A brief history of betting in baseball and how SCOTUS ruling affects MLB
By Jake Shapiro
Three things that are core to the game of baseball and the way that we experience it have all been banned at one point in time: Sunday games, alcohol and gambling.
A combination of states fighting blue laws and Sunday games being used to benefit war efforts legalized games on the day after being illegal for most of the 20th century.
In the late 19th century, teams found to be selling beer or whiskey would be expelled from the National League and it wasn’t until the American Association undercut the NL — becoming what the ABA is to the NBA — that the NL started selling alcohol.
In 1865 and then again in 1877, gambling almost destroyed baseball. The first instance saw the New York Mutuals’ catcher, third baseman and shortstop banned from baseball for accepting $100 a piece to throw a game. The second instance — this time in the NL — the Louisville Grays mysteriously lost seven games in a row. An investigation revealed that gamblers had bought off four players which would be banned from baseball for life. The quartet claimed they threw the games because their owner had failed to meet payroll obligations and begged for forgiveness.
Yeah, that exact situation robbed the 1919 World Series of its legitimacy.
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Of course there is Pete Rose, Leo Durocher and many others, the point being gambling is at the heart of baseball and it always has been. Since the Black Sox scandal, hanging in every MLB clubhouse or dugout is a sign that reads rule 21, “Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which
the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.”
You see, baseball has long swung back and forth between a gentleman’s game and one barbaric to some. From calling fans royal rooters to rewarding players for reaching third base with a brew, baseball has long been a paradox of the class system.
Today, MLB may have had its greatest taboo — in their eyes — destigmatized. The Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled 6-3 in favor of the state of New Jersey in a landmark decision which nationally legalized sports gambling.