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Birth:
27 Jan 1880 1
San Saba, Texas 1
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Full Name:
William Thomas Burns 1
Also known as:
Bill, Sleepy Bill 1
Birth:
27 Jan 1880 1
San Saba, Texas 1
Male 1
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Occupation:
Baseball 1

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Stories

Sleepy Bill Burns

William Thomas "Bill" Burns (January 27, 1880 – June 6, 1953), nicknamed "Sleepy Bill," was an American baseball player who played as a pitcher in Major League Baseball for five different teams from 1908 to 1912. Burns earned his nickname for his noticeable lack of intensity on the mound.[1]

Bill Burns is best known for his involvement in the alleged fixing of the 1919 Chicago White Sox World Series, dubbed the Black Sox Scandal.

In his five-year career, Burns played for the Washington SenatorsChicago White SoxCincinnati RedsPhiladelphia Phillies, and Detroit Tigers.[2] In his rookie season, 1908, Burns had a 1.69 ERA (sixth best in the American League). However, he had a career record of 30-52 as a pitcher and never won more than eight games in a season.

Prior to the start of the 1919 World Series, a group of players from the Chicago White Sox agreed to intentionally lose the world series in exchange for money from gamblers. Burns met with Eddie Cicotte and Chick Gandil at The Ansonia, a hotel in New York City during the formative stages of the event.[3]

It is likely that Burns operated on behalf of Arnold Rothstein, a New York businessman and gambler. Burns relayed messages back and forth between the players who had agreed to fix the games and a person whose initials were "A.R.".[4]

After news of the scandal broke, a trial took place in Chicago, Illinois. During this trial, Burns served as a witness for the prosecution.Assistant State Attorney Edward Prindeville examined Burns during the trial.

"I told them I had the hundred thousand dollars to handle the throwing of the World Series. I also told them that I had the names of the men who were going to finance it. I told them they were waiting below." - Testimony of Sleepy Bill Burns

Testimony of Sleepy Bill Burns


Prindeville: What did Cicotte say when you met him in New York? 
Ahearn:  Objection! The prosecution has no right to relate any conversations with alleged conspirators before a conspiracy has been proved! 
Judge: Sustained.... 
Prindeville: Who was there [at the meeting at the Hotel Sinton in Cincinnati, just before game one of the Series]? 
Burns:  There were Gandil, McMullin, Williams, Felsch, Cicotte, and Buck Weaver. 
Q:  How about Jackson? 
A:  I didn't see him there. 
Q:  Did you have any conversation with them? 
A:  I told them I had the hundred thousand dollars to handle the throwing of the World Series.  I also told them that I had the names of the men who were going to finance it.  I told them they were waiting below. 
Q:  Who were the financiers? 
A:  They were Arnold Rothstein, Attell, and Bennett.... 
Q:  Did the players make any statements concerning the order of games to be thrown? 
A:  Gandil and Cicotte said the first two games should be thrown.  They said, however, that it didn't matter to them.  They would throw them in any order the financiers wished. Cicotte said he'd throw the first game if he had to throw the ball clear out of the Cincinnati ball park! [Laughter].... 
Q:  Did Gandil say anything? 
A:  Yes.  He wanted to know if they were being double-crossed.  I told him that I wasn't double-crossing them. 
Q:  Did you offer them any security? 
A:  Yes, I told them I'd give them an oil lease. 
Q:  Did you put it up? 
A:  No. Maharg advised me not to.  He said Rothstein might double-cross us, and then I would be out.  The ballplayers wanted to put my lease in escrow, but I refused. 
Q:  When did you see Attell next? 
A:  Immediately after the second game.  Maharg was with me.  We went to his room at the Sinton.  Bennett was also there. 
Q:  Is Bennett in the courtroom? 
A:  He is. 
Q:  Do you see him? 
A:  Yes.  He's behind that post. (Burns rose from his chair and pointed.) He's the man in that yellow shirt. 
["Bennett" was in actuality David Zelser.]

Cross-examination of Bill Burns by Defense Attorney James "Ropes" O'Brien:

O'Brien:  Mr. Burns, how much money did you receive from [American League President] Ban Johnson? 
Gorman: Objection: [counsel is leading the witness]. 
Judge: Sustained. 
O'Brien:  Did you get five hundred dollars from Ban Johnson? 
Burns:  Yes, for my expenses for two months. 
Q:  How much of this went to your wife and how much did you keep? 
A:  I don't know. 
Q:  Had you any visible means of support during the last year other than Ban Johnson? 
[Burns replied that he had worked in Mexico.] 
Q:  I suppose you went to work for Pancho Villa when you were there? 
A:  No, I wouldn't work for Villa.  And I wouldn't work for you, either, Mr. Ahearn!... 
[Burns explained his return in April to Del Rio, Texas.] 
Q:  What was your occupation then? 
A:  Well, fishing. 
Q:  What for--witnesses? 
[No reply.] 
Q:  You knew you were coming under indictment when you came to Chicago? 
A: Yes. 
Q:  Being under indictment didn't worry you, did it? 
A: No....

Examination by Assistant State's Attorney Edward Prindeville:

[Prindeville asked Burns to describe his meeting with Gandil when he gave the Gandil $10,000.] 
A: Gandil asked: "Are we being double-crossed?" And I said, "No, you ain't." 
Q:  Was anything said about the game the next day? 
A:  Yes.  Attell told me to ask the players to win the next game. He said: "Tell the Sox to win a game so we can get more money down." This would help shift the odds.  The players said they would think about it.... 
Q:  What did you do then? 
A:  I asked Gandil about my part of the $10,000 I had given them. 
Q:  Did you say anything to him about the $20,000 that Attell offered? 
A:  No, he never gave me a chance.  I asked him again about the money they owed me.  I said, "I'll get my share or I'll tell everything." 
Q:  What did he say to that? 
A:  He didn't say anything.  Just walked away from me.

Examination of Bill Burns by Assistant State's Attorney George Gorman:

Gorman: Mr. Burns, I am going to question you now concerning certain meetings you attended at the Hotel Ansonia in New York City before the World Series. . . . When did you meet Cicotte in New York prior to the World Series of 1919? 
A:  September 16. 
Q:  What did he say to you? 
A:  He said that the Sox would win the pennant, and that he had something good for me. 
Q: Did he tell you what that good thing was? 
A:  No. 
Q:  When did you next meet him? 
A:  On the eighteenth. 
Q:  Who was present? 
A:  Cicotte and Gandil. 
Q:  Was anything said? 
A:  Yes, Gandil said: "If I could get $100,000, I would throw the World Series!" 
Q:  And what did you say? 
A:  I said I would see what I could do. 
Q:  Was anything else said? 
A:  Well, Gandil said they would sure throw the Series if they won the pennant.

Cross-examination of Bill Burns by Defense Attorneys Michael Ahearn, Max  Lusker, and Ben Short:

Ahearn:  When you went to Cincinnati, you proposed the conspiracy to the players! 
Burns:  I did not. 
Q:  You talked of an offer of $100,000 made by Attell and Bennett. 
A:  That was the players' proposition! 
Lusker: Mr. Burns, when did you see Bennett first? 
A:  In the Ansonia Hotel in 1919. 
Q:  When last? 
A:  About a week ago, I saw his back in Chicago.  He was about two hundred yards away. 
Q:  You have a good memory, have you?  You are able to remember a man after two years' time? 
A:  I can remember faces. 
Q:  Backs, too, I suppose? [Laughter.] 
A:  I did, this man. 
Q:  By the way, where were you going to get your reward for fixing the Series? 
A:  The players, and also Attell. 
Q:  You were going to be paid by Attell? 
A:  Yes. 
Q:  You didn't think that was double-crossing, did you? 
A:  No. 
Q:  You were going to get a slice both ways, eh? 
A:  Sure. 
Q:  Did you tell the players? 
A:  No. It was none of their business. 
Q:  You were afraid you would lose it if you told them, weren't you? 
 [No reply]... 
Short: You told Gandil you would spill the beans if they didn't come through with your share, didn't you? 
A:  That's right. 
Q:  The players double-crossed you, didn't they? 
A:  Yes. 
A:  Well, you double-crossed them. 
A:  Not until they crossed me. 
Q:  : Is that a reason for testifying? 
A:  One of them. 
Q:  Then it is not for the purity of baseball? 
A:  Well, they double-crossed me and I would have been the fall guy for the whole outfit. 
Q:  If the players had really been crooked, you would have been satisfied!  Do you think you are even with the boys now? 
A:  I am liable to be before I leave here! [Laughter.] 
Q:  You don't like me much, do you, Bill? 
A:  Sure I think you're a smart fellow, and I wish we had someone like you at the head of this deal; we'd all be rich, now. . . .

 

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