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Globe North Sports

Book explores alleged 1918 Series scandal

Sean Deveney Sean Deveney
By Rich Fahey
Globe Correspondent / January 28, 2010

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Say it ain’t so, Sean.

A Lynn native has raised the possibility that the 1918 World Series - the last time the Red Sox ruled baseball until the 2004 and 2007 breakthroughs - was ill-gotten gains.

In “The Original Curse,’’ Sean Deveney explores the theory that the 1919 Chicago White Sox - the Black Sox - got the idea to throw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds from the Chicago Cubs, who had done the same thing the year before, against the Red Sox.

Now a senior writer covering the NBA and Major League Baseball for the Sporting News, Deveney was passing time at the Chicago History Museum in 2008 while waiting to do an interview when a curator told him about some new documents the museum had obtained about the Black Sox scandal.

The most interesting document was a deposition from White Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte. When asked, “Where did you get the idea to throw the World Series in 1919?,’’ Cicotte answered, “Well, we had heard the Cubs did it the year before and they got paid $10,000 [apiece] to throw the series to Boston, so we figured if they could do it, why not us?’’

That quote - and a multitude of other interesting tidbits - led to an article in the Sporting News and later an offer from McGraw-Hill to write “The Original Curse.’’

The title of the book, which was released Oct. 1 and is now in its second printing, refers to the Red Sox - the winner of that 1918 Series - not winning another one for 86 years, while the Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908 and last appeared in a World Series in 1945. The series marked the only time during the 20th century the two teams met on the playing field.

Deveney, who researched the book in both Boston and Chicago, paints a picture of an era when the Windy City was a wide-open place.

“Gambling is part of the history of the game and Chicago at the time was very much a gambling town,’’ said the 35-year-old Deveney, a 1992 graduate of Lynn English.

Betting scandals involving horse racing and boxing had left baseball as the only so-called “honorable sport’’ that was on the level, and gamblers were attracted to the game. Gamblers and players hung out together, and there was open gambling at games, much like the legendary group of gamblers that hung out for years in the upper right-field grandstand at Fenway Park.

Deveney presents the facts and lets the reader make the call on whether the Cubs did lay down for the Sox.

“It’s a hard thing to prove beyond a doubt,’’ Deveney said. “Everyone who was involved is dead. But I did come up with some smoke. And then some more smoke. And more smoke.’’

Ironically, it was a gambling scandal involving the Cubs in 1920 that ultimately led to the uncovering of the White Sox scandal.

Deveney, a former reporter at the Daily Item of Lynn, also worked in Louisiana for a year before returning to the Sporting News, where he had worked after graduating from Northwestern University in 1997; he also worked for the White Sox in 1995 while attending Northwestern.

He said Cub fans and baseball fans in general have embraced the book and it’s been praised by many involved in the sport.

“Sean Deveney plays connect-the-dots in this intriguing account of a possible conspiracy to throw the 1918 World Series,’’ said Paul Sullivan, the Cubs beat writer for the Chicago Tribune. “Thoroughly researched and well written, ‘The Original Curse’ is a must-read for baseball fans and anyone who loves a good mystery.’’

“The job of a great writer is to provoke thought, and here, Deveney has created a veritable riot for the imagination,’’ said Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

Deveney returns to the area often to visit parents Bill and Cathi Deveney, who reside in Lynn. He held a book signing in Peabody earlier this month.

Growing up a Red Sox fan, he admitted that it was tough finding out the 1918 championship might be tainted.

“It was a bit shocking,’’ he said.

Rich Fahey can be reached at faheywrite@yahoo.com. For more information on “The Original Curse,’’ go to www.originalcurse1918.com.

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