.
Weaver applied unsuccessfully six times for reinstatement before his death from a heart attack on January 31, 1956 at age 65. Later in life, Weaver contacted a New York City attorney who vowed to get him reinstated. Weaver sent his legal papers and correspondence to New York. They were never returned, and to this day, baseball historians have been unable to find Buck’s legal files.
At the time of the 2005 World Series with the White Sox capturing their first championship since 1917, Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Downey implored Commissioner Bud Selig to rescind Weaver’s ban. His column of October 20, 2005 cited Hall-of-Fame catcher Ray Schalk’s condemnation of “the seven” Sox in on the fix, not eight.
Weaver’s niece, Pat Anderson, told Downey: “I can’t understand why someone would be so obtuse. Some of these commissioners, it’s like they put a brown paper bag over their heads.” Another niece, Marge Follett, came to the 2003 All-Star Game at U.S. Cellular to personally appeal to the commissioner for her uncle’s reinstatement. So far, none of the appeals on Buck Weaver’s behalf have been successful, and he remains “banned for life,” even though he passed away 62 years ago.
Photo Credits: Buck Weaver colorization by Don Stokes:https://www.facebook.com/Don-Stokes-Old-Time-Baseball-Colorizations-923346241033508/; All others from Google search
Information: Excerpts edited from the Buck Weaver Wikipedia page.
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