- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 22, 2005

CHICAGO — This is a Cubs town, and even the White Sox, playing in their first World Series in 46 years tonight, acknowledge that.

“The Cubs always get most of the attention,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.

Which means this city has some very misguided loyalties, because if there was a baseball team that truly represents the personality of Chicago, it is the White Sox.

Despite all the romance of Wrigley Field, the legacy of the Cubs is tied to a goat that wasn’t allowed to stay in the ballpark and a fan who just wanted a souvenir and is now referred to as some super villain named Bartman.

The legacy of the White Sox, though, is tied to the rich tradition of the city that the late columnist Mike Royko referred to as the Chicago motto: “I got mine.” No farm animals or goofball fans here.

The Chicago White Sox are responsible for the legend of Arnold Rothstein, perhaps the biggest mobster-gambler of the 20th century and the man often blamed for fixing the 1919 World Series.

Rothstein is the father of organized crime in America. The wave of early 20th century mobsters like Meyer Lansky learned how to operate sophisticated gambling, loan sharking and other illegal operations from Rothstein, who was based in New York and known as “Mr. Big” or “The Fixer.” It was because of that reputation that he was presented with a deal where a group of eight White Sox players would throw the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, a series the Sox lost in eight games — back then, the Series was first team to win five games.

Called to testify before a grand jury in Chicago investigating the fix, Rothstein said the deal was offered to him by an associate named Abe Attell, a former boxer, and that he turned it down.

“I don’t doubt that Attell used my name to put it over,” Rothstein testified before a Cook County grand jury. “It’s been done by smarter men than Abe. But I wasn’t in on it, wouldn’t have gone in on it under any circumstances and didn’t bet a cent on the Series after I found out what was underway.”

However, the story is Rothstein did go in on a fix — just not the fix offered by Attell. Gamblers were falling over each other to get in on the 1919 Series fix, and supposedly he went back and took a previous offer from another gambler named Sport Sullivan. There were so many fixers in this scandal that you needed a scorecard.

If that’s not Chicago, then I don’t know what is.

The White Sox, not the Cubs, are the far more literarily inspirational team, thanks to Rothstein. He was the inspiration for “Meyer Wolfsheim” in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby” (Gatsby says to narrator Nick Carraway, “That’s the man who fixed the 1919 World Series”).

Rothstein was also the inspiration for the character Nathan Detroit in the Damon Runyon novel, “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown,” which was made into the musical, “Guys and Dolls.”

And who could forget the memorable line from Hyman Roth in “The Godfather Part II,” when he tells Michael Corleone, “I loved baseball ever since Arnold Rothstein fixed the World Series in 1919.”

I’m sorry, but the ivy-covered walls at Wrigley Field are like a Boy Scout project compared to what the White Sox have contributed to American lore.

Heck, the White Sox players couldn’t tell you who was president of the United States in 1919. But Aaron Rowand and A.J. Pierzynski know the name Arnold Rothstein, from the film based on the Eliot Asinof book, “Eight Men Out,” about the Black Sox scandal.

Jon Garland, he didn’t have a clue. “Should I know who that is?” he asked. When he was told who Rothstein was, Garland said, “That’s before my time.”

But they still fly the 1919 American League pennant in center field here at U.S. Cellular Field. The White Sox haven’t won the pennant that many times — just once (1959) since that infamous 1919 Series — so they can’t afford to hide their banners.

When asked about the 1919 flag, White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said it is part of their past, but has no connection to his 2005 team.

“This is the first time this year that anyone has wanted to bring up the 1919 team,” he said. “Nobody ever talked about it before. They threw the World Series, but what’s the connection? I don’t hate Germans because of Hitler. It’s different people.”

(As a general rule, I think I would always stay away from all Hitler comparisons, even if you feel you have the moral high ground to do so. Just good practice.)

But the White Sox didn’t just land in Chicago this season. They have been part of this city since 1901, and their history is Chicago’s, a history of guys and dolls, not goats and goofballs.

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