Eddie Cicotte

Shoeless Joe: It’s All in the Numbers

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Written by Donald Giebel

*At the time of this post, Donald will be a senior in high school in the fall of 2012. He has participated in History Fair four of the past five years. Next year, he will be attempting to tie the school record by winning his sixth and seventh superior ribbons at the Illinois History Expo. His previous projects have been on A.G. Spalding, Charlie Birger, and Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown. In addition to being in the History Club, Donald is a member of the National Honor Society and the Academic Team. He also participates in Soccer, Basketball, and Baseball for the school. He plans to attend the University of Illinois in the fall of 2013.

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Imagine being a baseball player. You’re playing in the World Series. You hit for the best average on your team. You also have the best fielding percentage. Despite your heroic efforts, your team loses. Suddenly everyone starts accusing you of taking part in a scandal that suggests you lost the games intentionally. This is precisely what happened to Joe Jackson. This accusation cost him one of the most prestigious awards in sports. Contrary to baseball’s decision, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson deserves to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Joe Jackson was born in Pickens County, South Carolina.[1]  When he was four years old his family moved to Brandon Mill, South Carolina.[2] This would prove to be instrumental in Joe’s career. Joe was a quiet kid who was big for his age. His family could not afford to pay for education, so he grew up working 12 hours a day at the town mill. When he wasn’t working, he was playing baseball. Joe had unusually long arms which really helped him because he could extend those arms and hit the ball a mile. When Joe was ten, tragedy struck. He came down with a severe case of the measles that left him paralyzed. For two months he lay in bed while his mom attended him. Although the doctors told his mom it didn’t look good, eventually he was nursed back to health and was able to walk again.[3]

Later, when Joe was 13, he started playing for the mill’s baseball team. They made Joe a pitcher because he could throw a baseball harder than any full grown man in the mill. One day while pitching, he threw a ball that hit and broke a batter’s arm. No one else wanted to bat against Joe after that day, so he had to find a new position. Eventually he was moved to the outfield. He was there to stay.[4] One day Joe got a new pair of baseball cleats. He had never worn them before and thought he would just put them on and they would be fine. He wore them for a few games but then started to develop blisters on his feet. The next game during his first at bat he went up to the plate with no shoes. He smacked a hit to the outfield and started to run to first base. While he was running a fan noticed that he was shoeless. The fan yelled, “Hey Shoeless Joe, you son of a gun.” The nickname stuck for the rest of his career.[5]

Before long, Joe was known throughout the entire state. By 1907 Joe’s name was beginning to appear in scouting reports for major league baseball teams. In 1908 he was approached by Tom Stouch who was the manager of the Greenville Spinners. He asked Joe to play for the Spinners.[6] Tom told Joe that he would pay him $75 a month to play for the team. This was over double what Joe was making at the mill. Joe gladly accepted and his professional baseball career was underway.[7]

As soon as Joe started playing professional ball, he was a star. He was playing for the Greenville Spinners who were a minor league affiliate for the Philadelphia Athletics.  In 1908 Joe hit .346 in his first year of baseball for the Greenville Spinners. He was also promoted to the majors but hit a mere .130 in 23 at bats for the A’s.[8] In his second year with Spinners he shined again hitting .358. Yet again he failed in the majors where he hit .176 in 18 at bats.[9]  Joe was a problem in the clubhouse. He was not getting along with his teammates at all, so he was traded from the Philadelphia Athletics to the Cleveland Naps in exchange for Bris Lord.[10] This would prove to be one of the most lopsided trades in history.

Once Joe arrived in Cleveland, he was immediately assigned to the New Orleans Pelicans, a minor league affiliate of the Naps.[11] Being a minor league affiliate means the Naps could send players to New Orleans that were not ready to play in the big leagues. Joe was called up to the major leagues on September 2, 1910[12] He would never return to the minors.

For the remainder of the 1910 season, Joe played left field for the Naps. He hit an astonishing .387 in 75 at bats and smacked five triples.[13] During the off season the Naps manager Deacon Mcguire assessed the team. After looking at all of his options for left field, he figured Joe Jackson was the best. Thus, in 1911 Joe played the whole season for the Naps. He had a dazzling season and set many rookie records for batting. He finished with a .408 batting average, a rookie record that still stands today. He recorded 233 hits, which is outstanding considering the benchmark for a great season in baseball is 200 hits. He also displayed stellar speed and base running savvy when he swiped 41 bases. Joe did so well this season that he finished fourth in the American League MVP race. The 1911 season showed everyone how good Joe was and that he did deserve to be an everyday major league player.[14]

The following year Joe turned in another outstanding campaign where he hit .395 and finished with 226 hits, good for tops in the majors. He stole 35 bases and hit a league leading 26 triples. People were starting to notice Jackson’s ability and he finished ninth in American League MVP voting.[15] In 1913 he again put on a show at the plate while leading the league in hits. He finished with 197 hits and had a .373 batting average. He finished second in American League MVP voting. Many thought that he was on the brink of winning it. Sadly, this is the closest he would ever come to winning the award.[16]

After that, in 1914 Joe hit .338, but only finished with 153 hits because he was hampered by sickness all season. This season was still good enough for him to finish fifth in American League MVP voting.[17] Over the previous two seasons Joe’s average had dropped 48 points[18] ;  this drop had some people fearing that Joe was deteriorating as a player.[19]

Subsequently, in 1915, Jackson was traded from the Cleveland Naps to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Ed Klepfer, Braggo Roth, Larry Chappell and $ 31, 500.[20] He went on to hit a combined .308 for the season.[21] At the time the Indians thought that they had made out on the winning side of the deal.[22] Jackson would soon prove them wrong. In 1916 Joe burst back onto the baseball scene when he hit a staggering 21 triples and also batted .341. He eclipsed the two-hundred hit mark for the third time in his young career. The Indians now started to regret their decision to trade Joe. They got little production from their three acquired players and the money they received was wasted to pay their wages.[23]

Undoubtedly, if the Indians didn’t regret trading Jackson after the 1916 season, they definitely did after the 1917 season. During the regular season he batted .301 and also had 17 triples.[24] But the more outstanding statistic was what he did in the playoffs. The White Sox had rolled over all of their opponents in the playoffs and made it to the World Series. They were set to play the New York Giants. The Giants were considered a good team, but many people thought they didn’t stand a chance against the White Sox.[25] The Sox would go on to win the series four games to two. Jackson hit .304 with two RBI and four runs scored. He was a crucial part of the White Sox title run and showed people he could perform under the pressure of the post season. The following year Jackson would only play in 17 games because he was drafted by the military and had to work in a factory for World War I.[26]

Eventually, the 1919 season came along. During the season Joe hit .351 with 14 triples. Also, he finished third in hits with 181 and third in RBI with 96. He had a great season leading the White Sox to an astounding 88-52 record.[27] Everyone in the league thought the White Sox were the team to beat that year. So when they came up against the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series, the White Sox were heavily favored.

During the 1919 World Series the White Sox generally underperformed. They lost the first two games of the series by a combined ten runs, and no one could figure out why they were doing so bad. The Sox went on to win game three, but then lost games four and five. They were down 4-1 in the series and many feared that the end was near. Hope was restored when the Sox rallied to win games six and seven.  Sadly, when game eight came around the White Sox did not perform well. They got almost no production from any players, except Shoeless Joe. He went 2-3 with a homerun and 3RBI in game eight. The Sox lost the series despite Jackson’s heroic efforts. He hit a whopping .375 with 12 hits, five runs, six RBI, three doubles and a homerun.[28] His 12 hits set a World Series record, and his homerun was the only during the series.[29] In 1920 Jackson had another marvelous season hitting .382 with 218 hits and 20 triples.[30] Sadly, this would be the last time Jackson would ever play organized baseball.

A year after the series of 1919 was over, and even during the series, rumors started to circulate of foul play. It was rumored that the White Sox had intentionally lost the World Series. It was later found out that indeed a scandal had taken place. A few weeks before the World Series, two gamblers approached White Sox first baseman Chick Gandil. The gamblers names were Bill Burns and Billy Maharg. They wanted the White Sox first baseman to recruit other players along with himself to intentionally lose the World Series. The gamblers were willing to pay good money. The gamblers had a meeting with seven players at the Sinton Hotel where they told the players they would pay them $20,000 each for throwing the World Series.[31] Joe Jackson did not attend this meeting.[32] But the players told the gamblers that Jackson was in on the fix.[33] So when the case went to court and Bill Burns was put on the stand, he testified that Jackson was in on the fix but did not attend the meeting.[34] The case was long and hard fought on both sides, but eventually the jury gave a not guilty verdict.[35]The players were happy and all cheered when the verdict came down, but this would not last long.

Furthermore, Major League Baseball commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis wanted to send a message to all of baseball. He said, “Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ballgame, no player that undertakes or promises to throw a ballgame, no player that sits in conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.”[36] Landis wanted to be known as having a no tolerance policy for gambling in baseball.[37] This would have been a good idea if he had decided to investigate these claims before handing out the bans. But he was an ignorant man who clearly did not study the case thoroughly and in turn cost one of the best ball players of all time his career, Joe Jackson.

Joe Jackson clearly did not take part in the fix of the series. He set a World Series record for hits. He hit .375, the highest of any player in the series. He had double the amount of RBIs and runs scored of any of his other teammates.[38] He admitted to accepting the money,[39] but said he did not take part in the scandal.[40] He even tried to give it back. He accepted it to get back at the gamblers who would cost him the series. He even tried to approach White Sox owner Charles Comsikey to tell him about the fix.[41] Comiskey did not want to see him, and he was never able to inform him of the impending events. Sadly on January 19, 1934, Landis denied a reinstatement plea from Jackson and therefore banned Jackson and his other teammates from baseball, forever.[42]

Shoeless Joe Jackson does deserve to be in the Hall of fame. Many former major league  greats have even said this. Ty Cobb said, “He was the greatest natural hitter to ever play the game.”[43] Babe Ruth named him on his all-star team and even said that he copied Jackson’s stance because of how good of a hitter he was.[44] Joe clearly had the respect of many greats, adding credence that he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. He did not take part in the fix and should not be punished for something his teammates did. His teammates even admitted he was not in on it and they only threw in his name to gain more credibility with the gamblers. Jackson is third all-time batter with a .356 career batting average which is exceptional.[45] He also has the most extra base hits in White Sox history and deserves to be rewarded for it.[46]  Upon his death bed Jackson said, “I am going to meet the greatest umpire of all — and He knows I’m innocent.”[47] Joe’s stats show how good of a player he was, but they can’t show how good of a person he was. He had integrity and love for the game and would never do anything to harm it. He is truly one of the most outstanding players in baseball history and sadly will never be recognized for it. The voters should put Joe in the Baseball Hall of Fame.


[1] Fleitz, David. Shoeless: The Life and Times of Joe Jackson. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.  2001: 6.

[2] Ibid: 7.

[3] Ibid: 9.

[4] Ibid: 10.

[5] “Shoeless Joe Jackson.” Baseball Historian. Accessed August 31, 2011. http://www.baseballhistorian.com/html/shoelessJoeJackson2.htm.

[6] Fleitz, David. Shoeless: The Life and Times of Joe Jackson. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.  2001: 12.

[7] Ibid: 13.

[8] “Shoeless Joe Jackson.” Baseball- Reference. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/j/jacksjo01.shtml.

[9] “Joe Jackson Stats.” Baseball Almanac. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://www.baseball-almanac.com/players/player.php?p=jacksjo01.

[10] “Shoeless Joe Jackson.” Baseball Historian. Accessed August 31, 2011. http://www.baseballhistorian.com/html/shoelessJoeJackson2.htm

[11] “Shoeless Joe Jackson.” Shoeless Joe Jackson: The Official Website. Accessed on September 27, 2011. http://www.shoelessjoejackson.com/about/biography.html.

[12] “Joe Jackson Stats.” Baseball Almanac. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://www.baseball-almanac.com/players/player.php?p=jacksjo01.

[13] “Shoeless Joe Jackson.” Shoeless Joe Jackson: The Official Website. Accessed on September 27, 2011. http://www.shoelessjoejackson.com/about/biography.html.

[14] “Shoeless Joe Jackson.” Baseball- Reference. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/j/jacksjo01.shtml.

[15] Ibid.

[16] “Joe Jackson Stats.” Baseball Almanac. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://www.baseball-almanac.com/players/player.php?p=jacksjo01.

[17] “Shoeless Joe Jackson.” Baseball- Reference. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/j/jacksjo01.shtml.

[18] “Joe Jackson Stats.” Baseball Almanac. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://www.baseball-almanac.com/players/player.php?p=jacksjo01.

[19] Fleitz, David. Shoeless: The Life and Times of Joe Jackson. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.  2001: 107.

[20] “Shoeless Joe Jackson.” Baseball Historian. Accessed August 31, 2011. http://www.baseballhistorian.com/html/shoelessJoeJackson2.htm.

[21] “Shoeless Joe Jackson.” Baseball- Reference. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/j/jacksjo01.shtml.

[22] “Joe Jackson Stats.” Baseball Almanac. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://www.baseball-almanac.com/players/player.php?p=jacksjo01.

[23] “Shoeless Joe Jackson.” Baseball- Reference. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/j/jacksjo01.shtml.

[24] “Joe Jackson Stats.” Baseball Almanac. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://www.baseball-almanac.com/players/player.php?p=jacksjo01.

[25] “Shoeless Joe Jackson.” Shoeless Joe Jackson: The Official Website. Accessed on September 27, 2011. http://www.shoelessjoejackson.com/about/biography.html.

[26] “Shoeless Joe Jackson.” Baseball- Reference. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/j/jacksjo01.shtml.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Everstine, Eric. “1919 Black Sox Scandal.” Montgomery College. 1998.

http://www.montgomerycollege.edu/Departments/hpolscrv/blacksox.htm.

[30] “Shoeless Joe Jackson.” Baseball- Reference. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/j/jacksjo01.shtml.

[31] Linder, Douglas. “The Black Sox Trial: An Account.” An Account of the 1919 Chicago Black Sox Scandal. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/FTrials/blacksox/blacksoxaccount.html

[32] Pellowski, Michael. The Chicago “Black Sox” Baseball Scandal. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publisher, Inc. 2003: 49.

[33] Pellowski, Michael. The Chicago “Black Sox” Baseball Scandal. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publisher, Inc. 2003: 48.

[34] Linder, Douglas. “The Black Sox Trial: An Account.” An Account of the 1919 Chicago Black Sox Scandal. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/FTrials/blacksox/blacksoxaccount.html

[35] Asinof, Eliot. Eight Men Out. Evanston, IL: Holtzman Press, Inc. 1963: 37.

[36] Linder, Douglas. “The Black Sox Trial: An Account.” An Account of the 1919 Chicago Black Sox Scandal. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/FTrials/blacksox/blacksoxaccount.html

[38] “Shoeless Joe Jackson.” Baseball- Reference. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/j/jacksjo01.shtml

[40] Linder, Douglas. “The Black Sox Trial: An Account.” An Account of the 1919 Chicago Black Sox Scandal. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/FTrials/blacksox/blacksoxaccount.html

[41] Everstine, Eric. “1919 Black Sox Scandal.” Montgomery College. 1998.  http://www.montgomerycollege.edu/Departments/hpolscrv/blacksox.htm.

[42] “Baseball Closed Forever to Shoeless Joe Jackson.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, (Pittsburg, PA), Jan 20, 1934. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=wMNRAAAAIBAJ &sjid=MWkDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4100,2647565&dq=shoeless+joe+jackson&hl=en.

[43] “Cobb Calls Shoeless Joe Jackson Best Hitter In Baseball’s History.” The Milwaukee Journal, (Milwaukee, Wis), Jun 6, 1942. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=5vAZ AAAAI BAJ&sjid=2iIEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5146,1927353&dq=shoeless+joe+jackson&hl=en.

[44] “Shoeless Joe Jackson is named on Babe Ruth’s All Star Team.” St. Petersburg Times,(St. Petersburg, Fla), Jan 25, 1931. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=QitPAA AAIBAJ&sjid=2k0DAAAAIBAJ&pg=4593,487550&dq=shoeless+joe+jackson&hl=en.

[45] “Shoeless Joe Jackson.” Baseball- Reference. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/j/jacksjo01.shtml

[46] “Joe Jackson Stats.” Baseball Almanac. Accessed on September 28, 2011. http://www.baseball-almanac.com/players/player.php?p=jacksjo01.

[47] Everstine, Eric. “1919 Black Sox Scandal.” Montgomery College. 1998.  http://www.montgomerycollege.edu/Departments/hpolscrv/blacksox.htm.