The Indianapolis Star -

March 29, 2006


1919, and how the fix broke it

There may be no crying in baseball, as the Tom Hanks character admonished in "A League of Their Own." But there sure is crime, and there has been since the days when players who wanted to bulk up in the off-season turned to pitching hay.

Gambling was the steroids of Edd Roush's heyday, and the crime is that the infestation behind the Black Sox scandal plagued this Hoosier Hall-of-Famer to the end of his long, long life.

His granddaughter is the latest of many who've tried to set the record straight. Her new book, "Red Legs and Black Sox: Edd Roush and the Untold Story of the 1919 World Series (Emmis)," is a poignant and picaresque slice of cultural history and a Horatio Alger saga of a country boy made good. Necessarily, it's about the lingering bitterness from a rock-bottom moment in sports annals.

"He was furious," Dellinger recalled of the proud, vinegary man she knew as Daddaw, who died in 1988 at age 94. "I'd ask him about the 1919 World Series and I'd be amazed if he didn't get red in the face and huffy and all mad. He had spent his life trying to defend the team and to make the point they would have won anyway."

The slick, pugnacious center fielder from Oakland City in southern Indiana didn't play for the notorious Chicago White Sox in that celebrated World Series. He won Most Valuable Player honors with the victorious Cincinnati Reds, and may have made his most critical play in the clubhouse before the deciding game, when he gave a speech warning that the gamblers who had infiltrated the White Sox had better not be dirtying the Reds.

Reams have been written and feature films made about the episode that got star Chicago players banned for life for allegedly taking bribes to throw Game One. Generations of fans have tried to clear the names of Shoeless Joe Jackson et al., while vindication of a sort also has been sought for the Cincy boys, who've maintained the Sox played straight after the first game and got beat by a better team.

A 63-year-old writer and professional speaker who grew up in Elwood, Dellinger had no idea those old men who stopped by when she visited her Daddaw as a little girl were all-time greats on the order of Rogers Hornsby and Heinie Groh. When she set out 30 years ago to write his biography, she envisioned a love story between Edd and Essie Mae Roush, his lifelong love and greatest fan.

The author's late grandmother opens the book and is woven through it, along with Daddaw's progress from smalltown hero to Indianapolis major-leaguer (the champion Hoosiers of the old Federal League) to "All-Time Greatest Red" (by a fan vote at the team's 1969 centennial). But the Black Sox, even as backdrop, can't be denied a starring role. Publishers kept telling her as much, and two years ago she satisfied the Cincinnati-based Emmis with her fresh take on the oft-told tale.

When her author's copies arrived in the mail last February, "I sat and cried. I said, 'Oh, I hope you like it, Daddaw.' "

Hard as he was to please about 1919 (I know; I met him a few months before his death), I'll wager he ain't cryin'.


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