Hugh S. Fullerton: Abolish the World Series

In the wake of the 1919 World Series, the sportswriter who had perhaps the greatest role in exposing that eight Chicago White Sox players conspired to throw it offered his thoughts in New York City’s Evening World.

“Yesterday’s, in all probability, is the last game that will ever be played in any World Series,” Hugh S. Fullerton wrote. “If the club owners and those who have the interest of the game at heart have listened during the Series, they will call off the annual inter-league contest.”

It wasn’t the first time Fullerton, a longtime Chicago writer, had made such an appeal.

It’s a little unthinkable now, but in the early days of the World Series after it debuted in 1903, not everyone was on-board. New York Giants manager John McGraw refused to have his team take part in the 1904 Series, instead declaring the Giants champions. And Fullerton wrote at least two articles condemning the World Series before 1919.

Following the 1916 World Series, when the Boston Red Sox beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in five games, Fullerton wrote that he hoped that Fall Classic would be “(if the magnates are wise) the last of the world’s series.”

Fullerton wrote, “There was never more proof than was furnished today that baseball has ceased to be a sport and has become a commercial enterprise. There were fifty-seven forms of petty larceny graft connected with the sport, and it was evident that the players were giving more thought to the money than to the result.”

A few years before that in 1912, Fullerton endorsed a plan by National League President Garry Hermann to radically revamp baseball’s postseason schedule, having all teams play 112 regular season games and then play each team twice through mid-October. Fullerton said he’d offered a similar plan five years before.

“The Chicago Cubs were damaged more, I believe, by the winnings and their shares of the ‘easy’ money than by anything else,” Fullerton wrote. “They became too prosperous and some of them could not stand prosperity. The result was too high living in some cases and exalted ideas of their worth in others. It served to increase their rate of living. The same was true of the Detroit club. The players got so much that they expected more.”

Fullerton took a lot of grief following the 1919 World Series, temporarily retiring from baseball writing before his reporting won broader acceptance. He’s long since been something of a saint among baseball writers, one of the first honorees in the media exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

But it’s not surprising that what might have been a crusade on Fullerton’s part to end the World Series never took hold.