The big news of the week so far has been that the Hit King, Pete Rose, has formally petitioned MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to review his case and ultimately lift his lifetime ban. Time heals all wounds, or so they say, and Rose has many, many people in his corner now backing the ban being lifted suggesting he has served his time, and like those guilty of steroid use, he deserves a second chance.
And, after 25 years, I too, would suggest that enough time has been served, and a very strong, and valuable lesson has been learned. After all, lifting the ban doesn’t guarantee admission into Cooperstown.
But, if 25 years is long enough, what about 94 years? That’s how long it has been for one Joseph Jefferson Jackson, or maybe you know him as the great Shoeless Joe.
The Black Sox scandal in the 1919 World Series was the first major scandal in MLB history. Books have been written. The popular movie Eight Men Out is Hollywood’s version of the scandal. But, one constant has remained all these years, passed down from generation to generation: Joe Jackson took some money, but had no role in throwing the World Series.
Guilty, right? Throw the book at him? At least Rose finally confessed and admitted faults and has stated on multiple occasions he is willing to do whatever he can to get back into baseball. What did Jackson ever say or do?
Well-known baseball writer Harvey Frommer has Jackson’s 25-page grand jury testimony that was given to the Cook County Grand Jury in 1920, and a few questions and answers are hard to get past:
- Q: Did you make any intentional errors yourself that day (referring to Game 4, which Sox lost)?
- A: No sir, not during the whole series.
- Q: Did you bat to win?
- A: Yes
- Q: And run the bases to win?
- A: Yes, sir.
- Q: And fielded the balls at the outfield to win?
- A: I did.
- Q: Did you do anything to throw these games?
- A: No sir
- Q: Any game in the series?
- A: Not a one. I didn’t have an error and make no misplay.
Sure, we’ve all watched crime shows, and saw defendants on trial, and we expect these types of answers when you’re being asked questions regarding your guilt or innocence. I completely can understand and respect that.
In an article by Steve Kallas of CBS New York, he brings up this question from the Jackson Grand Jury testimony:
- Q: Then you went ahead and threw the second game … is that right?
- A: We went ahead and threw the second game.
Kallas went on to say, “Interestingly, Jackson answered that last question with a ‘We’ instead of an ‘I.’” In Kostya Kennedy’s book Pete Rose: An American Dilemma, he states that Jackson admitted in Grand Jury testimony that he was supposed to receive $20,000 to throw the World Series, but only received $5,000.
The Proof is in the “pudding” …. Or the Stats
So, at this point we can all agree Jackson is guilty of accepting bribe money to throw a World Series, and it appears there is no doubt. But that’s basically where the guilt stops.
The one thing baseball has always done well is keep records. And anyone can find them, from anywhere, and at any time.
So, let’s examine the 1919 season at the plate for Joe Jackson:
Regular Season: World Series:
Batting Avg: .351 Batting Avg: .375
OPS: .928 OPS: .956
SLG: .506 SLG: .566
Baseballs “Dead ball Era” was from 1900-1919, which covers this World Series. So, the logical conclusion would be if a star player is throwing the World Series, his stats aren’t going to increase from the regular season. Jackson led both teams with 12 hits for the Series, and led his team with 6 RBIs.
These are facts. And definitely evidence of a player trying his best, not trying to throw a game.
Previous efforts failed
Unfortunately for Jackson, he was not able to apply for reinstatement like Pete Rose is. When the first Commissioner of MLB, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, banned him for life, it was for life.
According to Michael Patrick Leahy of Breitbart, in 1999, South Carolina’s Congressional delegation sent a letter to Commissioner Bud Selig in “strong support of the petition which has presented your office regarding the reinstatement of ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson into Major League Baseball, clearing the way for his consideration into Cooperstown.” Unfortunately, as with Rose’s request to Selig, their request was never answered.
Jackson’s supporters have maintained that he was a well-meaning illiterate country boy who got caught up in the payoff scheme concocted by slick gamblers and his less than reputable teammates.
It’s time Mr. Commissioner
Joe Jackson died in 1951. He doesn’t get to file a formal appeal and speak with the Commissioner to plead his case. The facts are the facts. Yes, he accepted $5,000, and never denied it, even to the Grand Jury. He was completely honest. Pete Rose gambled on baseball, and so many of us, are willing to say enough is enough. So, why not with Jackson?
Mr. Commissioner, you have the ability and power to do what no other commissioner has ever done in the history of baseball, and possibly do it within your first six months. When you’re sitting at home, or in your office reviewing the files on Pete Rose, have someone go down to the archives and bring up the files on Shoeless Joe Jackson. I think you’ll find that 94 years is enough.