The film follows the scandal surrounding the 1919 World Series. Several choice players from the White Sox are bribed by high-rolling gamblers "Sleepy" Bill Burns and Billy Maharg. They had all been frustrated by the team's owner, Charles Comiskey, who continually refused to reward good playing or uphold his private deals with individual players, like pitcher Eddie Cicotte. At the start of the season Comiskey promised Cicotte a $10,000 bonus if he won 30 games in the season. When his record was 29-7, Cicotte was benched and told his arm was needed to be rested before the championship. He believes Comiskey just didn't want to fulfill his promise.
Rumors circulate about the dissatisfaction among the White Sox players. Fans are thrilled for the series, however, because the team has been playing astonishingly well up to this point. On the heels of a solid, record-breaking season, seven of the nine players approached by Burns and Maharg so obviously bungle the series that fans and the media become suspicious. Cue more rumors. Lefty Williams originally had agreed to throw the series, but he feels convicted by his conscience and plays well. Nervous, the gamblers actually threaten Williams' wife in order to blackmail him into playing badly, which he does. The other player who refuses to bomb is Buck Weaver, who is determined to win the series for his pride.
Shockingly the White Sox lose the championship. They played so poorly throughout the final series that sports journalist Hugh Fullerton writes an expose accusing the players of throwing the game. This raises attention at MLB headquarters, and an investigation is launched. In 1920, eight players -- Cicotte, Felsh, Gandil, Jacksom, McMullin, Weaver, and Williams -- are tried for official misconduct. Although they are acquitted, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis bans them all from the league. Weaver is included in this list because evidence supports his having had knowledge of the scam without reporting it.
Years later, Shoeless Joe Jackson is playing semi-pro. He's using an assumed name, but some of the fans seem to recognize him. One guy in the crowd claims to have seen Jackson play once in person, but says this isn't the same guy in the field. The audience then learns that this particular fan is Buck Weaver. Teammates to the end, he's still covering for his old friend.