Hal Bock takes a look at a history of players and coaches who have been kicked out of America’s Pastime in”Banned: Baseball’s Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans” (Diversion Publishing).
“I love all sports but baseball has always been my favorite,” said Bock, who has covered 30 World Series.
When Mets closer Jenrry Mejia was suspended in 2015, and then later failed more drug tests and received a lifetime suspension, it got Bock to thinking. “The thing that really touched it off was Mejia getting banned for life,” Bock said. “Boy, there might be a book here.”
When eight members of the White Sox took bribes from gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series, it was the most serious threat the game had ever had to its existence. “In the deadball era the players were paid next to nothing,” Bock said. “Players were vulnerable to bribes and fixing games. Salaries went sky high and now suspensions are almost always for PEDs.”
Kenesaw Mountain Landis became commissioner in 1920, and banned the eight players associated. But he would ban others in his quarter-century on the job that are not as famous. “He was going to make baseball clean,” Bock said. “Even the most minor infraction, people were getting banned for life.”
Dickey Kerr had been one of the clean White Sox, winning two games in the 1919 World Series. But when he held out for more money after the 1921 season, Kerr was suspended.
He returned in 1925 but didn’t win a game. Kerr later became a coach in the Cardinals organization. A young lefty pitcher injured his shoulder and didn’t recover well. “Kerr says, ‘you’re a pretty good hitter. Let’s make you an outfielder’. Stan Musial became one of the best players ever,” Bock said.
Another lesser known story is about New York Giant outfielder Benny Kauff, who had been a star in the renegade Federal League and then played several years in New York, including the 1917 National League champions. “He was the best player in the Federal League,” Bock said. “He gets back to the majors and is not as great but is still very good. He got involved in a stolen car ring and was thrown out of baseball.”
These are just a few of the stories in “Banned”.
“I was interested in some of the bad guys,” Bock said.