Historical and Pragmatic Analyses of Interview Data from the Black Sox Baseball Scandal

By Russell Arent.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

One of the greatest mysteries in the history of Major League Baseball is the Black Sox Scandal of 1919-1924, which resulted in lifetime banishments for eight players and widespread fan disillusionment. Most baseball researchers agree that the 1919 World Series was indeed tainted through player connections to known gamblers, who attempted to influence game performances through cash payoffs or intimidation. The exact details of the fix, however, have always been shrouded in controversy (Carney, 2006), especially regarding participant roles and awareness levels for specific athletes (e.g., Shoeless Joe Jackson, Lefty Williams) and administrators (e.g., Charles Comiskey). Compounding the baseball researcher’s challenge is the fact that seminal studies on the topic (e.g., Asinof, 1963) were conducted without accounting for key data sources, such as the 1920 grand jury transcripts (missing for approximately 70 years) and the 1924 civil trial transcripts. Given the unique, complex circumstances of the scandal and reported threats from unsavory individuals, baseball officials did their best to keep important details out of the public eye as long as possible. Given what we now know about the scandal 90 years later, most newspaper and magazine accounts from the early 1920s appear unreliable due to reporting biases, an overabundance of hearsay and incomplete information.

The linguistics subfield of pragmatics offers several useful concepts (such as implicature and pragmatic ambiguity) that have not previously been applied to the existing interview data. Combined with historical analysis (focusing on time, place, participant motivations, uncontested observations/facts and methodologies), pragmatic analysis can better highlight the level of cooperation (or good faith) associated with each party. After offering an historical overview of the Black Sox Scandal, a pragmatic analysis is presented on interview excerpts from Comiskey, Jackson and Williams.

Keywords: American History, Baseball History, Black Sox Scandal, Charles Comiskey, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Claude Lefty Williams, Pragmatics, Implicature, Pragmatic Ambiguity

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 12, pp.95-110. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 646.436KB).

Dr. Russell Arent

Associate Professor of English, RIT Dubai/Rochester Institute of Technology, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dr. Russell Arent is a professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures at Michigan State University.


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