During the last 130 years of baseball, there have been countless moments of action. Some were moments of joy – and others we’d rather forget about. Below are five of the worst scandals in baseball that changed the sport forever.
Marge Schott and the Cincinnati Reds
When Marge Schott bought the Cincinnati Reds in 1984, she became one of only two female owners to ever own a Major League Baseball team. She was a wealthy widow, known in the Cincinnati community for giving generously to charity.
Unfortunately, Schott didn’t extend this generosity to the baseball league. Marge Schott quickly became a villain within the baseball community. Throughout her career in MLB, Schott continually made racist, sexist and bigoted comments about her team and baseball in general. It seemed she was unable to prevent herself from offending baseball fans in interviews and from the sidelines.
The final straw came for Schott after she made some comments about Adolf Hitler in an interview about baseball with ESPN. Shortly after the interview, Schott was banned from having any physical involvement with her MLB team. She eventually sold the Cincinnati Reds in 1999. After her death, former MLB commissioner, Fay Vincent, described Schott as a ‘tragic’ person.
2. The MLB gambling scandal
In 1919 a gambling scandal between the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds nearly ended the baseball league as we know it. To baseball fans, it looked as if the White Sox had the league victory in their hands; but something sinister was happening behind the scenes. The owner of the Chicago White Sox was grossly underpaying the team and arguments were being had over unpaid bonuses. A later-acquitted gambler offered to pay the White Sox $100,000 to hand the league win over to the Cincinnati Reds. Eight players allegedly took the offer and the Cincinnati Reds went on to win the league.
Although all players were cleared of the crime, they received a lifetime ban from the sport. This action was taken in attempt to reinstate faith back into the sport.
3. Pittsburgh Pirates cocaine scandal
In 1985, six Pittsburgh Pirates team members played a pivotal role in exposing a serious drug problem in Major League Baseball. Rod Scurry, Dale Berra, Dave Parker, John Milner, Lee Lacy and Lee Mazzilli made national headlines after they appeared before a Pittsburgh jury to testify in a case which resulted in the imprisonment of seven drug dealers.
During the case it was revealed that Rod Scurry had left games during the late innings to meet drug dealers. It was also discovered that drug dealers frequently visited the Pittsburgh player’s club. The case highlighted a serious cocaine and amphetamine problem within MLB and helped introduce drug testing to the sport.
Rod Scurry died at age 36 from cocaine related heart issues.
4. Louisville Grays 1877 scandal
At the end of a suspicious, season long losing streak for the Louisville Grays, four players were found guilty of throwing the games in exchange for payment. The four players found guilty, including world-class pitcher Jim Devlin, were banned for Major League Baseball for life.
5. Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year 1998
In 1998, Sports Illustrated named two Sportsman of the Year. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were both big hitters for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs. After the two hitters surpassed a 37-year-long pitch hitter record, it was found that both players had been using steroids to enhance their performance. The drug scandal meant that records had be re-written and a closer look at drug testing needed to be taken.