MASSILLON – EPISODE SIX: THEIR HONOR INVIOLATE
The city of Massillon revels in its Tigers’ Game 2 victory well into the night, but the afterglow is short lived. Many in Canton are disheartened, angry, and broke after losing substantial bets to those in their neighboring town. At least the Cantonites will have another chance in Game 3, or so they think.
HAYDEN rushes into WALLACE’s hotel room to tell him what just happened in Sunday morning church. Everyone is calling the players sellouts. Hayden is there to represent all of the other Bulldogs players. They want their wages now so they can leave town before things get worse. Wallace claims that no money can be paid until Canton plays Latrobe on Thanksgiving Day. They have contracts, all of them. Hayden semi-threatens Wallace. Wallace stands firm, but is understanding.
WIGHTMAN basks in his glory with the press, including taking credit for finding Homer Davidson.
Business is hurting over at CASSIE’s house of ill repute, as Canton men have lost the discretionary income that they had been spending on her ladies. Wallace shows up at the brothel looking for a drink and some companionship. He tells her that after Thursday’s game with Latrobe, he’s done coaching. He’s going back east to Atlantic City, and implies that she’s not coming with him. Cassie is disturbed by Wallace’s condition and his news, and kicks him out.
Monday morning. A hungover Wallace takes Tiny for a walk to buy a paper. Before he can get the Canton News, a shop owner throws a Massillon Morning Gleaner at him. HEADLINE: “THEIR HONOR INVIOLATE.” Subheadline: “The Famous Massillon Tigers of 1906 Could Not Be Bought Off With a Price.” The front-page article details the allegations of a game-fixing scheme involving the Tigers and Bulldogs series that was squashed before Game 1. It also claims that Game 2 was the only one played fairly since the Tigers plays were compromised in Game 1.
Further, the story is written by STEWART, and it accuses Wallace of colluding with EAST, who masterminded the plan. Stewart emphasizes that East was summarily cut by the Tigers before Game 1 when SHIRING and MAXWELL reported East’s offer to Wightman. The news of the thwarted fix spreads like wildfire.
The Canton press runs its own investigation, grilling Wallace and the Canton brass. Fans quiz Wallace, too. He takes on all comers. After first denying any involvement, East brazenly admits to his part in the fix in the papers, but exonerates Wallace of any involvement. A series of headlines show that the Bulldogs are bankrupt, players haven’t been paid, Wallace intends to file suit, and pro football may be done in Ohio.
Wallace barges into Stewart’s office at the Gleaner to confront him. He forcefully demands that Stewart recant his accusation or he will sue the paper, the Tigers, and Stewart personally for libel. Stewart cowers, pulls out a pistol, and threatens to shoot Wallace if he gets closer. Wallace tells him that he might as well, since Blondy’s name is dead in town. After a heated argument, they face-off. Wallace chooses to walk out and says he’ll have his day in court.
SUPERIMPOSE: MONDAY, NOVEMBER 26TH, 1906, 12:00 NOON; CANTON ATHLETIC CLUB
Canton dignitaries interview Wallace, who denies involvement and reassures them that the Bulldogs played it straight. ROMMEL supports him and thinks this is all a ploy by Stewart to excuse the Tigers’ Game 1 loss, in addition to an attempt to foil the Bulldogs’ game with Latrobe over Thanksgiving so they would lose their share of the ticket sales from Game 1, per their earlier negotiation.
When others question Stewart’s timing, Bulldogs’ co-owner WILLIAMS shocks everyone in the room, including Wallace, by revealing that Stewart approached him and Rommel with the issue before Game 1.
SUPERIMPOSE – NOV. 13th (Three days before Game 1) , 1906 9:07 PM, Williams’ office.
Stewart meets with ROMMEL and WILLIAMS. He intimates that there is a contract that exists between East and JOHN WINDSOR (owner of the Akron baseball team managed by East) locked in a safe in Cleveland that guarantees members of Massillon’s management a pool of $50,000 to bet on the series of games if they cooperate with the plan. He also explains that Tigers’ brass lured East into signing a contract with Wightman agreeing to the scam so that they could prove East was crooked and then justify releasing him.
Although Wallace’s name is not on the contract, Stewart is convinced that Blondy was in on it. When the Canton brass refutes Stewart’s accusations, he presents PUDGE SEAMAN, a Massillon trainer who saw East and Wallace talking in the billiard hall. Shortly after, East approached Massillon captains SHIRING AND MAXWELL on separate occasions about fixing the games. Stewart claims East had to get Wallace’s approval to risk making his move with the Tigers.
SUPERIMPOSE: MONDAY, NOVEMBER 26TH, 1906 3:17 PM; MASSILLON ATHLETIC CLUB
Stewart holds court with the Massillon press on why he released East and why he didn’t reveal the fix before Game 1.
We flashback to Stewart’s meeting with Williams and Rommel. Stewart claims he came to them to save the reputation of professional football.
SUPERIMPOSE: TUES. NOV. 27TH, 1906; 10:30AM, MASSILLON COURTHOUSE
WIGHTMAN is being sworn in at a Massillon courthouse. He declares that Massillon would have won Game 1 if not for the fact that the Tigers had to change their signals.
Flashback: Pudge tells Stewart that Wightman is doing everything he can to get the team adjusted to new signals because of East’s release and their fear that he gave Wallace their signals.
Back to real time: Williams and Rommel defend Wallace, stating that he has taken the team to Penn State to stay focused and practice. He showed no signs of a fix. Stewart promises to keep silent about the fix in hopes that it can be managed in house.
BACK AT THE CANTON CLUB:
Wallace continues to defend himself. He claims Stewart is self-serving and wants to sell newspapers.
BACK AT THE COURTHOUSE:
Wightman lays out his version of the fix. “So, let me be clear on this point–it was I who approached Stewart with a plan to derail East, this in order to inform Stewart of the handicaps we may face in Game 1.”
AT THE MASSILLON ATHLETIC CLUB:
Stewart claims HE was the one to devise the plan to trap East. WHO IS TELLING THE TRUTH?
At the Courtland Hotel, Cassie visits Wallace. Blondy is a wreck. East is coming to town to give his testimony, and Wallace thinks no matter what the outcome, he’s bound to lose. Wallace is more concerned about his team than his reputation. He tells Cassie that like his football career, their relationship is also doomed. Cassie leaves distraught.
SUPERIMPOSE: WEDNESDAY, NOV. 28TH, 1906; 10:13 AM, Canton Courthouse
Stewart tells the court reporters that the contract will be revealed once everyone has admitted their guilt (knowing well that Wallace’s signature is NOT on the contract). He’s also asked about a seemingly deliberate typo in his article that refers to Wallace as a “thief” instead of using the word “they.”
Wallace shows the same typo to his Canton contingent. A Freudian slip.
EAST’S TESTIMONY – East charms the crowd. He gives evidence that Wallace wanted to sign him, but Stewart offered him more money to play for Massillon.
Wallace is questioned about why he signed another end instead of pursuing East harder.
WIGHTMAN dishes on the witness stand about East approaching his captains. East admitted to that fact, but says both men declined his offer. Wightman says he instructed the two captains to play along with East.
EAST testifies emphatically that Wallace had nothing to do with the fix. Cassie, in the courthouse, stands up and backs him. She drops a bombshell that she burned the plays that East had given her to pass on to Wallace. Cassie is verbally assaulted as a whore and assumed to be unreliable by the courtroom crowd since she’d likely say anything to protect Blondy.
East comes to Cassie’s rescue and states that WIGHTMAN was actually the instigator of the scam. East claims that Wightman was losing faith in his team and, thus, his job security. So he devised a plan. East claims that he has a copy of another contract with Wightman’s signature on it to prove it. Wightman emphatically denies it and calls East a natural born liar. Windsor backs East’s version. The court is in an uproar. Wightman claims that contract was signed AFTER he talked to Stewart to launch a plan to trick East. WHO IS TELLING THE TRUTH? Wightman points to Cassie as Wallace’s accomplice to it all. Cassie rushes out of the courtroom.
Wallace tells reporters back at the Courtland Hotel that if he wanted a fix, why would he have stated just days before Game 2 that he didn’t want to play Game 3 if the two teams split? Wallace gives a glorious defense for himself on how he could not possibly be one to conspire to fix a game.
Wallace is called off of the witness stand by one of Cassie’s girls and summoned to come with her to the bordello. When he gets there, CASSIE IS DEAD. It’s a suicide. She has killed herself with arsenic. Blondy rocks her in his arms in grief.
There is still a game between Canton and Latrobe to be played. If not, all of the gate receipts from Game 2 would go to Massillon.
Williams meets Stewart at Croxton’s warehouse early in the morning. They are alone and Stewart hands over Canton’s half of the gate receipts from Game 2, only after receiving assurance that the Bulldogs’ game with Latrobe will proceed that afternoon. The business side is settled, but they continue to spar verbally over Wallace’s guilt or innocence.
Canton beats Latrobe handily on Thanksgiving Day, 16-0, but the game is sparsely attended. Wallace is also treated with disdain by the fans and the opposing team.
Wallace has no choice but to move forward with his libel suit to save his reputation and career. Meanwhile his players still haven’t been paid in full. As they line up at his hotel room to collect their game checks, Stewart makes a surprise visit. He proposes that they go ahead and play Game 3 in Cleveland as a fundraiser with all proceeds going to the players. BUT, Wallace must disband the C.A.C. for at least five years. Stewart would then pay Wallace restitution in exchange for him dropping his libel suit and leaving town.
Wallace responds that he can’t control the fate of football in Canton. But as he considers accepting the other terms and takes hold of the envelope to count the cash, he prophesizes that if he takes the money, pro football in Ohio will be cursed forever.
Game 3 goes on in Cleveland, and even fewer fans show up than for the Latrobe game. It plays out as a farce. The players laugh it up, some switch teams during the game, and the teams play to an intentional tie. They just want to make some extra money for their train rides home.
Wallace returned to Atlantic City in his home state of New Jersey and, after staying out of the limelight for over a decade, became “King of the Bootleggers” during the Prohibition era. He eluded the authorities for years, and was ultimately jailed for tax evasion. He died in his late thirties from liver disease shortly after his release.
Stewart continued coaching at a number of colleges. He died tragically when he was accidentally shot in the back by a friend in a hunting accident on his own farm.
East’s life went south. He deserted his wife after a 30-day marriage, and then raised all sorts of havoc with multiple minor league baseball teams in the Southern League for a number of years. After his sporting career, he was convicted of forging a check from the brewing company at which he worked to finance opening his own bar. Soon thereafter, he died of a strange case of uremic poisoning.
Pro football died in Ohio for many years from the public’s disenchantment resulting from the scandal, until Canton’s water boy from the 1906 season (and the story’s narrator), JACK CUSACK, started and coached the new iteration of the Canton Bulldogs in 1912. He then recruited the world’s greatest athlete, Jim Thorpe, to join the team after Thorpe won multiple gold medals in the 1912 Olympics, and the game was resurrected. The NFL was formed in a meeting of team owners in a Canton auto dealership in 1920, with Thorpe being named the league’s first president.
As for Wallace’s curse, narrator Cusack reminds that Canton did win a couple of the NFL’s first titles in the 1920s, and Jim Brown helped the Cleveland Browns win a few in the 50s and 60s. But the state of Ohio has never had a Super Bowl win.
MONTAGE of the Browns 1981 “Mistake by the Lake” game ending playoff interception;
1986 – “The Drive” led by the Broncos John Elway against the Browns to steal a playoff victory;
1987 – “The Fumble” by the Browns Ernest Byner as he was about to cross the goal line for a playoff win against the Broncos;
1988 – Joe Montana throwing a last second TD pass in the Super Bowl against the Bengals.
In a final reflective scene, East is seen in a Cleveland Nats uniform after finally being called up to the major leagues. He is watching Shoeless Joe Jackson taking batting practice for the Nats in a season prior to Jackson being banned, along with seven of his teammates, for fixing the 1919 World Series as part of the Chicago “Black Sox” against the Cincinnati Reds. Jackson cracks one of his famous Black Betsy bats on a mishit ball. East swaggers over to Jackson and offers him a replacement. “You owe me one, Joe, ” says East, with a knowing glint in his eye.