MLB Power Rankings: Barry Bonds and the 50 Biggest Frauds in Baseball History
In baseball, frauds come in a variety of ways. Sometimes it is a player cheating or throwing a game; other times it is an actual financial fraud that impacts either a player or a team.
Writers even get in on the act and occasionally fool a large number of people as well. Baseball memorabilia is faked constantly because of its value. Players have also lied about their age to be both older and younger.
These are just some of the many types of fraud that have impacted the game since it was created (and the story behind that may also be a fraud as well).
50) Dave Bresnahan Plays Hot Potato
Like most minor leaguers, Dave Bresnahan and his teammates would play pranks to keep each other entertained. Bresnahan was at Double-A Williamsport when he decided to play one prank against the opposition.
Bresnahan had been joking around with his teammates and came up with a plan. During the fifth inning, with a runner on third base, Bresnahan told the umpire there was something wrong with his glove.
He then went to the dugout to grab a spare glove that had a potato in it. As the pitch was delivered home, Bresnahan moved the potato from his glove to his throwing hand. Bresnahan then threw the potato over the third baseman's head.
The runner broke from third and was subsequently tagged out when he reached home. After a lot of consideration, the umpire called the runner safe. Bresnahan was pulled from the game by his manager and fined $50. He was then released the next day.
Photo Credit: MiLB
49) John Rocker
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John Rocker had his fair share of issues when he was in the major leagues. He called out all of New York City and spoke of his dislike of the No. 7 train. Hundreds of police officers were at the next game the Braves appeared in at Shea Stadium after he made the comments.
However, that is not why Rocker makes this list. Rocker was implicated in a steroid ring. This could help explain how he went from a struggling minor leaguer to an outstanding reliever.
48) Jeffrey Maier's Assist
The New York Yankees were down 4-3 going into the bottom of the eighth inning during Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS. Derek Jeter hit a deep fly ball to right field. It looked like Tony Tarasco was going to make the catch.
Then 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier reached his glove out over the wall and made a catch. Right field umpire Rich Garcia called the ball a home run. The Yankees went on to win Game 1 in extra innings and then would go on to win the series.
Photo Credit: Boston.com
47) Graig Nettles' Superballs
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In his first at-bat against the Detroit Tigers during a game in 1974, Graig Nettles hit a home run. During his second at-bat, Nettles got on base with a broken bat single.
When the bat broke, six superballs came bouncing out. Tigers catcher Bill Freehan picked up the superballs and showed them to the umpire. Nettles was called out. The game ended 1-0 with Nettles' home run being the game-winning hit.
He later claimed that the bat was given to him by a fan and he didn't know it had been altered.
46) Albert Belle's Bat Drama
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In 1994, Chicago White Sox manager Gene Lamont believed that Albert Belle's bat was corked. Umpire Dave Phillips confiscated the bat and put it in his locker. The Cleveland Indians knew it was corked and wanted to get it back.
During the game, pitcher Jason Grimsley went into the crawl space above the umpires room, snuck in and replaced the bat. However, his feat was quickly discovered, as he replaced Belle's corked bat with a bat that had Paul Sorrento's name on it.
45) Gaylord Perry's Pitches
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While most modern-era pitchers choose from the same repertoire of pitches as others, Gaylord Perry had a few of his own pitches that he added to the mix.
One of these pitches was the famous spitball. He was also known for doctoring the ball with anything that he could find, even Vaseline. Another pitch that Perry threw was the "puff ball," which billowed with rosin on the way to the plate. He was not caught doctoring the ball until his 21st season in the majors.
44) Jason Giambi
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Jason Giambi was one of the first players to admit that he had taken steroids. He said that he began taking steroids in 2001 and that he used them up until 2003. He also said that he took HGH, the "cream" and the "clear."
During those three seasons, Giambi hit 38, 41 and 41 home runs respectively. He had two top-five finishes in the MVP voting during years he was using performance enhancers.
43) Manny Ramirez
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It was alleged that Ramirez is one of the players that tested positive for PEDs in 2003. He first tested positive in 2009. The test was positive for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a women's fertility drug that is used after a steroid cycle to restart testosterone production. It is uncertain what Ramirez tested positive for in 2011.
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The reasons behind Alex Rodriguez's nickname are enough for him to earn a spot on this list. Jose Canseco was one of the first people to publicly point a finger at Rodriguez for steroid use. Rodriguez stated that he had never used steroids.
Eventually more and more information came out that Rodriguez was one of the players to test positive in 2003. He admitted to using steroids for a few of the best seasons of his career. Rodriguez was also connected to Dr. Anthony Galea, who was accused of distributing HGH.
41) Ken Caminiti
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In 2004, Ken Caminiti admitted to Sports Illustrated that he began to take steroids in 1996. He said he first bought the steroids when he was in Tijuana, Mexico and was recovering from a shoulder injury.
Caminiti would go on to have the best season of his career that year and won the MVP award. He continued to use steroids even after the 1996 season.
40) Adrian Beltre
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When most players lie about their age, they do it so that scouts will think they are younger and that they have more potential. Adrian Beltre did the exact opposite of this: He lied so that teams would think he was older.
The reasoning was that international players could not sign until they were 16. The then-15-year-old Beltre lied about his age so that he could receive a $23,000 signing bonus. Once this was found out, the Dodgers' scouting operations were suspended.
39) Orlando Hernandez
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There has been a large dispute about how old Orlando Hernandez actually is. When he signed with the New York Yankees in 1998 after fleeing from Cuba, Hernandez stated that he was born in 1969.
However, based on legal documents from his divorce, it is believed that El Duque was actually born in 1965. This discrepancy still looms large. MLB states that he was born in 1969, while Baseball-Reference and other sites list his birthday as 1965.
38) Rafael Furcal
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While there is still some dispute about Orlando Hernandez's age, there is none about Rafael Furcal's age. He is another player that lied to major league teams so that he would seem younger.
When he was in the minor leagues, there was some dispute about Furcal's age. It was within a four-year range depending on the source. It wasn't until he was busted for a DUI in 2000 that he admitted his real age, which was 22 at the time.
37) Miguel Tejada
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Entering the 2008 season, everyone believed that Miguel Tejada was 31 years old. That is until ESPN was able to find his real birth certificate, which stated Tejada was actually 33.
Tejada eventually addressed the issue and said that the only thing that he lied about was his age. He said he did this because he was a poor kid who just wanted to be signed to play professional baseball. He felt that at 19, he would have been too old to play in the Dominican Summer League, so he got documentation saying he was 17.
36) Where's Onelki Garcia?
False paperwork is not only used to change players' ages. In the case of Onelki Garcia, it was also used to change his place of residence.
Garcia had claimed that after he fled Cuba, he lived in Nicaragua. However, there was enough evidence to prove that Garcia lived in the United States. Garcia and his agents had done this so that he could avoid the MLB draft and sign for more money as an international free agent.
Photo Credit: Cuba en Miami
35) Carlos Alvarez
Some players lie about their age, but Esmailyn Gonzalez, or should I say Carlos Alvarez, took this a step further. He not only lied about his age when he signed with the Washington Nationals in 2006, but also lied about his name. He said that he was 16 years old but was actually 21.
When he was allegedly a 17-year-old, he put up great numbers in rookie ball, hitting .343 in 51 games. However, when you look back at those numbers and realize that he was actually 21, they are much less impressive. He is still in the Nationals organization.
Photo Credit: Fox Sports
34) Ramon Antonio Pena Paulino
Carlos Alvarez was not the only player who has lied about both his age and identity. Ramon Antonio Pena Paulino went by the name Adriano Rosario and stated that he was 19 when he was actually 22.
This information came to light when Diamondbacks scout Rafael Mena tried to blackmail Paulino into giving him a portion of his signing bonus. He stated that he would reveal his real identity if he didn't do it.
Photo Credit: Diary of a Diehard
33) Wally Bryan
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Proving how much money there is for a player who can cut a few years off his age, Wally Bryan serves as yet another example of a player that changed both his name and identity.
Bryan signed with the Cleveland Indians as 17-year-old Jose Osoria. He was still in the Dominican Summer League when he was found out to be 20 years old. Bryan did not play another season after this was found out.
Photo Credit: Land Loyalty
32) Baseball Card Scam
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Baseball cards are very collectible, and some of them are worth a lot of money. A Florida couple decided they were going to take advantage of this fact.
Jesus L. Gil and Vivian C. Galarraga would buy packs of baseball cards for $2.99 and then remove the UPC code. They would paste the code onto packs of cards that cost as much as $59.99. The couple would take the valuable cards out of the pack and return the rest. They would then sell the valuable cards, including an Albert Pujols autographed card, on eBay.
When the Florida Department of Law Enforcement raided their condo, they found over 10,000 cards.
31) Greg Anderson
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Greg Anderson had been a longtime friend of Barry Bonds when he became his personal trainer. Anderson began lifting heavily in college and eventually became involved with steroids.
It was alleged that Anderson began to provide Bonds with steroids as early as 1998. Bonds was not the only player that Anderson has been connected to. His name has come up with other players, such as Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield.
30) Scott Eyre and Others Get Impacted by Financial Fraud
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Major League Baseball players invest their money just like millions of other Americans. So in 2009, when Stanford Financial Group was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, all of its assets were frozen.
Players such as Scott Eyre, Carlos Pena, Xavier Nady and Johnny Damon had investments with the company. They were not able to access their money. The players said they had some trouble paying their bills since their liquid assets had been frozen.
29) David Wilder
As mentioned earlier in this slide show, there have been some issues in regards to the signings of some Latin American players. This issue expands further than just the players and the scouts.
Former White Sox executive David Wilder had been the Senior Director of Player Personnel for the team. He would inflate bonuses paid to the international signees and then pocket the difference.
Photo Credit: MLB
28) Victor Baez
Scouts have a major impact on the decisions that organizations make when it comes to signing international prospects. Victor Baez had run multiple baseball development programs in the Dominican Republic, and many of his players had been signed to major league contracts.
In 2011, Baez was arrested by Dominican authorities for fraud. It is alleged that Baez would provide players with false documentation to provide players with different ages so that they would be more appealing to MLB teams.
Photo Credit: Daily News
27) Marriage Frauds
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Alexi Ogando has become a big part of the Texas Rangers rotation. He likely had his major league debut pushed back by a year, as he was forced to miss the 2005 season as a result of visa problems.
These visa problems stemmed from the fact that he had been involved in marriage fraud. He was one of almost 30 players who were caught up in the scheme.
A man had promised the players $3,000 if they appeared to marry women who had no other way of entering the United States. This was a lot of money for these players, and the US consulate officials became suspicious of how many players had been married in such a short time.
26) Lenny "Nails" Dykstra Gets Hammered
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Somewhere along the line, former baseball player Lenny Dykstra became a financial guru. He claimed that he had not made a losing trade in two years, and he started a service to give financial advice to others.
In 2011, Dykstra attempted to lease a number of high-end automobiles. He tried to do so with with fraudulent information and said that he had credit through a phony business.
25) Kazuo Uzuki
The good people at Topps decided that they wanted to have some fun one year. They released a card in 2008 of high school superstar Kazuo "The Uzi" Uzuki. The Japanese high school prospect allegedly threw 104 mph.
There was a good reason for that: Topps made him up. They had played an April Fools' Day joke. In Japanese, Uzuki's name means "the first son of April."
Photo Credit: Japan Probe
24) Danny Almonte
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During the 2001 Little League World Series, it was immediately clear that Danny Almonte was better than everyone else playing. In his first start, Almonte threw a perfect game and struck out 16 of the 18 batters that he faced.
In his next game, Almonte struck out 16 once again. Almonte struck out 14 batters in the third-place game. His numbers for the tournament were stunning. He struck out 46 batters and allowed just three hits and one unearned run.
It was later found out that Almonte was two years too old to participate in the Little League World Series. After he graduated high school, Almonte went on to play a few games for an independent league team.
23) Rafael Palmeiro
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Rafael Palmeiro went in front of Congress and testified that he had never used steroids. He even wagged his finger at the members of Congress.
However, Palmeiro's statement had turned out to be a lie. Just a few months later, MLB announced that Palmeiro had failed a steroid test and would be suspended for 10 games. Palmeiro continued to claim that he was innocent.
22) Roger Clemens
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Roger Clemens has been connected to steroids many different times. Jose Canseco, Jason Grimsley, Andy Pettitte, Brian McNamee and the Mitchell Report have all linked Clemens to steroids.
Clemens has been brought up on perjury charges for his testimony in front of Congress. The case has been declared a mistrial, and it is uncertain what will happen.
21) Jose Canseco
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Jose Canseco is one of the most well-known steroid users in baseball, but he has also been one of the game's biggest whistle-blowers. Canseco has no problem admitting his past steroid use.
His book Juiced helped shed more light on the steroid situation in baseball. Canseco was also not afraid to name names in his book.
20) William B. Cox
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William B. Cox became the youngest owner in baseball when he bought the Philadelphia Phillies when he was just 33 years old in 1942.
While he was the owner of the Phillies, Cox noted that some of his business associates had bet on the team. As the investigation intensified, Cox admitted that he bet on the team as well but that he didn't know that it was against the rules. He was banned from baseball by Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
Photo: Chris Creamer's Sports Logos
19) Pete Rose Gambles Away His Hall of Fame Chances
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Pete Rose is the greatest player not in the MLB Hall of Fame. He has over 4,000 hits in his career, yet he was not elected to Cooperstown because he was banned from baseball.
18) John McGraw
John McGraw was willing to do whatever it took to win, regardless of if it were legal or not, when he played from 1891 to 1906. His temper and actions earned him the nickname "Little Napoleon."
McGraw would hold runners back by their belts or block their paths to prevent them from moving forward. He was also known to trip baserunners. While he was on base, McGraw would spike opposing players when he slid into a base.
Photo Credit: Baseball Reference
In the Dominican Republic, many baseball players hope to get noticed by street agents, or buscones. This may be the only way for many players to get recognized, but the buscones have known to work in shady ways.
Some buscones give their players performance-enhancing drugs to make them more appealing to MLB teams. Others, such as Victor Baez, who was mentioned earlier, produce fake documentation for the players. If a player does manage to get signed, many buscones skim part of their bonus or get a kickback. MLB is now working much harder to regulate the system.
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
16) Barry Halper Memorabilia Controversy
One of the most extensive personal baseball memorabilia collections in the world belonged to Barry Halper. He had many unique pieces of memorabilia, such as an autographed Ty Cobb jersey and the last glove used by Lou Gehrig.
He sold some of his collection to MLB, donated some to the Hall of Fame and sold most of the rest at auction. In recent years, the collection has come under scrutiny for the fact that some items were stolen and others were fakes.
Photo Credit: Zell's Pinstripe Blog
15) Sammy Sosa
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Sammy Sosa is on this list for two reasons. In 2003, Sosa was caught using a corked bat. If this was his only indiscretion, he would be much lower on the list.
However, Sosa has also been connected to steroids. He was long suspected of using performance enhancers, and in 2009, The New York Times alleged that he had been one of the players that failed a drug test in 2003.
14) Bernie Madoff Scandal
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The Bernie Madoff scandal had a far-reaching impact. New York Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz and their company Sterling Equities were impacted by the massive Ponzi scheme.
This fraud had an impact on the Mets' financial situation. Wilpon had to take a loan from MLB. For a while, it looked like he might need to sell the team. Wilpon maintains that he did not know that Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme.
13) Pud Galvin Juices Up
Many people believe that the problem of steroids in baseball is one that is new to the game. However, that is not true, as the issue dates back over 120 years.
Pud Galvin was the first known player to use steroids. He used the Brown-Sequard elixir, which was made of animal testosterone. The substance may have gave Galvin an edge, as he won 365 games during his career.
Photo Credit: 19th Century Baseball
12) Sidd Finch
Sports Illustrated writer George Plimpton was able to fool a lot of people with "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch." Hayden Siddhartha Finch had gone to Harvard University but then moved to Tibet to become a yogi master.
While there, he learned to control his mind and body and was able to throw a 168 mile per hour fastball. Finch had never played baseball before, was a master of the French Horn and only pitched with one shoe, a heavy hiking boot. The article that Plimpton wrote was accompanied by pictures of Finch with Mets players and coaches.
The article opened up stating, "He's a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd's deciding about yoga—and his future in baseball". When looking at the first letter of every word, it spells out "Happy April Fools Day—ah(a) fib."
Photo Credit: NY Times
11) Mark McGwire Sets the Single-Season Home Run Record
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The home run race in the summer of 1998 between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa captivated the country and drew some much-needed attention to baseball after the players strike a few years before.
Unfortunately, we later found out that this race was tainted. McGwire would later admit that he used steroids during the 1990s, including the 1998 season. He also drew attention during the season for having a bottle of Androstenedione in his locker, although it was not yet banned by baseball.
10) Barry Bonds' Career Home Run Record
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There have been arguments made that the all-time home run record that Barry Bonds was chasing had already been tainted. Hank Aaron used amphetamines during his career.
Regardless of that, Bonds has been the biggest name in baseball's steroid saga. He has been connected to BALCO, and he took the "Cream" and the "Clear." Not all of Bonds' 762 career home runs were helped by his steroid usage, which is why this record comes before another one of his records on this list.
9) Barry Bonds Breaks the Single-Season Home Run Record
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Less than five years after Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris' home run record, Barry Bonds hit even more home runs than McGwire. He currently holds the MLB single-season record with 73 home runs in 2001.
Bonds was taking steroids during the 2001 season, and every single one of these home runs was tainted. He broke McGwire's record, which was also a tainted record.
8) Owners Preventing Free Agency
For years, players were not free to move from team to team. The only ways that they could switch teams was if they were traded, sold or released. Players' salaries were artificially deflated because there was no free market for them to market their abilities.
Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally challenged the reserve clause and won. Their case allowed them to become free agents. This led to a change in the game and led to many more players changing cities.
Photo Credit: Real Sports Heroes
7) The Creator of Baseball
Ask almost any baseball fan who created baseball, and their response will be, "Abner Doubleday." There is actually little to no factual evidence to support that claim, nor did Doubleday ever make it.
Congress attributed the creation of the game to Alexander Cartwright Jr. in 1953, but John Thorn, the official historian of MLB, says even that is wrong. Thorn notes that the credit for the sport's creation should go to Daniel Lucius Adams, William Rufus Wheaton and Louis Fenn Wadsworth. Each man contributed something different, such as the creation of the shortstop position, to the game.
Photo Credit: MSNBC
6) New York Giants Stealing Signs in 1951
In August of 1951 the New York Giants were sitting 13.5 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers. They made a miraculous run and eventually ended up winning the pennant.
How did this happen? At the games played at the Polo Grounds, the Giants would have coach Herman Franks sit in the Giants clubhouse, which was in center field, and he would let the bullpen know what pitch was coming next. That was eventually relayed to the hitter.
Photo Credit: San Francisco Gate
5) 1908 New York Giants Attempted Bribe
In 1908, one playoff game between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Giants would decide who would win the National League pennant. Someone in the Giants organization attempted to bribe the umpire, and he refused to participate.
The New York Giants team doctor took the fall and was banned for life. Some historians believe that Giants manager John McGraw was behind the bribery attempt and may have even approached the umpire himself.
Photo Credit: Baseball Reference
4) 1877 Louisville Grays Conspiracy
The Louisville Grays were only in existence for two season. They were the first team to be caught up in a gambling scandal.
Grays owner Charles Chase had received two anonymous telegrams that noted gamblers were favoring a worse opponent in one game and that the Grays were planning to throw another game. The team lost the game and made a number of suspect errors.
Four players—Bill Craver, Jim Devlin, George Hall and Al Nichols—were banned from baseball for life as a result of an investigation into the issue. The team folded after the season.
Photo Credit: Tower
3) Suspicions of the 1917 Giants Throwing the World Series
There have been some suspicions that the 1917 New York Giants threw the World Series that year. The Giants' Heinie Zimmerman had chased Eddie Collins across an unguarded home plate, allowing the Chicago White Sox to score a run.
Zimmerman, a career .295 hitter, batted just .120 during the World Series. After a series of implications, Zimmerman was banned from baseball within two years. His teammate, Hal Chase, was also banned for having many claims of thrown games being levied against him.
Photo Credit: Historical Art Forum
2) Did the Chicago Cubs Throw the 1918 World Series?
A court deposition from 1920 shines some light on the fact that the Chicago Cubs may have thrown the 1918 World Series. Eddie Cicotte, a member of the infamous Black Sox, had noted that he heard that some of the Cubs were offered $10,000 to throw the 1918 World Series.
Max Flack made a few plays that were considered to be suspicious. In Game 4 of the World Series, he was picked off not once, but twice. In Game 6, he dropped a routine fly ball that would have ended the game. Instead, it was an error that allowed two runs to score and allowed the Boston Red Sox to win the game.
In one game, Cubs pitcher Lefty Tyler tried to wave Flack deeper into the outfield when Babe Ruth came to the plate. Flack did not listen, and Ruth hit the ball over his head for a two-RBI triple. Another suspicious play came when pitcher Phil Douglas fielded a ground ball and threw it over the first baseman's head and allowed the decisive run to score.
Photo Credit: Agony and Ivy
1) The Black Sox Scandal
The Chicago Black Sox Scandal is one of the most infamous moments in MLB history. It is also one of the most unforgivable acts in the history of the game.
The players had talked about the fix, but they were not certain that it was on until pitcher Eddie Cicotte hit Morrie Rath on the second pitch of the game. The White Sox players involved in the fix intentionally made bad plays and threw the game.
Eight players—Shoeless Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Oscar "Happy" Felsch, Arnold "Chick" Gandil, Fred McMullin, Charles "Swede" Risberg, George "Buck" Weaver and Claude "Lefty" Williams—were banned from baseball as a result of the scandal.
The participation of Shoeless Joe Jackson in the fix is a hotly debated topic. While the other players had bad numbers during the 1919 World Series. Jackson batted .375 in the World Series with six RBI, and he didn't make any errors.
Photo Credit: Clear Buck