Sports Scandal of Century: The 1919 Black Sox (Part II)
the banning from baseball of "Shoeless Joe" Jackson and the
other seven Chicago White Sox players, it was as if the sport was saying:
now we are clean and have purged ourselves of the dishonest ways of the
past. And if Jackson in the prime of his baseball career and the others
were sacrificed, that was the way it had to be.
of the greatest stars of that time, Jackson continued to exert a strong
public fascination even after his banning. All kinds of folklore attached
to him. One story had a little boy greet the ballplayer on the courtyard
steps with the tearful line: "Say it ain't so, Joe."
true story, according to Jackson, was that a big guy came up to him and
shouted: "I told you the son of a bitch wears shoes."
nearly 20 years, Jackson tried to continue to play with outlaw
barnstormers, mill teams and in the semi-pros. He played under aliases and
with disguises, but his unmistakable swing always gave him away. Judge
Landis, the vindictive and relentless first Commissioner of baseball,
threatened team owners and league officials to keep Jackson from playing.
when Jackson in 1932 applied for permission to manage a minor league team
in his home town of Greenville, South Carolina, Landis was intransigent.
He denied the application.
1951, the man they called "Shoeless Joe" died of a massive heart
attack just one week before he was scheduled to appear on the Ed Sullivan
television show to receive a trophy in honor of his being inducted into
the Cleveland Indians Baseball Hall of Fame.
much was accomplished. But all attempts during and after Jackson's
lifetime to get him into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New
York have failed.
attorneys like Alan Dershowitz and F. Lee Bailey have argued that Jackson
should go into the Hall. Players like Ted Williams have taken up Jackson's
cause. There have been petitions, Congressional motions, letters sent to
baseball Commissioners through the years - all to no avail.
was a player who posted the third-highest lifetime batting average. This
was a player who four times batted over .370. This was a player who was
such a remarkable fielder that his glove was dubbed "the place where
triples go to die."
Ruth copied Jackson's swing and claimed "Shoeless Joe" was the
greatest hitter he ever saw. Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Casey Stengel all placed
him on their all-time, All-Star team.
Jackson's shoes are in the Hall of Fame. His life-size photograph is
there. But he is not enshrined even though others with far less
credentials and far more soiled reputations are.
So we are left with a baseball story
that will not go away - the Greatest Sports Scandal of the Century. It is
still with us because of the lingering sense that justice miscarried, that
the ignorant were duped by the clever, that the powerless suffered and the
strong prevailed, that Jackson and the others were scapegoats, victims who
were caught at a crossroads time in baseball and American history.
Frommer is the author of "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball"
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
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