Almost 100 years ago, the famous Black Sox scandal gave the World Series victory to the Cincinnati Reds over the favored Chicago White Sox. There were reportedly 8 White Sox players that accepted bribes to “throw” the Series, and one of them was Shoeless Joe Jackson. Most the 7 players were quite obvious in their throwing of the series, but Jackson was never even in the discussions. Now, just over 95 years later, another push was made to get Shoeless Joe reinstated and eligible for the Hall. But, quickly new MLB commissioner, Rob Manfred, denied it. Jackson may not have nearly as big of an army behind his case to make enough noise as to say Pete Rose does, but it doesn’t mean the commissioner can just shove it to the side.
Certainly the Black Sox Scandal was so many years ago, but baseball being America’s past time makes the history of the game and its legends still a big deal. Yes, most of the players in the scandal made a big difference in the Sox losing effort, like pitcher Lefty Williams going 0-3 with a 6.63 ERA in the Series (won 22 games in regular season), but that doesn’t mean that Joe made the same effort. The hard-hitting outfielder hit .375 with a homer and 6 RBI’s in the 1919 Series. Why would one play like an MVP if he wanted to lose on purpose?
According to multiple sources, Jackson accepted the money with a huge amount of guilt, and was talked into the deal at the conclusion of it. He may not have been the most charming fellow, but he cared about one thing, and that was winning with all the talent he had. Back then, baseball stars were not paid too well, but they had more heart when it came to winning ball games. Shoeless Joe played for the Cleveland Naps before the Sox and bitched the whole time about wanting to win a championship. Joe once said to Ty Cobb: “What a hell of a league this is. Ah hit .387, .408, and .395 the last 3 years and ah ain’t won nothin’ yet!” That quote was back after the 1912 season, so imagine how his patient was years later when he still hadn’t won a ring?
The only two pieces of evidence the MLB has against Shoeless Joe is that he might have taken the money (no hardcore evidence since he was never in discussions) and he had already won his ring in 1917, so he might have been ok with throwing the 1919 Series. In the first testimony Joe admitted to accepting the $5000, however, he then later recanted his confession. Also, others involved confirmed that the star outfielder was never part of the meetings. Whether he did it or not, it’s been almost a century for this very controversial case, plus he died more than 6 decades ago, so why keep a grudge? This case is different from others such as Pete Rose’s, which pits Rose as obviously guilty.
Joe Jackson was arguably one of the greatest hitters of all-time as he competed heavily with Cobb back during the first dead ball era. Shoeless Joe never hit below .300 once in his 13-year career, hitting a mere .408 in 1911 when the league’s ERA was 3.36. He rarely hit a homer, but his slugging percentage being over .500 was due to hitting a surplus of doubles (307) and triples (168). Without a bat, and a glove instead, he was just as fascinating. One can lie out all the stats they wanted, but despite Jackson’s career numbers being lower than other Cooperstown members, juts remember that what he accomplished for a shortened career was truly legendary. Joe Jackson didn’t get his nickname for his lack of love for the game or appetite for victory; the man who once ran the bases shoeless made one mistake (not in full), but the Hall of Fame is nothing without one of baseball’s most underrated players.