No. 81: Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson despised the nickname that would precede his name forever. He thought it was meant to belittle him and his background. He was not wrong. When Jackson was playing minor league ball in Greenville, S.C., a few miles from Brandon Mill where he grew up, he played a game in a new pair of spikes and developed intense blisters. He asked his manager to sit him out the next game. The manager refused. Jackson, out of necessity, played in stockinged feet. He hit a triple that game, slid into third, and someone supposedly shouted “You Shoeless bastard you!” That did it. Jackson would often say it was the only game he ever played without shoes, and he never played a game without socks, but the image was too priceless for sportswriters and fans and teammates.

Jackson might have been the most natural player in the history of baseball. He began working full-time in the textile mill in his town when he was 13 years old — right at the year 1900 — though there is every reason to believe he began working there at least part time long before that, perhaps even when he was just 6 or 7. That’s how it went in Brandon Mill. His father, George, tended the engine that powered the mill … backbreaking and relentless work. There is no indication that George ever played an inning of baseball or was even tempted to play.

But Joe loved the game from the start … as much as an escape from the grueling and colorless life of the mill as anything else. He never attended a single day of school (and never learned how to read or write, even though numerous people offered to teach him). Baseball was the one outlet for his childlike wonder, and he was brilliant at the game more or less from the start. He had an otherworldly arm, and was chosen as the pitcher for mill games until he broke someone’s arm with his fastball. He had a hitting style that was quite unlike the players of his day. He swung left-handed and kept both hands together and close to the end of the bat. He would swing hard and with a bit of an uppercut when he saw a pitch he could drive — and yet he almost never struck out. Babe Ruth, famously, copied his swing.

He began playing in mill games when he was 14 or 15 — according to David L. Fleitz’s book Shoeless he was paid $2.50 a game, twice as much as a day in the mill — and he quickly became a local legend. This seemed enough for Joe Jackson. He bounced around local teams, always looking for an extra few dollars, and the cheers of these small South Carolina mill towns meant more to him anything he would later hear in the biggest American cities. A man named Charlie Ferguson built him a huge bat — 36 inches, 48 ounces, tanned black by tobacco juice — that would be named Black Betsy. People soon started chanting for the bat as much as they did for Jackson himself.

* * *

Joe Jackson probably would have been content with this life in the South Carolina Upstate. Between the mill and the baseball, he was making more money than most other folks. He had baseball and the corn whiskey he carried around with him. People treated him like a hero. He would soon marry a sensible woman named Katie Wynn, who (unlike Jackson) could read and write and handle his affairs. He would often say that he did not need more.

But he was simply too talented to avoid attention. A man named Tom Stouch — who had gotten 17 plate appearances for the Louisville Colonels in 1898 — had seen Jackson play and was entirely blown away. When Stouch became manager of the Greenville Spinners, he had to have Jackson. He offered $75 a month — at least double what Jackson was making working in the mill and playing baseball — and Jackson could not say no*. Jackson seemed to despise fame all his life, but he was perpetually vulnerable to a better money deal. That would prove to be his downfall, of course.

*This was the time he signed his contract with an X. Later — unlike various depictions — Katie taught him how to sign his name.

Jackson led the Carolina Association in hitting right away, and he remained utterly beloved. Supposedly one day he hit a home run that went so far, people in the stands threw $29.75 in coins to him, more than a mill worker would make in a month (“Make it even $30,” Stouch apparently said as he threw another quarter into the hat). Once again, Joe Jackson was entirely content — probably the happiest he would ever be in baseball. But again, his talent pulled him forward. Connie Mack, manager of the Philadelphia Athletics and one of the most famous baseball men, caught wind of Jackson’s talents (Stouch, among others, had written him letters). He sent two scouts to see Jackson, and both said he was the real thing. Mack purchased Jackson’s contract for Philadelphia.

And … Jackson refused to go. At first, people thought it was just nerves, but they soon realized: He really did not want to go. Jackson would say he knew nothing about the Major Leagues and playing in it had never been his dream. His friends — including Stouch — were offended by Jackson’s lack of ambition. At one point, Stouch himself put Jackson on a train and rode up to Philadelphia with him to make certain that he went. But even that didn’t work — Jackson jumped the train in Charlotte and came back home.

When they finally got him up to Philadelphia, he absolutely hated it and was constantly trying to get on a train for home. His teammates bullied him mercilessly. The sportswriters had a field day with him. He was overwhelmed by the big city, and even though he always had kind words for Connie Mack himself, he thoroughly despised his time with the Athletics and apparently talked often with friends about longing for Greenville and and his wife and simpler times.

In 1910, Connie Mack made the trade that would haunt him for the remainder of his life. Mack did it in good faith. He seemed to understand that Jackson would never blossom in Philadelphia. He seemed to understand that his team (Mack had a great team in 1910 that won 102 games and the World Series) did not like having Jackson around. And he reportedly wanted to help Cleveland owner Charles Somers, a baseball icon, who had almost singlehandedly funded the American League (the Boston Red Sox were briefly called the Boston Somersets in his name).

So, on July 30, Mack traded Jackson to Cleveland — technically Jackson was the player to be named later in a trade that brought Philadelphia Bris Lord and cash

“I wish I had a Williams,” Mack would say in 1941 after watching Ted Williams blast his Athletics with back-to-back three-hit games. “I had one once. And I lost him.”

* * *

Joe Jackson hit .408 his first full year in the major leagues. Well, he liked Cleveland a lot more than he did Philadelphia. He lost the batting crown that year to Ty Cobb (he hit a career hit .420) — as he would again and again in his career — and Cobb would sometimes tell the story about how he beat Joe Jackson out. He and Jackson were friends (or as friendly as anyone could be with Cobb during his playing deals) and at some point Cobb simply stopped talking to Jackson. Joe would try to engage him, but Cobb would glare and not say a word. Cobb said this so deeply wounded Jackson that he went into a slump and Cobb ran away with the batting title.

The story is probably pure moonshine — Jackson certainly did not slump much if he hit .408, and Cobb DID hit .420 — but it does seem true that Jackson could go into legendary slumps for the oddest reasons. He was a natural hitter, through and through, and so had numerous superstitions that went along with that. He believed bats had only so many hits in them. A broken bat could send him on a two-week slide. He had this strange habit of collecting hairpins and putting them in his back pocket when he played.

Jackson hit .395 his second season, and again lost the batting title to Cobb, who hit .409. Their styles were very different. Cobb kept his hands far apart when he hit so he could control the bat and his idea was to slash at the ball with the bat. It was spectacularly effective but of his time — if someone showed up today swinging a bat like Ty Cobb he would look bizarre and singular.

Jackson, meanwhile, was the forefather of the modern swing. He would probably look more or less modern if he just showed up in 2013. His swing became Babe Ruth’s swing became Ted Williams swing became Willie McCovey’s swing became Barry Bonds’ swing because Joey Votto’s swing. That’s not to say that any of these men swung the bat exactly alike, but that there is a certain gorgeousness in all of them. Jackson, perhaps, was the first man to have a swing people would call beautiful.

* * *

He hit .373 in 1913, his third year in Cleveland, and that was probably as good as it got for Joe Jackson. The next few years would be somewhat miserable for him, in part because of circumstances and in part because he had a weakness for the better deal.

A whole bunch of things happened all at once. One, Jackson dealt with a series of injuries. Two, there was a new league — the Federal League — that was trying to buy out ballplayers in 1914 and 1915. The league was making ballplayers rich, and Joe Jackson desperately wanted in on the deal. Three, Cleveland owner Charles Somers had run out of money.

The first of these led to Jackson’s performance falling off. He hit .338 in 1914 and just .308 in 1915.

The second of these meant that Jackson was openly looking to get out the three-year contract he signed with Cleveland. “I think I’m in a rut here in Cleveland and would play better somewhere else,” he told The Cleveland Plain Dealer. He wanted to go to play in Washington, he considered going to play for Chicago in the Federal League, he was not bashful about saying he deserved more money. He was making $6,000 a year — considerably less than Cobb and other stars — and so had a fair point.

The third of these — Somers insolvency — was the final straw. He was reportedly furious at Jackson’s disloyalty but more, much more, needed an influx of cash. Enter: Charles Comiskey and his Chicago White Sox. Comiskey wanted to build a super-team and offered three players and more than $30,000 (about $700,000 today) for Jackson. Somers was in no position to say no. Jackson was shipped off and the Plain Dealer bid him farewell by calling him “a purely individual player who sacrificed team work for Joe Jackson.”

Jackson, for his part, told the Plain Dealer Chicago was the right place for him so he could collect some of that “sweet World Series money.”

And so, he went to Chicago. In 1917, he had by far his worst full offensive season. He hit just .301, slugged only .429 — both career lows — but it didn’t matter. The White Sox won 100 games and breezed into the World Series, where they beat John McGraw’s Giants in six games. Jackson hit .304 with seven singles. That was Chicago’s last World Series victory for almost 90 years.

Then, things went bad for Jackson. In 1918, with World War I raging, Jackson made a fateful decision to work for a shipbuilding company to fulfill his military requirement. It was a perfectly reasonable decision, as Fleitz writes in “Shoeless.” He was the sole support for his wife and his mother. He had three brothers fighting in the war. And the U.S. government had made it clear they needed people to work OR fight — Jackson chose work.

People did not see it as reasonable, though, in those charged times. Jackson took a a terrible beating in the press for not going to war. Comiskey himself was particularly vicious — “There is no room on my club for players who wish to evade the army draft by entering the employ of ship concerns,” he snarled, and he made numerous other similar cracks and libels. Jackson rightly felt significant antipathy toward Comiskey (who also fought him bitterly over his contract and, later, back pay) which almost certainly played a role in the 1919 Black Sox scandal.

There’s no point in going too deeply into that scandal because it’s so familiar. You can always just stream “Eight Men Out.” Jackson was one of seven men who took money from gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series. Buck Weaver, who never took the money, was the eighth man out. Jackson, in his Grand Jury testimony, admitted taking the money, admitted that he agreed to help throw the series, though he said that in the end he played it straight. He later said that admission was coerced and that he had never agreed to play less than his best and had only taken the money because they gave it to him. Numerous details were different in the two tellings.

Jackson did hit .375 in the Series with a then-record 12 hits, which suggests he might have been telling the truth about playing it straight. However a closer look shows he hit poorly and fielded sluggishly when in important positions, which suggests he might have been lying. People will argue about it forever.

What we do know is Joe Jackson took $5,000 from gamblers in a scheme to throw the 1919 World Series. Money was always his greatest weakness. He played in 1920 for the White Sox and had his best season in years, hitting .382, slugging .589 and leading the league with 20 triples. He had a career high 121 RBIs. Jackson probably would have been a fantastic hitter the post-Deadball years, probably a lot like Hornsby. But it wasn’t to be. After the 1920 season, of course, he was banned for life.

* * *

In his Major League career, Jackson had only 5,693 plate appearances. His .356 career batting average is third only to Cobb and Hornsby, his career on-base percentage is higher than Mickey Mantle’s, and his 168 triples in so few chances is extraordinary, more than any player has managed in the last 70 years. He was known as an extraordinary fielder (“Where triples go to die”) with a one-of-a-kind arm. He was, in so many ways, The Natural.

Should he be in the Hall of Fame? Ted Williams thought so. Many others do too. I think he belongs, not because I believe he was wrongly accused or because of the strong reasons why he took the money, but because I don’t think the Hall of Fame should be a morally cleansed place where only the pure belong. I think the best baseball players should be in, plain and simple, and their stories — complete with their genius for the game and their moral failings — should be told. I think that’s the way history should be taught. I tend to believe Joe Jackson did help throw the 1919 World Series. I tend to believe he should have been banned for life. I think that should be on his Hall of Fame plaque.

44 thoughts on “No. 81: Joe Jackson

  1. Jim Haas

    Should a Commissioner’s action dictate the Hall of Fame’s selection? They are separate institutions, though the Hall obviously doesn’t want to anger MLB. Still, I think it would be good for the Hall to assert its independence and admit guys like Joe Jackson and Pete Rose, with full treatment of their performance on the field and their corresponding failures.

    Reply
    1. Ian R.

      The thing is, the Hall itself doesn’t decide who is in and who is out. The BBWAA and various Veterans Committees do.

      When Jackson was up for election to the Hall of Fame, there was no rule against admitting him. The writers chose not to. There’s now a rule blocking him and Pete Rose and other permanently banned players from even being on the ballot, but let’s be honest here. Do you really thing the BBWAA would vote them in even if given the chance?

      Reply
  2. Matthew Clark

    Clear and correct explanation of what history should be (as complete a depiction of events as possible), and how museums should present it (warts and all.) The idea that a museum like the HOF should only present the shine and ignore the tarnish is simply wrong. It isn’t even particilarly interesting.
    Thank you for excellent work Joe.

    Reply
  3. johnq11

    It was a bit shocking to me to see what Joe Jackson actually looked like after he was portrayed in films by Ray Liotta and D.B. Sweeney.

    The depiction of Jackson in “Field of Dreams” was ridiculous in that they made it seem like Jackson was framed and that there was some kind of witch hunt against him. Not to mention that he’s portrayed by Ray Liotta batting right handed when in reality Shoeless Joe batted left handed and looked like young Abe Vigoda.

    I think there’s been some speculation in recent years whether Shoeless Joe was somewhat mentally challenged and if he even comprehended what he was agreeing to or what he was getting himself into.

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  4. PhilM

    Joe Jackson does fascinate us, as a great “what if?” story coupled with a riveting “what happened?” scandal. I haven’t looked at his fielding in enough depth yet, but by WPA Jackson was the “least clutch” Sox hitter only in Game 5, and the “most clutch” in Games 1, 2, 6, and 7 — earning the highest cumulative offensive WPA. So I would argue he didn’t “hit poorly . . . when in important positions.” at all. Jackson did more to help his team win when it counted than every other batter.

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    1. John

      You have to break it down deeper than that. The conspirators weren’t just trying lose the series as a whole. They were trying to lose and win specific games. The evidence suggests the gamblers wanted the Sox to lose the three games started by Lefty Williams and two of the three started by Eddie Cicotte (the series of course was a best of nine affair at the time).

      Looking at it with this understanding hurts Jackson’s case. In the first four games the Sox wanted to lose he hit .250 with no RBI. In the fifth he was hitless until the Reds were ahead 5-0 and he hit a solo home run. Later with the Reds leading 10-1 he added a two run double. In the three games the Sox tried to win he hit .575.

      Obviously we’re dealing with small sample sizes. But the stark difference in Jackson’s performance in the fixed games versus clean games doesn’t help his cause.

      Reply
      1. PhilM

        I agree, and it’s impossible to prove malice using WPA, though it can show positive “coming through in a pinch.” Jackson may have hit poorly in Games 1 and 2, but he was still the most timely hitter, leading the team in WPA. If one were looking for a co-conspirator with Cicotte after Game 1, eyebrows would have been raised at Eddie Collins, who was abysmal at the plate in the clutch. Just food for thought: I don’t doubt that Jackson agreed to take the money, and perhaps he pulled off the throttle a bit, but less than 100% of a such a great talent was still the best in the batter’s box!

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      2. Richard Aronson

        I find no links supporting the theory that it was specific games or that Jackson was playing terribly in the games they “wanted” to lose, and this is the first I’ve ever heard of that theory. From Wikipedia:

        “The extent of Joe Jackson’s part in the conspiracy remains controversial. Jackson maintained that he was innocent. He had a Series-leading .375 batting average – including the Series’ only home run – threw out five baserunners, and handled 30 chances in the outfield with no errors. However, he batted far worse in the five games that the White Sox lost, with a batting average of .286 in those games (although this was still an above-average batting average; the National and American Leagues hit a combined .263 in the 1919 season).[10] Three of his six RBIs came in the losses, including the aforementioned home run, and a double in Game 8 when the Reds had a large lead and the series was all but over. Still, in that game a long foul ball was caught at the fence with runners on second and third, depriving Jackson of a chance to drive in the runners. Statistics also show that in the other games that the White Sox lost, only five of Jackson’s at-bats came with a man in scoring position, and he advanced the runners twice.”

        There was also reference to a throw Jackson made that was cut off (for no valid reason) by one of the cheating pitchers, so it seemed like Jackson was trying on both offense and defense. Or do you contend that Jackson had a mythical ability to bat .575 when he tried and only .286 when he didn’t try? If so, where was that ability in his prior World Series when he hit “only” .304?

        This link:

        http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/blacksox/blacksoxaccount.html

        provides some detailed analysis, including the parts that the author of “Eight Men Out” wrote as fiction but presented as fact, only admitting what he had done years after publication. How many people were influenced against Jackson because of that? It seems you were.

        If Jackson truly had thrown the series, why would so many co-conspirators say he hadn’t, after it was all over? Why was he not convicted at trial? Why did he lead the series in outfield assists and batting average? Nobody is good enough to hide cheating that well, and Jackson certainly wasn’t smart enough to do so.

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        1. NevadaMark

          I don’t know the exact REASON he was acquitted at trial (as far as I know, no juror was ever interviewed), but I guess we can start with the fact his confession was stolen from the State Attorney’s office and the fact that several of the witnesses called to testify were rogues and liars. I’m sure the jury was inclined to give the players the benefit of a doubt and then some.

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        2. johnq11

          Evidence was stolen or missing in the trial so the verdict was always a bit sketchy.

          The verdict in the trial was irrelevant because Jackson and the other 6 were banned by Landis anyway. And Weaver was banned for having had knowledge of the conspiracy and not reporting it.

          It’s probably impossible that a commissioner could get away with something like that today.

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      3. johnq11

        John,

        Yeah, that’s an interesting point that’s not brought up. Jackson went 4/7 with a walk in the two games that non-conspirator Dickey Kerr pitched. He went 2/4 in the game 7, the game that Cicotte won.

        Buck Weaver was the one who really got screwed in the whole deal. He didn’t take any money, finished 2nd in hits and hit .324 in that series and he was banned for life for simply knowing about the conspiracy and not reporting it.

        Reply
  5. gosport474

    JoeJackson paid a heavy price for his sins during his life. Let his sins be forgiven but not forgotten by placing him and his full story in the Hall.

    Reply
  6. Zack

    “His .356 career batting average is third only to Cobb and Hornsby (he and Hornsby both have a .356 batting average, but technically Hornsby’s is .0027 points higher)”

    Hornsby’s career batting average is .358 (.35841 to be more exact), more than 2 and a half points higher than Jackson’s (.35575).

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    1. largebill

      A lot of people make that same mistake. The Hall of Fame is a museum but it is not limited to displays regarding the inductees. There are displays on lots of players who never got close to Hall of Fame election. The are constantly changing the displays so it truly is not the same place twice. Homer Bailey is recognized with a display about his two no-hitters from last year. Rose and Jackson are not ignored by the Hall of Fame they are merely not inducted as Hall of Famers.

      Reply
      1. DjangoZ

        Exactly.

        Being a part of a display is a way to tell the story of baseball.

        Being elected as a member of the hall of fame is an honor and not one I would bestow on people who cheat the game.

        The Roses and Bonds and Clemens and Joe Jacksons all did just fine in life. They don’t need or deserve our pity.

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  7. granitrocmonster

    Excellent story as always, Joe. I agree that Jackson is the biggest “what if?” candidate in baseball history, not just for the Black Sox scandal but also for how he refused to join Philadelphia. Imagine the 1911 A’s with Jackson and his .408/.468/.590 slash stats instead of Rube Oldring and his .297/.332/.394 line. In a lineup with Eddie Collins and Frank Baker. Yikes.

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  8. Chad Meisgeier

    Another great piece. Thank you. Last paragraph was spot on in my opinion.

    On my list, No. 81 is Chipper Jones.

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    1. ingres77

      Looks like I’m one of the few who is fine with Joe Jackson not being in the Hall. As others have said, there’s no reason he wouldn’t be a part of displays in the Hall, he just hasn’t been enshrined as a player. That’s an honor, and he defiled the game.

      That’s the fundamental difference between Jackson and Bonds. Bonds cheated to perform better – thus helping his team. Jackson cheated by throwing games for money – thus helping himself at the expense of the team and its fans.

      That’s why gambling has a different status than throwing a spitball or (in my opinion, at least) steroids. Cheating has been rampant throughout baseball history. But cheating at the expense of victory is a different beast.

      Reply
  9. bellweather22

    It’s understandable, especially with the kind depections of Joe Jackson in the movies (as almost a guy in the wrong place at the wrong time), that people feel sympathetic to his HOF case. But, I think the right approach then would be to appeal his permanent ineligibility and present evidence of why Jackson should be reinstated.

    Absent that, I have no sympathy for his case. At best, he told multiple stories and the statistical evidence appears to be inconclusive.

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  10. Alejo

    1) I read somewhere that Ty Cobb incidentally ran into Jackson at his shop (he became a shopkeeper) and greeted him several times, saying at last “Joe, don’t you know who I am?” Jackson answered “I know who you are Ty, I didn’t say anything because people don’t want to talk to me anymore”

    2) Ken Burns suggests, in his “Baseball”, that the Sox players would have never taken the money, but felt compelled to by how they were treated by Comiskey. This post here confirms that Comiskey was a cheap bastard indeed.

    Reply
  11. Alex Remington

    Lovely piece, but I don’t believe that a player who is banned for life should also be inducted into the Hall of Fame. After all, what does “banned for life” mean, if it does not actually mean that he was banned?

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    1. Dennis Higbee

      I agree. Joe and some of the other commenters seem to be drawing a false dichotomy, that in order for Jackson’s story to be told, he has to be inducted into the Hall. That’s not true; much of Joe Jackson’s story *is* in the Hall in the various exhibits. He hasn’t been inducted because, well, why would you induct someone who broke the only rule that matters. I feel very badly for Joe Jackson, but i don’t think he should be inducted unless some exculpatory evidence is discovered.

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      1. tomemos

        Good comment. However, I don’t feel bad for Joe Jackson. Not because I’m a vindictive bastard, but because, well, he’s dead. Admitting him wouldn’t make him feel any better. It might make some of *us* feel better, but that’s a separate argument.

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      2. John Gale

        Well, the Hall of Fame serves two purposes. It’s both a museum *and* (ostensibly) a shrine to the best players in the history of baseball (and let’s be honest: the latter purpose is the only one most people really care about–we don’t have annual debates about which new exhibits should be put on display). Well, Jackson (and Bonds and Clemens for that matter) is one of the best players in the history of baseball. And he’s not in. No, mentioning him in some other exhibits really isn’t enough because it’s still a pretty transparent attempt to pretend that he wasn’t a historically great player.

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    2. Ian R.

      Technically he wasn’t banned for life. He was declared permanently ineligible, which means he’s banned even after his death. This is, of course, significant, because the Hall of Fame has decided that players on baseball’s permanently ineligible list are also ineligible for Hall of Fame induction.

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      1. adam

        This. There is no “banned for life” and never was. As of 1991 he’s permanently ineligible for HoF under BBWAA rules (the Pete Rose Rule, essentially). But even without that rule for 71 years, he wasn’t inducted. Presumably if that rule were revoked or his status changed, it would be up to the Veterans Committee.

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    3. John Gale

      Well, he’s been dead for more than six decades, so it’s really more of a permanent ban than a lifetime ban. And I’m actually fine with a lifetime ban from playing or serving in a front office position (no, I don’t think Pete Rose should ever be allowed to manage). But I think the Hall of Fame, which is ostensibly a shrine to the best baseball players of all time, looks ridiculous when a guy with an OPS+ of 170 (better than ever post-1900 player not named Ruth, Williams, Bonds, Gehrig, Hornsby and Mantle) is omitted. Frankly, the fact that Comiskey is in and Jackson is not, is one of the biggest disgraces of the Hall of Fame.

      Reply
    4. KHAZAD

      It means that HE was banned (prohibited) form baseball. The Ban was for life. It has absolutely nothing to do with the hall of fame. Also, he is dead, so technically, the ban has ended.

      Reply
  12. tomemos

    The bit about the Hall of Fame being a museum is a distraction. The institution is called the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. No one is saying that no mention of Jackson should be made in the museum. The debate is over whether he should be honored with a plaque in the Hall of Fame. Do people not understand the distinction?

    Reply
    1. ingres77

      People do understand the distinction.

      But it’s not entirely true that the debate is solely about whether or not he should have a plaque. As others have mentioned, one of the arguments in favor of enshrinement is that “his story should be told.” His story is told. Having his plaque hanging in the Hall is a different matter.

      Reply
  13. Brent

    I am morbidly fascinated with the What if about the entire Black Sox team. They were a very talented team. Already three members are in the HOF (Faber, Collins and Schalk, although Schalk is rather undeserving). It doesn’t take much imagination to think Jackson and Cicotte would be in too if they had finished their careers. Weaver (which, if you want to feel bad for one the “Black Sox” and restore his good name, is where you should start, not with Jackson) and Felsch were very good hitters, who very likely were going to look like even better hitters because of the offensive explosion that occurred just as they were getting kicked out of baseball. Felsch was a 28 year old CF with a career 123 OPS+ and Weaver was a slick fielding 29 year old 3rd baseman/Shortstop who doesn’t have the career OPS+ to be considered a great player (92), but who hit .331/.365/.420 in 1920 and might have ended up considered the best third baseman of his generation if he had not been kicked out. Throw in Lefty Williams, who won 45 games in 1919 and 1920 and this seems like a team that might have kept Babe Ruth’s Yankees from winning the pennant regularly in the 1920s.

    Reply
  14. Herb Smith

    Not only that, it seems obvious that jackson himself would have put up near-Ruthian
    numbers had he continued playing with the lively ball. .382/.444/.589 was his slash line in his final year, age 32. Two years later, a 35-year old Ty Cobb hit .401; Eddie collins and Tris speaker also padded their career numbers lavishly in the early 20′s.

    Shoeless Joe prolly had another .400 season in him.

    Reply
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