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The American Almanac – September 28, 2011

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The game of baseball is a clean, straight game. – William Howard Taft Ooh. Not so quick, Mr. Taft, for even the national pastime has its blemish: the 1919 World Series between the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds. It appeared, at first, to be like any other World Series: two highly competitive teams playing their hardest to see who would be crowned champions of baseball, and who would simply go home. In this expanded series, the Reds seemed to barely survive to win 5 games to 3. But they had some help. Yes, the 1919 World Series was the one fixed by the infamous Black Sox scandal. It was on this day in 1920 that eight members of the White Sox were indicted for throwing the ’19 Series, thus defrauding their teammate, John F. “Shano” Collins, of $1,784.00. “What??” You may ask. “FIX the World Series?? How is that possible?” Here’s the story. Background Information Baseball wasn’t so much invented as it was developed. Brought over from England in the form of such games as “stoolball” or criquet, individuals like Abner Doubleday soon developed the rules and concept of the game “baseball” in the mid 1800s. The first professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, was fielded in 1869, and other semi-pro teams soon followed in their footsteps. Traveling around the country and playing in public parks spread knowledge and popularity of the game until teams could actually start charging people to attend. Baseball’s popularity kept increasing, and, by the turn of the century, it was a legitimate business with two major leagues and numerous minor and semi-pro leagues with teams all over the nation. The first World Series was staged in 1903, and the annual contest between the two top teams quickly became one of the most anticipated events in America — comparable to the Super Bowl today. Attendance kept rising, and, following World War I, there was another boom in popularity. 1919 saw attendance records being set in many ballparks. The World Series that year was expected to be profitable — and it was, generating 50% more revenue than any other World Series to date. It was such a big event, with so much money flowing around, that if someone could actually know the outcome beforehand, they could make a pretty tidy profit . . . The Scandal Enter the gamblers. There was no one single mastermind behind the idea of the fix; it was more a collaboration of ideas. Two, however, stand out above the rest: William Thomas “Sleepy Bill” Burns and Billy Maharg. Burns was an ex-major league pitcher and was the connection to the players. Maharg was the gambler with the connections underground. With big money and even bigger dreams, those two men approached two of the White Sox players, Pitcher Ed Cicotte and First Baseman Arnold “Chick” Gandil, about fixing the Series. The players realized it would take more than just two of them to ensure a proper fix, and, after speaking to a few of their teammates, added six more to their rank: Pitcher Lefty Williams, Centerfielder Happy Felsch, Shortstop Swede Risberg, Thirdbaseman Buck Weaver, Utilityman Fred McMullin, and one of the best and most popular stars ever, Leftfielder “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. In order to pay off eight men, however, Burns and Maharg would need to come up with some more cash, and fast. They hit up “The Big Bankroll” Arnold Rothstein for a much needed loan, along with about half a dozen others. In the end, the gamblers bet nearly half a million dollars on the Reds, while agreeing to pay the players $100,000 to split. Baseball players salaries were modest in those days — even for the times — so, split up, each player was going to take home years’ worth of pay. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to pad their wallets. Money talks; they listened and were convinced. And so what if it was illegal? No one would ever find out. Unfortunately, that is where they were wrong. A lot of people were needed to raise enough money to make the fix profitable as well as pay off the players, and that meant more people knowing about the scandal. All those people, of course, bet on the Reds, and they also told their friends to do the same. Word got around. Heavy betting, a sudden change in the odds, and loose lips all combined to raise suspicion. According to some accounts, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson told the owner of the White Sox, Charles Comiskey, of the fix and was ignored. The Series was played, and, despite gallant efforts by the other 17 men on the team, the fix was a success, and the fans couldn’t even tell the Series had been thrown. Word continued to spread, and rumors swirled around throughout the next season. Finally, late in 1920, the eight players dubbed the “Black Sox” were indicted. The Black Sox Scandal — Aftermath and Effects The Scandal couldn’t have come at a worse time. A post-war depression was starting to sink in, there was public disillusionment, and racial tensions were reaching a boiling point. The need of America for its good old national pastime was at a peak, and this fiasco ruined even that for the public. The Offical Encyclopedia of Baseball says, “baseball suffered a near-fatal blow upon the revelation that the infamous Chicago ‘Black Sox’ had thrown the 1919 Series . . .” For those die-hard fans, this was a blow from which they might never recover. Still, in present day, nearly 80 years after the fact, baseball fans talk about the Black Sox scandal with a lowered voice and an embarrassed look in their eyes. It’s a stain on the revered game that even time is having a problem washing away. The scandal even left its own legacy that is still inciting arguments among fans today: the fate of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. The first commissioner of baseball, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, suspended each of the players, and initially promised them reinstatement if they were found not guilty. He still banned them all for life in spite of the fact that all were cleared of criminal charges. “Regardless of the verdict of the juries,” he said, “no player that throws a ball game . . . will ever again play professional baseball.” What followed was controversy. While seven of the eight “Black Sox” went so far as confessing, one player seemed to be relatively innocent — “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. Joseph Jefferson Jackson was one of the best hitters to play the game, finishing with a .356 career average (third all time), and, in the last years before Babe Ruth took over the sport, was arguably the most popular. A sure-fire Hall-of-Famer. In the Series he hit a robust .375 while setting a major league World Series record with 12 hits, one of which was the only home run hit during the entire Series. Does that sound like the type of performance one trying to lose would have? While reportedly “Acknowledging that he had let up in key situations,” Joe Jackson has received tremendous support over the years for his ban to be lifted and for his induction into the Hall of Fame. Posthumously, unfortunately. The evidence? Apparently not only had he told Comiskey of the fix, but asked to be benched during the series so there was no way anyone could say he had a part in it. Comiskey refused, and actually tried to cover up the fix afterwards to save face. The definitive web site on Joe Jackson, The “‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson Virtual Hall of Fame” (which is accessible through the 1919 World Series Stats Link, to the right) had this conclusion to draw from Jackson’s actions and innocence as found by the court of law, “Over the years they have called Joe Jackson many things, some good, some bad. It is now time they called him a Hall of Famer.” The Splendid Splinter himself, Ted Williams, said (according to Dennis McCroskey), “Joe was banned for life by Judge Landis, and his life is over, so give the man his due place in baseball history.” He went on to say that many Hall of Fame players also support Joe’s induction into the Hall. Conclusion The Black Sox scandal of 1919 started out as a few gamblers trying to get rich, and turned into one of the biggest, and easily the darkest, event in baseball history. It was another jolt to a nation already in turmoil and made the American people lose faith in the game they loved. The players and conspirators are long dead, but the controvery rages on. How much did everyone know? How big a part did people play? Who did what? And lastly, should “Shoeless” Joe be admitted to the Hall of Fame, an honor he otherwise earned? Thankfully, Joe was not bitter, even in the end. A holy man was he, and we leave you with his words: I am going to meet the greatest umpire of all – and He knows I’m innocent. – “Shoeless” Joe Jackson]]]]> ]]>

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Mississippi Development Authority accepting applications for 2020 Aspire Mississippi program

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From the Mississippi Development Authority:

The Mississippi Development Authority’s Asset Development Division is accepting applications for the 2020 Aspire Mississippi program. The program is designed to help communities become better places to live, work and visit through economic, community and workforce development.

“Participants of MDA’s Aspire Mississippi program master the leadership = community development = economic development model, sharpening their leadership skills to effectively develop their communities, which attracts private capital investment creating new jobs in their communities,” MDA Executive Director Glenn McCullough Jr. said in a statement. “Past participants of Aspire Mississippi demonstrated their commitment to bettering their communities through a variety of proactive projects that will bolster their economic development efforts for years to come.”

Aspire Mississippi provides support to counties as they identify marketable assets, allowing participants to increase industrial and economic development in their counties. The program helps communities develop projects that achieve significant and sustainable community and economic development outcomes. Curriculum focus areas include data-driven decision making and project mapping, as well as community, economic and workforce development.

The location for each session will alternate among the Aspire Mississippi counties. In addition to support from MDA, participants receive guidance from partners at the state’s universities, private businesses, nonprofit organizations, and state and federal agencies.

Each Aspire Mississippi team is typically formed through the local economic development office and consists of approximately eight to 10 local stakeholders committed to enhancing their knowledge in key community and economic development areas. Teams from the following counties recently graduated from the 2019 Aspire Mississippi program: Covington, Lawrence, Leake, Panola, Sharkey and Walthall.

The 2020 Aspire Mississippi program begins in April and will conclude in late fall with each team’s project presentations and a graduation ceremony.

The deadline to apply for the 2020 program is Monday, Feb. 3. To apply, go to mississippi.org/aspire. For additional information, contact Ellen Bourdeaux with MDA’s Asset Development Division at 601-359-9333 or [email protected].

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Adopt-a-School training seeks to empower partnerships between churches and public schools

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Pastor Tony Evans, the Urban Alternative

Vicksburg will play host to a unique training designed to help churches partner with local schools to transform individuals, families and communities.

The training, a project of Pastor Tony Evan’s Urban Alternatives organization, is part of a nationwide Adopt-a-School Initiative, which provides attendees “the building blocks for starting or enhancing the delivery of social services to urban youth and their families,” the organization’s website states. “Participants will receive an overview of the process for adopting public schools and creating programs, including school-based mentoring, to meet the vast needs of public-school youth and their families.”

The training is hosted by the Warren County Youth Court and Unite Mississippi, the parent organization of numerous faith-based organizations that have “a desire to make communities whole in a grass-roots way,” said Larry Nicks, deputy director of Unite Mississippi.

Recognizing that churches and faith-based organizations are probably the most influential organizations inside many communities in Mississippi, the Adopt-a-School program seeks to develop partnerships between churches and public schools and offer mentoring to children and families.

“Our prison population is growing, and our school literacy problem is getting worse. If we can tap into the school population at the third-grade level, then we can make a difference in the quality of graduates and, of course, our workforce,” Nicks said.

Mentoring at-risk children at an early age, particularly at the third-grade level, is crucial, he said. If children can’t read by third grade “they’ll never catch up and be on level in college and in life.”

The goal is not to only mentor children but to make the family whole through mentoring, job skills and more. Churches with resources will be partnered with churches with few resources.

The problem of literacy must be addressed before it gets to the justice or penal system, said Judge Marcie Southerland with the Warren County Youth Court.

“We have got to reach these children and their families when the children are … in second and third grade, not when they’re 13, 14 and on up to 17 years of age,” she said, adding, “I know this will work.”

“The kids we’re trying to reach are the kids that, for whatever reason, haven’t had proper mentoring and proper upbringing at home,” said Chip Miskelly, chairman of Unite Mississippi. “These are kids who are falling through the cracks.”

“What we’re trying to do more than anything else, is give these kids a fighting chance,” he added.

“It’s a holistic approach to reach not only the kids, but the families as a whole.”

In this one-day training, attendees will learn how to analyze the needs of the community, engage with a local school, recruit and develop volunteers and how to raise the necessary funds to support the endeavor.

The training is Jan. 23, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the George Oaks Building at the Vicksburg-Warren County Hinds Community College Campus. Lunch will be served, sponsored by Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition of Claiborne and Warren Counties.

Cost of the training is $75 per person, and everyone is welcome. The training is designed for pastors, church and community leaders, and for people who are stakeholders in public schools including parents and teachers, or those who may be interested in becoming stakeholders.

“This is a top-notch training” with a successful track-record of more than 30 years, said Michelle Johnson, a Unite Mississippi board member and Vicksburg coordinator for the training.

For more information or to register, see the Adopt-A-School website or call Bill Collins with Urban Alternatives at 1-800-800-3222, Pastors’ coordinator Pastor James Bowman at 601-529-2044 or Vicksburg coordinator Michelle Johnson at 601-715-0522.

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Vicksburg Chess Club provides a way to exercise the brain for adults and children

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Vicksburg Chess Club

To many, chess is a complex board game that takes time and a great deal of focus to learn and play. It’s also a fun way to pass the time.

Chess is a great way to exercise the brain, too. Research has shown chess helps adults prevent or delay Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia and some mental illnesses. In children, it sparks an interest in math and science as it helps them improve critical thinking and abstract reasoning skills, and find solutions to complex problems.

Vicksburg schools understand the benefits of chess and have added the board game to their extracurricular activities with the help of the Vicksburg Chess Club.

“Right now the Chess Club is trying to promote chess in lots of areas,” said Dr. Donald Rathburn, a member of the Vicksburg Chess Club. “We have the grade-school programs. We run chess tournaments. We have a men’s championship and a women’s championship every year. We now have the Chess League that’s been going on for four years and that gives us a championship, and there are more possible tournaments.”

Each Tuesday and Thursday the club meets at the Vicksburg Mall, 3505 Pemberton Square Blvd., at 6 p.m. to play chess and improve their skills. Everyone is invited to join in to watch or play in the matches.

At the weekly club meetings, members and guests have an opportunity to learn different tactics and styles of the game.

“There is a variety of chess,” Rathburn said. “It isn’t just two people playing chess. That is, of course, the most common way to play chess, but it could be two people on two boards or it could be two people on one board. There’s even a thing called random chess.”

The Vicksburg Chess Club also holds monthly chess matches. The next meet is on Jan. 11, 2020, at 10 a.m. in the Vicksburg Mall and as always, the event is free and everyone is welcome. 

For more information or to join the Vicksburg Chess Club and enhance your mind simply join them at their weekly meetings.

“Just come out on Thursday nights to the Vicksburg Mall,” Rathburn said. “We’ll train you and show you how to play chess. I emphasize having a good time. If your ego is involved, I don’t think you should play chess. Accept the fact that when you lose, you’re learning.”

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