"His fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning."
-- Connie Mack
These were his World Series numbers:
32 AB, 5 R, 12 Hits, 3 doubles, 1 HR, 6 RBI, .375 BA, .394 OBP, .563 SLG, .956 OPS
Apparently he was throwing the game. At least that's what Kennesaw Mountain Landis said. It makes you wonder what he would have hit had he been trying to win. Or maybe after all, he was trying and he faced the ultimate of injustices in the game.
Today is the birthday of Shoeless Joe Jackson. July 16, 1887 in Pickens County, South Carolina. I find it appropriate that there is no city designated as his birthplace. Just some obscure southern county in a backwoods farm. A perfect place for a country bumpkin like Jackson to start playing ball.
Not surprisingly, he was working from the age of six in a cotton mill in days long before child labor laws existed. He didn’t attend school and never learned to read or write. He was a natural hitter though. At the mere age of 13 he played for the Brandon Mill (where he and his family worked) in a highly competitive amateur league. Within a few years he was a South Carolina legend and Connie Mack signed him at age 19 to play in the Athletics organization. A few years later he was in the Majors with the Cleveland Indians (following a trade) where he debuted in his rookie season setting a record that still stands today, a .408 batting average.
“Whenever I got the idea that I was a good hitter, I’d stop and take a look at you. Then I knew I could stand some improvement.”
--Ty Cobb to Shoeless Joe Jackson during a pre-game conversation.
What followed for Jackson was a certain Hall of Fame career. Leading the league in doubles twice, triples three times, total bases twice, on base percentage and slugging percentage once. His career on base percentage was .423. All of this during the "dead ball" era. He was an MVP candidate many years and just seemed to come up short due to such players and Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Walter Johnson and Eddie Collins beating him out.
"I copied Jackson's style because I thought he was the greatest hitter I had ever seen, the greatest natural hitter I ever saw. He's the guy who made me a hitter."
-- Babe Ruth
When his 1917 Chicago White Sox won the World Series in six games over the New York Giants. It appeared that Joe had accomplished the ultimate goal of every baseball star. He had notoriety and a championship to boot. When 1919 rolled around, the Sox were favorites in that World Series. They had finished 88-52 in a 140 game season. They rolled over in a best of five World Series losing 5 games to 3.
|White Sox owner, Charles Comisky|
It was an age when owners were bloodthirsty penny pinchers. It is reported that the Chicago club got it’s nickname the “Black Sox” not for the scandal they would be engaged in, but because they played in dirty uniforms rather than pay for the daily laundering their uniforms required, since owner Charles Comisky was too cheap to pay for it himself. World Series shares were next to nothing and when gamblers approached, enough players succumbed to the temptation of easy money in exchange for World Series defeat.
Jackson has long denied that he was a part of the plot, saying in a 1942 Sporting News interview: “Regardless of what anybody says, I was innocent of any wrong doing. I gave baseball all I had. The Supreme Being is the only one to whom I’ve got to answer. If I had been out there booting balls and looking foolish at bat against the Reds, there might have been some grounds for suspicion. I think my record in the 1919 World Series will stand up against that of any other man in that Series or any other World Series in all of history.”
After his banishment from the game, Joe kept on playing in amateur leagues in the south. He did so up until he was 53 years old. He always continued to hit. It is reported that in his first night time game in Greenville, SC, very near his last game ever ever, he hit two homers. (source: http://www.shoelessjoejackson.org/joes_story.php )
|Shoeless Joe Jackson died in 1951 at age 64.|
"Everything he hit was really blessed. He could break bones with his shots. Blindfold me and I could still tell you when Joe hit the ball. It had a special crack."
-- Ernie Shore
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