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Life Of Shoeless Joe Jackson: Facts, Trivia, And Has Anyone Seen My Shoes?
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Life Of Shoeless Joe Jackson: Facts, Trivia, And Has Anyone Seen My Shoes?

Joe Jackson doesn't have a legacy. The life of Shoeless Joe Jackson actually has two legacies. The first is that of a great baseball player, indisputably one of the best hitters to ever play the game. Babe Ruth made no bones about it, admitting he copied Joe's swing because Jackson was the greatest hitter he'd ever seen. The second Jackson legacy is less concrete, however, and it revolves around controversy and the infamous 1919 Black Sox scandal that led to Joe's permanent banishment from major league baseball. Mix in a few facts, a bit of trivia, and a pair of missing shoes, and you've got one heckuva legacy. Or two.

FACT: Well, maybe not. Two online websites which I'm not allowed to list here show Joe's birthday as July 16, 1888. Two more websites which I also cannot list tell us that Jackson's birthday is July 16, 1887. There's even a fifth website which reports Joe's birthday as July 16, 1899, making Jackson about nine years old when he broke into the major leagues. It's not surprising, then, that controversy still surrounds this guy, 124 or 125 years after his birth.

TRIVIA: Jackson had a favorite bat he called 'Black Betsy'. The length of the bat was 36 inches and it weighed three pounds (48 ounces). The bat was fashioned from a hickory tree (the northern side, to be exact) by local fan Charlie Ferguson when Joe played for a minor league mill team in Greenville, South Carolina. Joe used the bat his entire career and still owned it when he died in 1951. Eventually, Black Betsy sold on eBay in 2001 for $577, 610. That's a little more than $12,033 an ounce, or $16,045 per inch.

FACTS: Shoeless Joe batted over .300 in each of his 11 full major league seasons. His .356 lifetime batting average is third-highest in major league baseball history. In 1911 he hit an astounding .408 in what was essentially his rookie season, setting a rookie record that still stands more than 100 years later. Ironically, Ty Cobb hit .420 that season, denying Joe the league batting title. Despite his .356 lifetime average, Jackson never won a league batting crown. On April 20, 1912, Joe scored the very first run in Tiger Stadium history. Jackson won his only World Series championship with the White Sox in 1917.

TRIVIA: By the age of six, Jackson was already working in a South Carolina textile mill as a clean-up boy. Twelve-hour days were not uncommon as a young teenager, and Joe received little in the way of formal education. Sadly, he never learned to read or write, and in later years would wait for teammates to order off the menu and then order for himself by repeating something he'd heard.

FACT: After the favored White Sox lost the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds, rumors began to swirl that Shoeless Joe Jackson and seven other Chicago teammates had conspired to accept bribes from organized crime elements in exchange for intentionally losing the Series. The allegations were brought before a grand jury in September, 1920, at which time the eight Chicago ballplayers were suspended. In the spring of 1921, the grand jury acquitted all involved of any wrongdoing in the infamous 'Black Sox' scandal, but that mattered not to newly-appointed baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Wanting to set an example and make the point that gambling and organized crime would not be tolerated in major league baseball, Landis banned Shoeless Joe and the other seven players for life. Despite hitting .375 for the series, committing no errors, and belting the Series' only home run, Shoeless Joe never played another major league baseball game.

MISSING SHOES: After a new pair of spikes caused severe blistering on Joe's feet during a minor league game, Joe played the next day in his socks. The nickname 'Shoeless Joe' was born and it stuck with Jackson for the rest of his life.

TRIVIA: In 2006, the home in which Joe Jackson lived and died was taken apart and moved a short distance to Field Street in Greenville, South Carolina. Two years later, the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum was opened in that same house. Even the house number was changed to 356 to reflect Joe's lifetime batting average. There's no charge to visit the museum, and even the parking is free.

TRIVIA: Joe did have a near life-long love affair with Black Betsy, but he did, on occasion, use lighter bats from Hillerich and Bradsby, makers of the famous Louisville Slugger. Proclaiming that "bats don't like freezing no more than me," Jackson would take them home to South Carolina during the winter months. There he would wrap the bats in clean cotton after rubbing them thoroughly with sweet oil.

FACT: On December 5, 1951, a heart attack ended the life of Shoeless Joe Jackson making him the first of the Black Sox to die. He is buried, along with his wife Kate, in Greenville's Woodlawn Memorial Park.

GHOSTLY TRIVIA: The release of the blockbuster movie Field of Dreams in 1989 allowed a whole new generation of baseball fans to recognize and appreciate Shoeless Joe Jackson. The film's pop culture following and enduring appeal guarantees the rightful Joe Jackson legacy the adoration and permanent recognition it so richly deserves.


Street Talk

Shoeless Joe Jackson was obvoiusly a great baseball player, it's a shame that MLB had to lose him because of a stupid Black Sox scandal that he might've never been a part of!

Reply
  about 8 years ago

Interesting article, Bill! I never heard of him before ... what a story!

Reply
  about 8 years ago

Bust my buttons, Lewis! You've never heard of Shoeless Joe Jackson? That means two things: you've never watched my movie, and you've never been to my website. HMMPH! LOL Look for the Shoeless Joe tab on my website to learn more about him. And if you take the time to rent Field of Dreams and watch it, I promise you won't regret it. Thanks for taking the time to leave that incriminating comment, old buddy! :-)

Reply
  about 8 years ago
Anna Ware  

Thanks for a interesting article. Baseball isn't very big over here so I found it really interesting. Thank you for a good read.

Reply
  about 8 years ago

Thanks, Anna. I assume you're across the pond? If that's the case, isn't cricket the baseball alternative over there?

Reply
  about 8 years ago
Anna Ware  

Lol, only if your english. I'm Swedish and we have something similar that we play but it's not a national sport like baseball. In our game we get to throw the ball we're going to hit our self, so up in the air then smack hopefully you've made a good hit so that you can make a home run :). Alot easier in other words :). All other rules are about the same.

  
  about 8 years ago
Ivy Glenn  

Wow. Never knew this. It is really interesting.

Reply
  about 8 years ago

Thanks, Ivy. :-)

Reply
  about 8 years ago

Nicely written article, like the layout, Trivia and Facts.

Reply
  about 9 years ago

Thanks, Mark! I've got another edition of Shoeless Joe trivia in the works...

Reply
  about 9 years ago

Thanks for reading and commenting, Lisa. I, too, find it difficult to believe Shoeless Joe used Black Betsy his entire career wihout breaking it. I find conflicting information on the Internet: Wiki says he broke it, two other sites say it was never broken. So, I've gone straight to the source. I visited the website of Phil Bildner (author of 'Shoeless Joe and Black Betsy') and left him a message. If anyone has a knowledgeable answer, it should be this guy. I'll let you know what he says. Who knows, I may even use his response in a blog post. :-)

Reply
  about 9 years ago

What a great player, and to think he had that average w/o the use of steroids. That must have been one exceptionally well made bat because I see bats being broken often during games these days. Great article. Thanks

Reply
  about 9 years ago

This is a fun read. Facts and trivia make for an interesting and fun experience

Reply
  about 9 years ago

Thanks John, glad you liked it. :-)

Reply
  about 9 years ago

I've always thought he was setup! Say it ain't so!

Reply
  about 9 years ago

Thanks for reading and commenting, Ryan. It's a mixed bag on Shoeless Joe's guilt. One thing's for sure: Jackson's performance in the field and at the plate during the 1919 World Series is above reproach. He led all hitters with a .375 average, belted the Series' only home run, and handled all fielding chances without error. He should be in the Hall, IMHO.

Reply
  about 9 years ago

Holy cow Bill, that there hickory sold for 7 times the current price of gold! Obviously, there are people around who have more money than they know what to do with. Interesting to note that sports officials back then were just as brutally unfair as they are in our day

Reply
  about 9 years ago

Thanks for reading, Jim. Nothing new regarding the officials. Life is a cycle and it simply repeats itself. As Harry Truman noted, "The only thing new is the history you don't know about."

Reply
  about 9 years ago
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