Posted January 6, 2024, at Alma, Colorado
In September 1920, a crowd had gathered outside of the Cook County Illinois Courthouse where a Grand Jury had convened to take testimony in what would later be called the “Black Sox Scandal”. 8 professional baseball players from the Chicago White Sox stood accused of conspiring with organized crime figures to “throw” the 1919 World Series in favor of the Cincinnati Reds. Among the 8 was “Shoeless” Joe Jackson an illiterate son of a sharecropper and an unlikely prospect for baseball fame.
Yet, “Shoeless” hit .409 in his rookie year, a record that stands today, and in 12 years of play he achieved the 4th highest lifetime batting average in Major League Baseball (MLB) history, .356. He was the sports hero of countless children across the country. Desperate to believe in him, their cry went out, “Say it isn’t so “Shoeless” Joe!!”
The heavily favored White Sox were defeated by the Reds, 5 games to 3 in a best of 9 game series. The Sox played uninspired ball, committing unexplainable errors and miscues in a fashion that was atypical for them. Underground betting odds in Cincinnati seemed to predict the outcome. Although “Shoeless” Joe set records in the Series as a batsman, he allowed an unusual number of extra-base hits in his outfield position.
He was alleged to have admitted his participation in the conspiracy but later recanted the purported admission in the criminal trial that followed. He and the other 7 players were acquitted. Nevertheless, “Shoeless” Joe and his confederates were banned for life from the MLB.
The controversy persists to this day. Did “Shoeless” participate in “fixing” the 1919 World Series? There are grounds supporting those who believe he did, just as there are for those who believe he did not. History will provide no better answer.
Fast forward to January 6, 2021: Christine and I sat transfixed like hundreds of millions of others around the world. A drama played out before our eyes on every television network station. The United States Capital was under attack. Law enforcement was overwhelmed by the violent mob. Windows to the Capital were smashed to gain entrance. Shouts from the mob included the avowed intention to kill the Speaker of the House and to hang the Vice President of the United States. Members of the House and Senate cowered in fear for their lives. What we witnessed that day is seared into my memory, holding its place alongside the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. Just like “9-11”, the riot at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, the killings at Kent State, and the Space Shuttle disasters, I cannot unsee what occurred on January 6, 2021.
Yet, there are those desperate to believe other than what we saw, “It was a peaceful tour of the seat of government”, “The FBI orchestrated it”, “The “rioters” were hired actors”, The images are phony”, “Fake news” …
This desperation of belief, unlike that with “Shoeless” Joe and the Black Sox Scandal, is not a matter of conjecture or opinion. It happened in real time before our eyes. Under our system of justice, the accused are entitled to Due Process of Law, a presumption of innocence, and proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. To date over 1,200 have been arrested and charged. Of approximately 170 who have gone to trial, all but 2 have been found guilty. Over 700 have pleaded guilty and over 350 have charges still pending. More suspects are being identified each week as the task of analyzing over 44,000 hours of security and media video is monumental and continues.
In the American system of jurisprudence, a finding of “not guilty” does not mean it did not happen. The nation and the world witnessed the events unfold that day. It was an insurrection; it was an attempt to overthrow the government of the United States. Those who are desperate to believe otherwise are fools. Those who try to convince us that we have “lying eyes” are charlatans, hucksters, and much worse they are desperate to deceive. Like it or not, the Constitution that the insurrectionists sought to shred, affords each of them with the right to promote falsehoods. It does not require us to disbelieve what we saw that day.