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July 31, 2001|Larry Stewart

If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

What: "SportsCenter Flashback: Black Sox Banned From Baseball"

Where: ESPN Classic, today, 4 p.m.

The story of Chicago White Sox players taking bribes from gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series has been well-chronicled, including in the book and movie, "Eight Men Out." And now ESPN Classic revisits what is known as the Black Sox scandal with an informative feature that looks at the facts, myths, allegations and opinions.

Nearly 80 years ago, on Aug. 2, 1921, eight members of the Chicago White Sox, including fabled left fielder Shoeless Joe Jackson, were acquitted on charges related to the scandal. A key factor was that confessions made before the trial mysteriously disappeared. The next day, baseball's new commissioner, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, banned the players from baseball for life.

To tell the story, ESPN, as it is prone to do, relied too heavily on interviews. More narrative by host Charley Steiner and fewer talking heads would have made for a cleaner show.

Among the dozens of writers, historians and family members interviewed are Eliot Asinof, author of "Eight Men Out," Lester Erwin, a nephew of Jackson, and Chicago Tribune columnist Jerome Holtzman.

One of the more interesting aspects is how the media handled the story.

"Everybody knew about it," Holtzman says, "That's why it was no big surprise. The reporters knew about it. They knew about it before the Series began."

It's pointed out that the Los Angeles Times' Harry A. Williams was one of the first to write about it. His story was published five weeks after the 1919 World Series. Chicago papers, fearing lawsuits, stayed away from the story.

The scandal didn't really break until September 1920, when a Chicago grand jury was looking into reports that the Chicago Cubs had thrown a three-game series to the Philadelphia Phillies that year. The investigation spread to the 1919 Series and the White Sox's loss to the underdog Cincinnati Reds, leading to baseball's darkest moment.

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