That's his defense? That he was a weasel who took the money then played to win, leaving his friend Lefty Williams and the other six conspirators to bear the burden of actually throwing the games? Joe Jackson was the star player on the White Sox, a sure Hall of Famer, and he took money intended to fix the WORLD SERIES. Why did he accept it? What did Jackson think the money was for? Then he may have tried to report it, sort of. Then he played to win. Weasel!
Taking the money makes Jackson guilty. That he claims to have tried twice to return the money does not absolve him, especially if that gesture was to spin things in his favor. Returning money stolen from a bank does not absolve the bank robber, especially if it's done when the cops are closing in.
Spin is the word applied to Charles Comiskey, the White Sox owner, when with three games remaining in the 1920 regular season and his team still in contention the scandal breaks and Comiskey suspends the seven crooked White Sox players still on the team. Spin is used to describe Comiskey when he pays his ten honest players $1,500 each to account for the $2,000 difference between the winner and loser shares of the 1919 WS: $5,200 v, $3,200. Spin is used to describe Comiskey when he offers $10,000 reward.
And what does Jackson do with his ill gotten gain? It appears that he uses at least some of it to start businesses: dry cleaning and later liquor. He could have given it to his ten honest White Sox teammates to make amends. That would have demonstrated some small act of contrition, which is a prerequisite for our noble American trait of forgiveness to be warranted.
Were the players equally guilty? No, but so what? As I understand felony murder, if your partner in crime pulls the trigger you are both equally guilty.
Federal judge Landis was appointed by the owners to be the first sole commissioner of the American and National Leagues. Landis made mistakes in later years (racial segregation continued on his watch) but he was basically correct in his handling of the 1919 WS gambling scandal. To have shown any weakness would only have encouraged continued gambling and the undermining of the integrity of the game, that baseball was honest competition.
Reviewing the 1919 scandal shows why current MLB, Inc. continues to have an absolute policy against gambling and against consorting with gamblers. In the 1980s Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were banned from MLB activities for as long as they worked as greeters at Las Vegas gambling casinos. That is why the banishment of sure Hall of Famer Pete Rose because of his gambling while he was the Cincinnati Reds manager is warranted, just like the banishment of the 1919 White Sox players who dumped the WS. The admonition against consorting with gamblers and against gambling itself has been posted in every clubhouse for decades.
There are clear parallels between the old gambling scandal and the current steroids scandal with one exception: the gamblers played to LOSE, the steroid users played to WIN. The two things that they have in common:
1. management looked the other as long as it could then covered up;
2. innocent/honest players did virtually nothing to end it.
The 1920 White Sox played as if nothing had happened. Didn't the crooked players cost the honest players the difference in WS shares, $5,200 v. $3,200? That's specific dollars, not some vague reference heard today that steroid users are getting an unfair advantage over non users and therefore costing them money.
Why don't we apply the commissioner Landis standard, which seems to be that of the U.S. military academy honor code:
"A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do."