Dec 4, 2008

Anniversary of Shoeless Joe Jackson's Death

Joe Jackson was born into poverty in 1889 at Pickens, South Carolina. He began working at age six alongside his father in a mill and had no formal education. He was the only one of four brothers not in military service so he could work & take care of the family including his mother & handicapped sister.

He got his nickname in the minors,when his feet got so beat up & developed blisters as a result of new spikes. The next day the pain was so unbearable, he took off his shoes came to bat in only his sox & hit a triple. The name stuck forever. Joe called his favorite bat "Black Betsy" it was 36" long & weighed 48 ounces. It was the only bat he never got rid of. A very superstitious guy he believed bats only had a certain number of hits in them. When he slumped he dumped the bat. He collected hairpins he would find and keep them in his uniform pocket. When he slumped he dumped them too.

He arrived in Philadelphia but was traded to Cleveland. He hit .387 in 20 games & in his first full rookie season he batted .409. (The sixth best season batting average of all time). He would never bat below .300 in his eleven year career. He batted over .350 seven times and amazingly never won a batting title but came in 2nd three times & 3rd twice. He finished his career with a .356 batting average, third all time. He lead the league in hits twice, came in second twice & third twice. He had over 200 hits four times in his career. He also led the league in triples three times including the 2nd best single season mark after 1900 with 26 in 1912. In 1915 he was traded to the Chicago White Sox as they quickly became one of the leagues best team.


He would play in two World Series. First in 1917 beating the NY Giants where he batted .304. The second was the infamous 1919 Series where the White Sox were accused of throwing the Series for money, the situation was labeled the Black Sox Scandal. Joe Jackson batted .375 in the Series, had 12 hits, 6 RBIs, a home run and made no errors. Even his cheap owner Charles Comiskey testified three times he though Jackson was innocent. On the other side of the argument it is a fact that he did hit for a lower average in the games the Sox lost & an unusual amount of triples fell near Joe's left field position than usual.

The courts found Shoeless Joe innocent but Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis laid down the decree banning Jackson & seven other Black Sox from baseball for life. As a result he is not enshrined in Cooperstown but there are photos & a pair of his shoes in the Hall. The famous quote "Say it Aint So Joe" came from the incident, but never actually happened. It was a made up news paper story at the time.

After the ban it is believed he played organized ball in New York & New Jersey. He then went on Barnstorming teams with other Black Sox players. After baseball Joe would own & run a Barbecue Restaurant & then a liquor store.

A great story of Jackson's post baseball life happened at his liquor store. Ty Cobb and sportswriter Grantland Rice entered the store, but Jackson acted like he didn't know Cobb. Cobb finally asked Jackson, "Don't you know me, Joe?" Jackson replied, "Sure, I know you, Ty, but I wasn't sure you wanted to know me. A lot of them don't."

He died on December 5th 1951, in Grenville, South Carolina at age 62 of cirrhosis of the liver & a possible heart attack. In less than two weeks he was scheduled to appear on Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town" in an effort to clear his name.

In South Carolina the house he & his wife lived in has been renovated, moved & turned into the Joe Jackson Museum.

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