I know, I know… Another White Sox player. Today would be Shoeless Joe Jackson’s 129th birthday.
Well before Pete Rose or A-Rod, Shoeless Joe Jackson stood as baseball’s long-standing villain. In a backwards way though, his greed kept baseball on the straight and narrow.
If you go look at the above link, you can see how impressive Jackson’s numbers looked. Keep in mind, this is the Dead Ball Era, so there’s no knock on .300+ batting averages and .500+ slugging percentages. No knock at all.
Of course Jackson will always be remembered for throwing the 1919 World Series along with other Chicago White Sox teammates for a pre-determined amount of money. Well, sort of. Most players made off with $10,000 but Jackson only got $5,000, which bummed him out since he got promised four times that amount.
Note: The first World Series in 1903 was a best-of-nine series (as opposed to the best-of-seven series now). The only other times that the Fall Classic went best-of-nine was between 1919-1921, conveniently right in the middle of Shoeless Joe’s story.
Interestingly, Rob Neyer’s 2004 article claims the 1903 World Series also reeked of foul play (no pun intended) and that baseball was as corrupt as an organization could be until 1920. Read that clip, it’s interesting stuff and shows off MLB’s best commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
Recently, we discovered actual footage of the “Black Sox” in action.
Scandals unfolding on tape are nothing new. But, as Deadspin’s Tim Marchman puts it, the fallout of the scandal still stands as one of baseball’s crowning moments on its way to becoming America’s Pastime.
This is crazy that we actually can watch one of baseball’s most historic moments unfold. Deadspin probably oversells the importance of the “precise moment when the problem became too obvious to ignore… which forced baseball to decide whether or not it would be a level game. It’s right there with Jackie Robinson’s debut among the most significant moments in the game’s history.”
And while that may be slight hyperbole, Deadspin did correctly identify a point that could’ve easily turned into long road of mob ties, like many fans allege in boxing.
Check out the top comment from Neil deMause for more context/debate.
Landis suspended the eight players involved for life after he assumed the Commissioner’s office in 1920. The testimony is pretty black and white (again, no pun intended. Killing it today).
Dead to rights, Jackson threw all of his teammates under the bus, though I’m not sure what else you would do in front of a Grand Jury who has substantial evidence on you….
One last note: Pete Rose broke Major League Rule 21(d), which specifically bans “betting on ball games.” The difference, though slight, is that Jackson violated rule 21(a), pertaining to the accepting of gifts for throwing games.
Small distinction, but new Commissioner Rob Manfred hasn’t indicated any inclination to reinstate either ball player.