• Identification00210846
  • TitleDescriptive inventory for the Eliot Asinof papers, 1912-2006 (bulk 1963-1977)
  • PublisherChicago Historical Society
  • RepositoryChicago History Museum Research Center 1601 North Clark Street Chicago, IL 60614-6038
  • OriginationEliot Asinof
  • Date
    • 1912-2006
    • 1963-1977
  • Physical Description3.5 linear feet (6 boxes)
  • LocationMSS Lot A
  • LanguageEnglish

This collection is open for research use.

Copyright is retained by the authors of the items in this collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by the United States copyright law, unless otherwise noted.

Purchased from the estate of Eliot Asinof in November 2008 (2009.0063.1).

Eliot Asinof papers (Chicago History Museum) plus a detailed description, date, and box/folder number of a specific item.

The collection is composed of handwritten and typed manuscripts by Eliot Asinof and legal affidavits, letters, scripts, articles, notes, and newsclippings that belonged to Asinof, the author of Eight Men Out, a book about the 1919 World Series and baseball gambling scandal (published 1963). The collection includes the transcript of an interview with Abe Attell, a former boxer and associate of underworld gamblers, and notes on Asinof's interviews with Chicago White Sox center-fielder Happy Felsch and Judge Hugo Friend, who presided over the trial. In addition, Asinof's notes on the creation of the book manuscript provide details from innumerable sources about events and motivations of the players. Other items in the collection include production schedules (but not the script), articles, and reviews of the 1988 movie Eight Men Out, co-written by Eliot Asinof and its director, John Sayles.

Asinof's handwritten notes contain first-hand information from several people, such as novelist James T. Farrell and Baseball Hall of Fame member Red Faber. Correspondents in the collection include baseball players and other figures of the scandal era, such as banned Chicago White Sox pitcher Edward V. Cicotte; Cincinnati Reds player Walter H. Ruether (Dutch Ruether), who later sued Asinof for libel; and Reds player Edd J. Rousch (Eddie Rousch), as well as baseball historians Fred Lieb, Lee Allen, and Jerome Holtzman. The collection also contains many magazine articles and newspaper clippings pertaining to the World Series scandal (ca. 1919-1956) that Asinof collected. These articles included some interviews with players and photographs used in Eight Men Out.

Other materials include legal filings, affidavits, and correspondence relating to the lawsuit by David Susskind against Asinof over Susskind's attempt to produce a made-for-television movie about the World Series scandal. Asinof's manuscript for his book Bleeding Between the Lines describes Asinof's research and writing methods that created Eight Men Out and recounts the legal battles following its publication. Correspondence with Hank Greenberg followed publication of this book.

Eliot Asinof, a former minor league baseball player who became a professional author, changed the face of sports writing with his landmark book, Eight Men Out. The book was a detailed reconstruction of the scandal that erupted when some players from the Chicago White Sox accepted bribes from professional gamblers for throwing the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Asinof continued to write until his death in June 2008. His other published writings dealt with other topics as well as baseball and included Strike Zone, Off Season, Seven Days to Sunday, and many magazine articles.

Asinof began his career as a screenwriter in Hollywood during the 1950s. However, his Hollywood career was cut short when he was blacklisted in conjunction with signing a petition in New York encouraging the Yankees to hire African American ballplayers. Asinof returned to New York and pursued a career in writing. His first novel, Man on Spikes (published 1955), was based on Asinof's experience of heavy-handed control exerted by minor league owners and operators and on the experiences of Asinof's friend Mickey Rutner, also a baseball player.

In 1963, Asinof's book, Eight Men Out, was published. Asinof had researched, interviewed, and written for the better part of three years in order to track down court documents, players, and photographs. Asinof was able to interview three key persons for the book: Abe Attell, a former featherweight boxing champion and associate of underworld gamblers; Chicago White Sox center-fielder Happy Felsch; and Judge Hugo Friend, who presided over the trial known as Illinois vs. Cicotte, et al. (1921). Although Asinof later suspected Attell of fabricating a good deal, the interviews helped Asinof interpret multiple points of view. His book discussed aspects of the series and scandal that no other work had attempted up to that time. The group of players banned from major league baseball because of the scandal were Eddie Cicotte, Happy Felsch, Chick Gandil, Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Swede Risberg, Buck Weaver, and Lefty Williams.

Stemming from the popularity of the Eight Men Out book, a movie of the same name was released in 1988. Co-written by Asinof and director John Sayles, the motion picture starred actors Charlie Sheen and John Cusack.

The success of the motion picture Eight Men Out was so remarkable that few people would guess at the struggle involved in bringing the movie to fruition. A lengthy legal battle for the rights to Eight Men Out plagued the author. Television producer David Susskind sued Asinof for 1.75 million dollars after a botched deal prevented Susskind from creating a made-for-television movie about the 1919 World Series scandal. Ultimately Susskind's lawsuit was unsuccessful, but this struggle provided the basis for Asinof's 1979 published memoir Bleeding Between the Lines, which highlights Asinof's distrust of corporate Hollywood as well as illuminating his process in writing the Eight Men Out book.

Related materials at Chicago History Museum's Research Center include the Chicago White Sox and 1919 World Series baseball scandal collection [manuscript]; Chicago White Sox collection; Clarence Rowland papers; Joe Jackson collection; Joseph Benz papers; Kenesaw Mountain Landis papers, and photographs and publications related to the White Sox.

  • Names
    • Asinof, Eliot, 1919-2008--Archives
    • Asinof, Eliot, 1919-2008. Eight men out
    • Asinof, Eliot, 1919-2008. Bleeding between the lines
    • Allen, Lee, 1915-
    • Attell, Abraham
    • Attell, Abraham--Interviews
    • Comiskey, Charles A.
    • Faber, Red, 1888-1976
    • Farrell, James T. (James Thomas), 1904-1979
    • Felsch, Oscar, Happy, d. 1964
    • Friend, Hugo, 1882-1966
    • Gandil, Chick, d. 1970
    • Greenberg, Hank
    • Holtzman, Jerome
    • Jackson, Joe, 1888-1951
    • Lieb, Fred, b. 1888
    • McMullin, Fred, d. 1952
    • Risberg, Swede, 1894-1975
    • Rousch, Eddie
    • Ruether, Dutch, 1893-1970
    • Susskind, David, 1920-1987
    • Weaver, Buck, 1890-1956
    • Chicago White Sox (Baseball team)
    • American League of Professional Baseball Clubs
    • Major League Baseball (Organization)
    • Mayer, Meyer, Austrian & Platt
  • Subject
    • World Series (Baseball)
    • Eight men out (Motion picture)
    • Illinois vs. Cicotte, et al. (1921)
    • Actions and defenses--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
    • Authors, American--20th century
    • Baseball managers--United States--20th century
    • Baseball players--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
    • Baseball team owners--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
    • Baseball films
    • Black Sox Baseball Scandal, Chicago, Ill., 1919-1921
    • Motion pictures--Production and direction--20th century
    • Sports betting--United States--20th century
    • Trials--Illinois--Chicago--20th century

The collection is arranged in five series.

Series 1. Eight Men Out research, interviews, and manuscript, ca. 1912-1992 (box 1-3)

Series 1 consists of the Eight Men Out manuscript for the book with typed and handwritten notes by the author. Also included in this series is information on Asinof's research methods and sources, which included interviews, articles, news clippings, and photographs. In addition, this series also contains information about the production of the Eight Men Out movie, which contains scripts, cast photos, shooting schedules, and other production related information.

This series sheds light on vital background information concerning the 1919 World Series scandal, and emphasizes the amount of research Asinof performed to complete the book. For Asinof's original Eight Men Out manuscript, he typed his first draft, then penned handwritten notes and addendums on subsequent pages leading him to his final draft. This attention to detail reflects the painstaking research by the author in the three years it took him to complete the book. Particular highlights are the interview with Abe Attell and notes on Asinof's interviews with Happy Felsch and Judge Hugo Friend.

Series 2. Correspondence and legal filings, 1957-2006 (box 3)

Series 2 is composed of Asinof's personal and professional correspondence as well as legal papers. Asinof's correspondence ranges from professional letters from publishers to personal fan mail and baseball queries. The folder titled "Bleeding Between the Lines correspondence and legal filings" contains the source material Asinof used to write his 1989 memoir Bleeding Between the Lines which provides information on the formation of the book Eight Men Out and the ensuing legal battles following the book's publication. Other items of interest include a signed letter from banned pitcher Edward Cicotte, a series of correspondence with noted baseball historian Fredrick Lieb, and correspondence with Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg.

Series 3. Other works by Asinof, 1960-1978 (box 4-5)

Series 3 is composed entirely of works written by Eliot Asinof. Included in this series are the first draft and revisions of the memoir Bleeding Between the Lines, as well as articles, plays, and assorted scripts.

Series 4. Works reviewed by Asinof, 1978 (box 5)

Series 4 is comprised of works given to Asinof by other screenwriters for Asinof's critique and revisions. After the publication of Eight Men Out, Asinof became known as one of the living authorities on the 1919 World Series scandal. Many other writers sent Asinof their material looking for his expert opinion on their scripts. Of particular interest is the Say it Ain't So Joe script sent to Asinof by television producer David Susskind. This script is discussed as a point of contention between Asinof and Susskind in Bleeding Between the Lines, and the episode turned into a 1.75 million dollar legal battle for Asinof.

Series 5. Scrapbook, 1963-1965 (box 6)

This series is comprised of a single scrapbook put together by Asinof. The scrapbook contains assorted news clippings and magazine articles heralding the 1963 release of his best-selling book Eight Men Out. Also found in the scrapbook are assorted letters and fan mail.