Thursday, February 23, 2012

DAHOF Top 100 -- #39 Shoeless Joe Jackson

It don't take school stuff to help a fella play ball...
     ~ Shoeless Joe Jackson

Obviously I never saw Joe Jackson play. What I know of him is based on what I have read and watched in movies. The questions surrounding his involvement with the 1919 Black Sox scandal will never clearly be answered because of the passing of time and the lack of evidence. These things I am clear on: (1) he was a GREAT ballplayer, (2) he was a simple illiterate man, and (3) his suspension shortened career is a great tragedy.

Shoeless Joe was a GREAT Ballplayer: Babe Ruth claimed that he modeled his hitting technique after Jackson's. His .356 batting average ranks as the third- highest career batting average in major league history. In 1911, set a Major League rookie record when he hit for a .408 average. This is still the sixth-highest single-season total since the beginning of the modern era (1901) He also still holds the Indians and White Sox franchise records for both triples in a season and career batting average.

Shoeless Joe Jackson was a simple illiterate man: Shoeless Joe Jackson was a country boy from South Carolina who reportedly never learned to read or write. He had no formal education and worked in the local textile mill when he was very young. He started to play baseball on the local mill team and made the move to professional baseball. It is reported that he could sign his name, but often had his wife do it for him. He could not read. In restaurants, rather than ask someone to read the menu to him, he would wait until his teammates ordered, and then order one of the items that he heard.

Shoeless Joe Jackson's suspension shortened career is a great tragedy: There is no doubt in my mind his lack of education was a huge factor in his involvement in the Black Sox scandal. I think he knew there was something going on, but I don't think he had the ability to change what was happening. His controversial admission of involvement and acceptance of a $5000 payment does not synch with his own words and actions. Also, his performance in the 1919 World Series:12 hits (a Series record) and a .375 batting average (leading both teams) and the fact he committed no errors and threw out a runner at the plate indicates to me he played to win.

In the end we are left with a tragic legend and sadness.


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