Biggest Scandals in Baseball History
When a league has been around for nearly 150 years, you’re going to have a few ups and downs. But still, something about Major League Baseball, its players, owners and fans have made the game prone to scandal.
Whether it's doctoring pitches, stealing signs, using steroids or corking bats, baseball has a long history of unethical behavior. The stories range from serious social issues to questionable integrity to just plain oddness.
These are the biggest scandals in baseball history.
25. Chalmers Award
Key players: Ty Cobb, Nap Lajoie
Bottom line: In 1910, the winner of the league batting title got to take home a brand-new Chalmers Automobile.
The race was tight between Ty Cobb and Nap Lajoie, and while Cobb sat the final few games, Lajoie allegedly passed him to win the title.
There was a dispute over whether one of his hits was an error, and both players were gifted cars.
24. Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle Banned From Baseball
Key players: Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Bowie Kuhn
Punishment: May and Mantle banned from working for MLB
Bottom line: Looking to make some extra cash after their playing careers had ended, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle were working as greeters at an Atlantic City casino in 1984.
Commissioner Bowie Kuhn decided their association with the gaming industry justified banning them from baseball in an attempt to emphasize the game’s distaste for gambling.
Peter Ueberroth revoked that when he took the office later that year, and the two players could participate in MLB activities again starting in 1985.
23. Corked Bats
Year: 1970s -2003
Key players: Sammy Sosa, Albert Belle, Graig Nettles, Billy Hatcher, Chris Sabo
Punishment: Varying suspension lengths
Bottom line: Players have been trying to cheat since baseball was invented.
The corked bat phenomenon popped up in the early 1970s.
The most recent example is Sammy Sosa’s embarrassing moment in 2003, when he broke his bat on a groundball and cork was found in the bat.
No corked bats have been found since.
22. Umpire Refuses Bribe From New York Giants Doctor
Key players: Chicago Cubs, New York Giants, Joseph Creamer
Punishment: Giants team doctor Joseph Creamer banned
Bottom line: This is an odd one, as it technically involved the lack of a scandal.
However, in the 1908 playoffs, an umpire refused a bribe from the Giants’ team doctor, Joseph Creamer, to hand the game to New York.
The umpire refused, and the doctor was banned for life.
21. John Rocker Offends the World
Key players: John Rocker
Punishment: Rocker ostracized from the league
Bottom line: John Rocker’s talent was undeniable, but the rest of Rocker’s makeup was intolerable.
He lasted only a few seasons with the Atlanta Braves because of offensive comments about gays, New Yorkers, Asian women and black teammates.
Rocker was out of the league by 2003, but even in retirement, he still is slinging racist views.
20. Fergie Jenkins Suspended for Drug Use
Key players: Jenkins
Punishment: Jenkins suspended indefinitely
Bottom line: In a long line of drug suspensions, Fergie Jenkins was the first.
He was found with cocaine, hash and marijuana during a customs search in Toronto in 1980 and was suspended indefinitely. An independent arbiter overturned the punishment two weeks later.
Jenkins got his act together and returned to the mound until 1983. In 1991, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
19. Umpire Dick Higham Banned for Fixing Games
Key players: Detroit Wolverines, Dick Higham
Punishment: Higham banned for life
Bottom line: In a revelation that probably won’t shock many baseball fans, players and managers, umpires can and have been corrupted.
Dick Higham was the first instance, as the Detroit Wolverines discovered he was fixing games in the late 1800s.
He is the only umpire to receive a lifetime ban.
18. Cardinals Hack Astros Database
Key players: St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, Chris Correa
Punishment: Correa sentenced to 46 months in prison and fined $279,000, Cardinals lost draft picks and cash
Bottom line: It’s the first scandal of the technological age of baseball.
When the FBI investigated the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015, they discovered Cards scouting director Chris Correa hacked the Houston Astros' database and stole info over the course of two years.
Correa was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $279,000 in restitution.
Commissioner Rob Manfred brought down the hammer on the Cardinals, forcing them to send their top two draft picks to the Astros, along with $2 million in cash.
17. George Steinbrenner vs. Dave Winfield
Key players: Dave Winfield, George Steinbrenner
Punishment: Steinbrenner banned for two years
Bottom line: George Steinbrenner was looking to lock up all-everything outfielder Dave Winfield in 1981, signing him to a 10-year, $16 million contract.
Winfield slid a "cost-of-living" clause into the contract when it was being finalized, driving the price up to $23 million.
Steinbrenner never forgave that and berated Winfield from the start, resulting in a two-year ban.
16. Al Campanis Makes Controversial Racial Remarks
Key players: Campanis, Los Angeles Dodgers
Punishment: Resigned in shame
Bottom line: Al Campanis was the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers for nearly 20 years, taking the team to some great heights in the 1980s.
However, in an interview with Ted Koppel on "Nightline," Campanis, who played alongside Jackie Robinson and was his roommate with the Dodgers, suggested that black people did not have the mental aptitude to be in managerial or GM positions.
He resigned shortly thereafter. Although Campanis claimed he wasn't racist and many people defended him, his life and legacy were never the same.
15. Louisville Grays Players Fix Games
Key players: Jim Devlin, George Hall, Al Nichols, Bill Craver
Punishment: Devlin, Hall, Nichols, Craver banned for life
Bottom line: The National League was in just its second year of existence in 1877, and the Grays looked to have it all locked up with 20 games left.
They went 1-9-1 over the next 11 games, and it was revealed that four of the players were fixing games.
Those players became the first ballplayers to be banned for life.
14. Yankees Wife Swap
Key players: Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson
Bottom line: In one of the most bizarre incidents in baseball history, Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson said they traded spouses and children in the offseason of 1972.
It worked out well for one of them. Peterson and the former Susan Kekich remain together to this day.
13. Marge Schott Makes Racial Comments
Key players: Marge Schott
Punishment: Reds franchise sold
Bottom line: Long before Donald Sterling had his franchise ripped away from him came Cincinnati Red owner Marge Schott.
Schott said many inflammatory things throughout her tenure, tossing out tired stereotypes of black and Jewish players.
Following comments in the 1990s she made in support of Hitler, the Reds team was basically taken away from her.
12. Baseball Rejects Progressive Change in Late 1800s
Key players: Cap Anson, Moses Fleetwood Walker
Bottom line: Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the 20th century, but Moses Walker was actually the first black player to play major league baseball, participating in an exhibition game in 1883.
Cap Anson berated him with insults and racial epithets, making sure progressivism in baseball would not come for quite some time.
11. Ty Cobb, the Terrible Person
Year: Early 1900s
Key players: Ty Cobb
Punishment: Several suspensions, temporary banishments
Bottom line: This is not so much one big scandal, but Ty Cobb, in general, seemed like a terrible person.
In 1912, he leaped into the stands to beat up an annoying fan. He once was accused of slapping an elevator operator and stabbed someone who came to the operator’s aid.
And in 1926, he was accused of fixing a game. He also was part of baseball's first Hall of Fame class in 1936.
10. $0.10 Beer Night in Cleveland
Key players: Cleveland Indians fans
Punishment: Game forfeited
Bottom line: In an effort to pack the stands during an otherwise dreadful season, the Indians offered a $0.10 beer night in a game against the Rangers in 1974.
The results were predictable. The crowd became unruly and rioted in the ninth inning, causing the game to be forfeited and nine fans to be arrested.
9. The Pine Tar Incident
Key players: George Brett, Billy Martin
Punishment: Royals awarded win
Bottom line: In one of the wildest, most famed highlights in major league history, George Brett hit a home run in the ninth inning against the Yankees to take the lead.
Yankees manager Billy Martin came out to argue Brett was using excessive pine tar. Brett was called out, ending the game with a Yankees win.
Brett erupted at the umpires, and the Royals protested the result. After an appeal, MLB reversed the decision, and a month later, the game resumed at the same point in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees at first wanted to charge more admission for the last inning, but they relented and let anyone in who had a ticket stub from the original July game, and the Royals ended up winning the game.
8. Owners Collude to Lower Player Salaries
Key players: Peter Ueberroth, MLB Owners
Bottom line: In the late 1980s, owners and commissioner Peter Ueberroth met secretly to discuss tactics to suppress players’ salaries.
It’s a move that somewhat mirrors what is going on today with free agency, but this action was more of an organized effort.
Fay Vincent put a stop to the collusion when he took the commissioner’s office in 1989.
9. Pittsburgh Drug Trials
Key players: Dave Parker, Willie Mays Aikens, Rod Scurry and others
Punishment: 11 players suspended from 60 days to a full season
Bottom line: Cocaine use was rampant in the early 1980s among MLB players, and it came to a head in 1985, when many Pittsburgh Pirates players took the stand for the Pittsburgh drug trials.
Several players received full-season suspensions, including Dave Parker, whose play warrants Hall of Fame consideration, but his role in the scandal has kept him out.
In all, eleven players were suspended, but in exchange for fines, drug testing, and community service, all the suspensions were commuted, and the players were allowed to play.
6. All Redlegs All-Star Game
Key players: Cincinnati Redlegs fans
Punishment: Fan balloting stripped (until 1970)
Bottom line: In 1957, Cincinnati Redlegs fans stuffed the ballot box for the All-Star game, voting in seven of their own players to start the game.
The lone player from another team was Stan Musial.
Commissioner Ford Frick replaced the other two outfielders with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.
5. The Strike that Killed the Expos
Key players: MLB Players Association and owners
Punishment: No postseason
Bottom line: The 1994 MLB players strike came at a very inopportune time for two small-market teams.
For the San Diego Padres, Tony Gwynn was threatening to hit .400 before the season was cut short, and the Montreal Expos appeared poised to win, or at least play in, a their World Series.
The timing of this strike is one of the main reasons the Expos are no longer in existence.
4. Steroid Era
Year: Early 1990s -early 2000s
Key players: Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield
Punishment: New steroid policy
Bottom line: In the late 1980s, Jose Canseco introduced steroids to the Oakland A’s clubhouse and forever changed baseball.
Teammate Mark McGwire began slugging homers at an impossible rate, and other players soon caught on.
Because what they were doing was not technically against the rules of the game, media and executives turned a blind eye to the issue until Congress brought it to the forefront, forcing the league to change its rules.
3. Pete Rose’s Gambling
Key players: Pete Rose, Bart Giamatti
Punishment: Banned for life
Bottom line: Pete Rose consistently and repeatedly lied about gambling on games in which he either played or managed until his book, "My Prison Without Bars," came out in 2004.
Then, for the first time publicly, he admitted that he bet on baseball games as a player and manager with the Reds.
The shameless self-promotion likely will keep Rose, baseball's all-time hit king, out of the Hall of Fame until after he passes away.
2. Chicago Black Sox
Key players: Shoeless Joe Jackson, Charles Comiskey, Arnold Rothstein, Arnold Gandil, Eddie Cicotte, Oscar Flesch, Fred McMullin, Charles Risberg, George Weaver, Claude Williams
Punishment: Eight players banned from baseball
Bottom line: Eight players on the 1919 Chicago White Sox were permanently banned from baseball after allegedly throwing the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for gambling money.
It’s a harsh punishment for a group that was later acquitted in a public trial, but their stain on the game is legendary.
It also prompted MLB to install the role of commissioner.
Key players: Tony Bosch, Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, Yasmani Grandal, Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Everth Cabrera, Bartolo Colon
Punishment: 50-game suspensions for Cruz, Cabrera and Peralta; 65-game suspension for Braun, 211-game suspension for Rodriguez
Bottom line: In an attempt to skirt new steroid regulations, a Florida doctor, Tony Bosch, developed new methods for players to avoid positive tests.
Those methods included using performance-enhancing drugs, including testosterone, human growth hormone and other banned substances. A disgruntled employee who was owed money from Bosch went to the media, the New Times in Miami, and they exposed the operation.
MLB launched an investigation, and the rest is infamous history. Alex Rodriguez received the bulk of the punishment for repeatedly lying and doing so under oath.