Book Review: Black Sox in the Courtroom:  the Grand Jury, Criminal Trial and Civil Litigation
Author: William Lamb
Pages: 222

Like many baseball fans, I’ve always been intensely interested in the Black Sox.  I’ve read at least a dozen books, written articles on them and even defended one or two of the players based on what I’ve learned. 

This book takes it a lot further -- clearing up some points, debunking others -- based not upon the media hype or artistic license taken by many writers on the topic, but by examining nothing other than the legal battles fought in both criminal and civil court as they relate to the Black Sox scandal.

First of all, if you know nothing about the Black Sox, this isn’t the book you should start with I’d suggest starting with Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball or Eight Men Out -- though neither quite capture the truth of what happened, they do give you an understanding.  If that isn’t your speed take a look at the articles here on AHP's What Every Fan Needs to Know, the Black Sox scandal.

While “Black Sox in the Courtroom” isn’t exactly a thrilling tale, it does perhaps offer a clearer picture of the “truth” of the Black Sox scandal than any other book, and tackles the criminal charges faced by the Black Sox players as well as at least some of the gamblers who were involved in the throwing of the 1919 World Series.
Photo byAHP Staff, used under creative commons license.
And while slow at times, it never fails to be interesting, as it uses court papers to attempt to single out who really was involved, who was charged, who evaded charges and how the Black Sox testimony before the grand jury never really disappeared as many sources have claimed.

The scope of the book in this is unique, and it certainly sets it apart from the majority of modern baseball books.  It's a project that came out of a SABR group specializing in Black Sox research and the work done here is rather groundbreaking.  This really is the piece that was missing in assessing the guilt of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and the rest of the eight men banned from baseball by commissioner Kenesaw Landis.

And then it takes us a step further, showing the civil litigation that several of the players filed against Charles Comiskey and the White Sox, seeking damages, World Series bonuses and even salary owed on the contracts that the players still had after they were locked out of the game.

That is a topic that has gotten little press, including the perjury charges that both Happy Felsch and Joe Jackson faced for lying under oath during their civil trials. 

All in all this was a fascinating book, something very different from your typical baseball book.  That said, while it does lay many Black Sox myths to rest and will be a key component of the canon of Black Sox history, this is a book for those looking for a greater in depth look at how the Black Sox really were “convicted” in the eyes of organized baseball. 

Those of us who possess the fascination and already have a solid knowledge of the Black Sox will find a lot here to like, including a lot of information that we didn’t know, and will really enjoy reading this book.  Those with just a casual knowledge but want to know more should save this book until after they’ve read a bit more on the topic.

For the Black Sox “fans,” historians and for those with a legal background, this book deserves 3 balls, but for the non historian, non legal background crowd this book just isn’t capable of standing alone and can’t be considered no more than a 1 ball read. grades books with the following system
Four Balls: An exceptional book that truly earns a walk straight to the local book story to get a copy.
Three Balls: This book stands out from its peers and is highly recommended.
Two Balls: A book worth reading/owning and is usually above average.
One Ball: This book has something to say but is nothing special.