Note to Bud: Shoeless Joe is worthy of Hall of Fame

Out of Cooperstown the other day came a speculative story that Bud Selig might be softening on Pete Rose and his “lifetime” suspension from baseball. A Hall of Fame board of directors, including several former players — such as Henry Aaron, Frank Robinson and Joe Morgan — came out of the meeting in support.

On the other hand, the commissioner said he had nothing more in mind than “to review the matter.” And added, “I would remind you that he [Rose] voluntarily accepted a lifetime suspension” when Bart Giamatti laid the wood to him. Giamatti died nine days later, thus removing from the office the best man whoever held the title. Later, there was a report that Commissioner Selig was into his waffling act again, at which point I might suggest that while he’s waffling, he might reconsider the case of the most controversial victim of a commissioner’s sword, Shoeless Joe Jackson.

It is a case I know well and which still comes up often in my life. It was 60 years ago, and Joe Jackson had finally decided he should tell his story, and so we sat in the front yard of his modest home near Greenville, S.C. He talked, I listened, and the story is still repeated across the Internet.

“When I walked out of Judge Dever’s courtroom in 1921, I turned my back on the World Series of 1919, the Chicago White Sox and the major leagues,” he began. Jackson and seven other White Sox players had been charged with “dumping” the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. All were banned from major league baseball for life. Shoeless Joe didn’t go quietly. He took his case to civil court. “If found innocent of any wrongdoing, I would be reinstated,” he said. “If found guilty, I would be banned for life. I was found innocent, and I was still banned for life. I had been acquitted by a 12-man jury in a civil court on all charges, an innocent man in the records,” he said.

“I thought that Judge Landis might restore me to good standing after the trial was over, but he never did.”

On the record, it was a case of sadly miscarried justice. Jackson led both teams with his batting average of .375, set a record for most hits that stood for years, hit the only home run, never made an error and threw out five Reds base runners at home plate. That’s hardly the record of a player betraying his team.

“To this day,” he said, “I have never made any attempt to be reinstated. This is not a plea of any kind. This is just my story. I’m telling it simply because after all these years, it seems the world should hear what I have to say. Baseball never kept faith with me.”

He later played in semi-pro leagues, operated a successful dry-cleaning business in Savannah, later managed a liquor store in West Greenville and finally retired to the little mill village were he had grown up. Never at any time did he participate in any of the campaigns to clear his name. Strange, you might say, and I thought so myself, but this was his story.

So just as surely as Rose’s case may come to rest on Bud Selig’s desk, you can be certain that the Shoeless Joe Jackson campaign will rise again, and this time with surely as much, or better, a chance than Rose’s. Tough to separate a major-leaguer from gambling for or against a team he is managing. Time is against Shoeless Joe in that so many of his advocates have long since departed. Ted Williams, for one.

Joe Jackson died two years after our collaboration. Oh, and I should add that the fable of “Say it ain’t so, Joe,” is just that. Never happened, he said.

81 comments Add your comment

Bryan G.

August 1st, 2009
6:54 pm

Was Shoeless Joe your favorite player to watch, Mr. Bisher?

niremetal

August 1st, 2009
7:00 pm

Gee, how long did it take you think of that joke?

vava74

August 1st, 2009
7:03 pm

Mr. Bryan G.

You must be kidding! How old do you think Furman Bisher is so he could have any opinion on Shoeless game?

Furman Bisher was born in 1918, so he was 1 year old at the time of Shoeless last game…

SuperB

August 1st, 2009
7:27 pm

Shoeless Joe did not throw the series! (The record presented by Furman speaks for itself.) Judge Landis should not have banned hiom from baseball either.

Got 12 but none in quite a long long time ....

August 1st, 2009
8:05 pm

Got that Right!!

Jeff

August 1st, 2009
9:27 pm

In this day and age of baseball, Shoeless Joe’s ban appears all the more arbitrary and ludicrous. His reinstatement is sorely past due and his selection to the HOF is warranted.

Notwithstanding that it would be the right thing to do (heaven forbid), it would also be a PR stroke of genius from someone (Bud Selig) whose name is not exactly synonymous with the word ‘genius’.

Fletcher Law

August 1st, 2009
9:45 pm

Joe took money to fix a game. Documented. Transcripts of the trial have been in the AJC. Don’t remember the year in the AJC. Pick any year. Y’all wil not let this guilty man be guilty with romanticsm over facts. His wife said “Joe I told you not to take the money.” Besides our modern clowns in baseball and the juvenile “but whatabout the other guy?” rationale, case closed rightly long ago.
This case qualifies as the world’s longest dead horse beating.

Patrick Roswell

August 2nd, 2009
12:05 am

This case got my interest when I saw “8 men out” 20 yrs ago. The movie may not have showed it (can’t recall), but Joe did admit in court that he took money, 10k I think. So I think Joe is guilty even though he played on the up and up. But what gets me is that this was 90 years ago. I gotta think that 90 years is plenty of punishment for taking 10k from gamblers. There’s no way Rose should go in before Shoeless Joe.
Ironically, I just visited Cooperstown 3 days ago. It was spectacular. Saw all kinds of bats and gloves from famous players. Cobb and all the Yanks had great displays as did many others. Also saw Schillings bloody sock and the Bonds 756 ball, complete with a big fat asterisk carved in!!!!!

niremetal

August 2nd, 2009
1:02 am

I should have also said that I most definitely agree with Mr. Bisher on this one.

If you haven’t yet, read 8 Men Out</em, which is still the most compelling work ever done on the scandal.

niremetal

August 2nd, 2009
1:02 am

Whoops…tag got cut off there. Sorry.

BnB

August 2nd, 2009
9:46 am

Selig knowingly presided over an era of fraudulent play in which tens of millions of dollars were pocketed by MLB players, owners, etc. His whole appointment as commissioner is fraudulent. He’s an owner. That he is in the position of judging who does or does not get reinstated in the league is absurd. If it were not such a perfect game baseball would have killed itself off by now thanks to such “visionaries” as Selig. Talk about someone over matched by a job. If McGwire and Bonds can get in the HOF–and they should–then Jackson should. It’s all about the numbers like it or not.

Ken Stallings

August 2nd, 2009
9:51 am

Furman Bisher makes a compelling case that before Pete Rose is reinstated, Joe Jackson should be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and without an asterisk. Because, as Bisher reported, his achievements in the series prove beyond any rational doubt he did not throw the series. A civil court cleared him.

Best player in the series proves he did not throw it. Cleared by a civil court is compelling proof he didn’t collude. Landis made an arbitrary ruling back in an era where players were treated like mindless cattle and rule were handed down from on high like a monarch rules his subjects.

Let Rose wait until after he passes away. Joe Jackson did nothing wrong and he’s long since dead.

meansonny

August 2nd, 2009
9:58 am

Mr. Bisher,
I greatly respect your opinion and support of “Shoeless Joe”.

Unfortunately, his involvement in the Black Sox scandal did happen.
He knew the fix was on. He knew money had exchanged hands (into his own pocket as well). And he did nothing about it.

Mr. Bisher,
You are old enough to remember a time when the honor code meant something. I am sure you have friends who have attended the Academies. I am sure that you have at some time in your great life been instructed to abide by that same code of ethics.

Well (to quote Tennessee Williams), I am sick of lies and liars. I hate the smell of mendacity.
Even if it was almost a century ago. Joe Jackson participated, if only in his silence, in one of the greatest abuses our great game has endured. His punishment is just. And just punishment should be upheld to remind everyone that we all have a standard to adhere to. Let’s keep the game on the straight and arrow.

Thank you, Mr. Bisher for your contributions to the AJC and local sports. You are one of a kind. And I usually don’t get an opportunity to thank those that have shaped my perspective on sports. You are an inspiration to the sports reader (in addition to your peers, I am sure of it).

Ken Stallings

August 2nd, 2009
10:00 am

BnB also makes a strong case. Selig is as much a result of collusion, in this case to oust Fay Vincent because he dares to side with the players in a labor relations crises. It’s ironic that in a time we need a Kennesaw Landis, we don’t have one, but when we did have him, he went a bit too far in sweeping the broom and one innocent man got abused.

Landis’ actions saved baseball from itself. Without his strong actions the actual cheats and the scandal itself would have killed the integrity of the sport. Selig could strike the balance by strong action to ban the steroids cheats while at the same time opening the Hall by commissioner mandate that honest players get enshrined. In addition to Jackson, I could add a few other more than worthy names: Dawson, Raines, Murphy, Blyleven, and Morris!

Arnold Rothstein

August 2nd, 2009
10:50 am

The Black Sox as a group only fixed four games. Jackson batted .250 in those games. He batted .500 in the games he was trying.

“Eight Men Out” concedes that Jackson helped throw the Series. Its theory is that the players should be reinstated because Commissioner Landis did not give them enough judicial process before banning them from baseball.

Turlock Brave

August 2nd, 2009
11:05 am

Buck Weaver should be reinstated before Jackson. He didn’t take any money and he played honestly in the series. The argument against him is that he knew about the fix. Cominsky learned about the fix and told Ban Johnson about it, and nothing was done about it. I understand that players had to be banned in order to save the integrity of the game, but all I’m saying is that Cobb was afraid to bunt with Weaver in the field. That should count for something.

JSS

August 2nd, 2009
11:20 am

Meansonny and Arnold, On two separate issues, you need to do some fact checking… On the matter of not doing anything about it… Jackson was not an articulate man; nevertheless iy has been well document that he tried to approach Mr. Comiskey to let him know that was a fix being purposed… In his arrogance, Comiskey dismissed his attempts to notify him. The whole issue of the Black Sox scandal revolves around the arrogance, complicity, and greed of the Chicago owner. Moreover, it is also the indictment of a over reaching commissioner, the arrogant as well racist Kennesaw Mountain Landis… If that racist Cap Anson can be in the Hall, Jackson should be in as well… That statement is not made about race, it is made because Anson was not a good man….

meansonny

August 2nd, 2009
12:27 pm

JSS,
I wasn’t there and can’t attest to what Jackson did or did not do.

I can attest to what has been written by Jackson and been written by Judge Landis.

Joe did not display in his testimony any attempts to contact Comiskey. There have been no verified sources that they did meet regarding the fix. And the relationship between Comiskey and his players leads me to believe (and I was not there, so this is only a belief) with no confirmed attempt, no confirmed discussion, and no great relationship existed to assume nothing had happened.

You can blame Comiskey for managing the team he owned in the fashion he liked. You can say he asked for it. But the facts are that Joe Jackson admitted knowing the fix. He admitted to specific plays in which he allowed the Reds to advance runners. He took money. The actions support the lifetime ban.

JSS

August 2nd, 2009
12:44 pm

The grand jury testimony was unsealed years ago… Immunities were promised, and conjectures were placed as facts… There was a reason that those did not spend any time in jail… Landis was rebuked years ago for falsifying evidence in numerous cases, he had more cases overturned in appeals then any judge in modern Federal court history … There was a reason he was run from the Federal bench… There are lies, damn lies, and something in-between…

Go Dawgs

August 2nd, 2009
1:08 pm

Obviously vava74 is too dense to understand that it was indeed a joke. But seriously, can we write a story that people under the age of 74 care about? Is your next story going to be about how prohibition was a drag?

Hillbilly Deluxe

August 2nd, 2009
1:34 pm

In addition to Jackson, I could add a few other more than worthy names: Dawson, Raines, Murphy, Blyleven, and Morris!

The late baseball writer, Joe Falls, used to say that he judged his vote on the question, “Was he a dominate player at his position, in his era”. You could make a very good case that all 5 of those were. Blyleven didn’t get along with the press so that works against him. Murphy played well and put up numbers on some very bad teams. Dawson and Murphy both have better numbers than Gary Carter but not his gift for self-promotion. They were both true 5 tool players which Carter wasn’t. Dawwson played at least half his career on terrible knees and still produced. Raines was also a 5 tool player and Jack Morris was a dominant pitcher for many years. Like so many other things, Hall of Fame voting is about politics. Mr. Bisher used to write about how the writers would trade votes, “I’ll vote for your guy if you’ll vote for my guy”.

JSS

August 2nd, 2009
1:59 pm

Everyone got that it was a joke… The problem was that it was a tacky joke… Entering the chunnel, later!!!

Cracker fan then Braves fan

August 2nd, 2009
2:24 pm

Punishment is for the courts system, let the records speak for themselves without restriction. Rid the ineligible list of all those not convicted of a crime. Shoeless Joe will always be remembered whether from this incident, at least one statue in Greenville, SC near the minor league park and his closed down store, and even a chain of sports bars. One book and movie are not conclusive evidence either way.

Baseball is an historic game and writing of it sheds light on our history, even if it is not current events and not presently a trend on Twitter.

Mr. Bisher is the best sports writer (IMHO) who continues to write compelling, well written, and highly literate articles.

jeffrey d

August 2nd, 2009
6:02 pm

I see that the Braves and the Dodgers have to travel to the west coast tomorrow. I’m sure both teams are loving ESPN right now.

jeffrey d

August 2nd, 2009
6:11 pm

ha…oops, wrong blog. What I MEANT to say was…

SJJ had about 1,800 hits by the age of 30, so he’d have gotten to the magic 3,000 no problem. It’s obvious that he didn’t throw the series offensively. But I think I remember hearing some cases arguing that he was botching plays in the outfield? Dunno if I buy that. I’m not sure why he was never reinstated, and more importantly, why he still hasn’t been reinstated.

David Jones

August 2nd, 2009
9:48 pm

Hall of Fame or not , Shoeless Joe is my kind of ball player. A simple man with a huge gift, that was Shoeless Joe. Thanks Furman for the great article!

rms

August 2nd, 2009
11:21 pm

Admit Joe to the Hallof Fame now. Only after 90 years passes…..consider Rose.

southgadawg88

August 3rd, 2009
12:17 am

wahoo wah

August 3rd, 2009
2:08 am

Dale Murphy doesn’t get enough credit. What Murph, like Christy Mathewson, brought to baseball in integrity should be rewarded way ahead of Rose or Shoeless Joe. If you back those guys, it diminishes the contribution of Murphy and those like him.

Ken Stallings

August 3rd, 2009
12:00 pm

meansonny, aren’t you citing much of your information from the book, “Eight Men Out,” and did not Joe Jackson dispute many of the claims of that book?

In his later years, Jackson insisted he did not take any money, that he was aware of the fix, but that he attempted to tell his manager and owner about it. I can believe given the acute arrogance and condescension Comisky had for his players that he’s rebuff Jackson’s efforts in such a manner as to end the effort before it really started. In fact, I’d guess Jackson tried to tell a secretary and the secretary likely said something like, “Comisky doesn’t want the advice of a dumb jock!”

The players were just so horribly treated back then that it’s hard for us to appreciate how it was. Employees were treated terribly across the board.

If Eddie Cicot was paid a living wage he could raise his family on, I doubt seriously he’d have thrown in with gamblers. I don’t think any of those players were bad people.

But you are right, Buck Weaver denied everything also and played a great series. But he got lumped in also. As I recall, only the catcher was cleared of corruption but likely because he testified against the players at the trial. But the players hated the guy and it seems he lumped some in as a personal pay back.

Chris

August 3rd, 2009
12:46 pm

Sports from 1919 are no longer relevant to anyone who is currently living.

Ken Stallings

August 3rd, 2009
2:24 pm

jimmy

August 3rd, 2009
4:02 pm

shoeless joe should indeed be in ,as should pete rose

Class of '98

August 3rd, 2009
4:31 pm

I never completely understood the all the hub-bub about the Rose “scandal”.

He bet on his team, the Reds, to win, or at least cover the spread. There is no conflict of interest. Not saying what he did was right, but he bet on his team TO WIN.

There is a difference between THROWING a game, and simply betting on yourself. Rose would die before he ever lost on purpose.

Ken Stallings

August 3rd, 2009
9:18 pm

Class of 98, you really need to reconsider what you just wrote.

Rose as a manager makes the decision when to order bullpen pitchers to warm up, and when they enter the game. An effective manager must shepard his bullpen and not over use them to win a single game.

But if a manager has a significant amount of money on the line, he is tempted to overuse his bullpen’s closer and setup pitchers when in a close game.

Further, when a manager gets in bed with bookies, he can be manipulated into a compromised position through debt, or fear of exposure. Therefore, the bookies and organized crime can intimidate the manager into provider insider information to fix bet lines. He can tip off on his team’s injuries.

These are just a few of many areas of clear conflict of interest even if a manager or player bets on his team to win or any baseball team in general.

Legend of Len Barker

August 3rd, 2009
9:54 pm

Unfortunately, Joe Jackson is pretty guilty. The only one of the eight Black Sox who didn’t receive money was Buck Weaver. Weaver also didn’t report the nefarious plot to manager Kid Gleason. It’s arguable that Gleason wouldn’t listen if he did try to explain, though. Gleason was naive during the Series.

Jackson received either $5,000 or $6,000 (he was promised $20,000). The most recent book “Shoeless” even knows where the money went – to fund medical care for Jackson’s sister Gertrude.

Joe Jackson admitted in at least one interview that he didn’t play honestly.

The Wikipedia link tries its best to make Jackson out to be much cleaner than he was. I’m a fan of Jackson, but he wasn’t clean here.

He probably wasn’t at the meetings because he didn’t want his wife finding out. She did all his business arrangements. They supposedly got into a big argument once she found out about the money he received from Gandil.

Actually, the Wikipedia article has a bunch of bunk. It’s doubtful that Cicotte was ever offered a huge bonus for winning 30, regardless of year. Comiskey wasn’t about to do that to begin with.

David L. Fleitz’s “Shoeless” is well-researched and puts a lot of the myths to rest about Jackson’s life. Lots of first-hand documentation.

GT76

August 4th, 2009
8:06 am

They all (Bonds, McGuire, Shoeless, Pete, et. al) belong in the Hall of Fame. I would propose a special category for them but they deserve to be in.

The HOF is an educational/historical tool not a club for only do gooders. The do gooders (Aaron, Mays, Bench, Ruth, Gehrig, et. al) have their category and the Shoeless Joe’s would have their’s.

GT76

August 4th, 2009
8:07 am

Baseball has not been the same since Giamatti left us. Selig has really led baseball into so many bad ways. The guy is a absolute joke.

J-man

August 4th, 2009
4:28 pm

Bottom line – if Jackson and Rose ever get unbanned, for lack of a better term, it will be by someone other than Selig.

gcs

August 4th, 2009
6:47 pm

Amen, Mr. Bisher.
Give us a petition and we will sign.

gcs

August 4th, 2009
7:07 pm

To the guy who was silly enough to say “Sports from 1919 are no longer relevant to anyone who is currently living” have you ever heard of Jack Dempsey? How about Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb? Jim Thorpe? Bobby Jones?
Yep, a bunch of nobodies, huh?

get real

August 4th, 2009
9:41 pm

Lots of haterade out there against white ball players. Like Mike Vick in reverse.

RN

August 4th, 2009
10:51 pm

Thank you Mr. Bisher for weighing in on the 60th anniversary of your interview w/Shoeless Joe. Serious students of the game with an interest in the continuing research into the events and aftermath of the 1919 World Series should consider joining the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) Black Sox Scandal Committee. See sabr.org for more info or visit our online discussion list at http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/1919BlackSox

Bruce

August 4th, 2009
11:27 pm

As a general rule, I don’t usually get motivated to respond to Furman Bisher’s articles. I still think he was too harsh on UGA and Dooley during the jan kemp thing. However, I can only stand and applaud the overture that he has written regarding Joe Jackson and Pete Rose.

There has never been a greater injustice to anyone than what Baseball has done to Joe Jackson. I can’t think of a greater legacy to the game for any commisssioner to leave than to right this wrong and allow Joe to be voted in the Hall of Fame.

As for Pete Rose, I’ve never been a fan. My mother was a Cobb, and we all pretty much still think that Cuzzin Ty was the best ball player ever. But when it comes to the hall of fame, Rose should be judged on what he did while he played the game … what he did on the field….which is why he deserves to be in Cooperstown. Besides, gambling is now considered a sport itself on ESPN, and Selig allows Vegas to gamble on the World Series. Time for the Commissioner to join the 21st century, and do the right thing.

Thank you Mr. Bisher for keeping the fire stoked on this one. I applaud you.

Acworth Don

August 5th, 2009
7:50 am

Thanks again Bish! You hit it out and Joe and Pete should be “IN!”: Oh yes, I like what Aaron said to the AP on publishing all of the names on the drug list. Let’s do it and discuss it and then put it to bed with the older “stars” voting on everyone listed and outlawed. Their decision would be final. What say you Mr. Bisher?

Green Tea

August 5th, 2009
11:56 am

Bryan G. your post was hilarious

Stan Makowski

August 5th, 2009
12:11 pm

Pete Rose should be allowed into the HOF the day he dies. This policy would also allow the Shoeless one in as well.

Bob Bennett

August 5th, 2009
1:04 pm

I agree that Pete Rose’s baseball accomplishments make him worthy of being enshrinted in the Hall of Fame. People bring up the names of past baseball players who had numerous suspensions for alcohol/drug abuse and say they should be banned from baseball if Pete Rose received baseball’s ultimate penalty for his transgressions. I agree with them, but the difference is there was or is not a rule in place that called for the lifetime ban for alcohol/drug abuse. However, there are signes in every spring training and regular season clubhouse warning baseball personnel of the lifetime ban on gambling on baseball. MLB representatives speak to the players every year regarding this issue. Pete Rose was aware of the rule, yet he took the ultimate gamble by betting on baseball and it cost him a chance to be enshrined at Cooperstown. If the lifetime ban rule is ever lifted, then Shoeless Joe Jackson and any other players who violated this rule will have the opportunity to be voted into the Hall of Fame. Until then, they made the choice and live with the consequences.

Bill

August 5th, 2009
1:19 pm

Joe Jackson clearly threw the World Series. I love how his defenders refuse to actually break down the stats.

In the 5 Chicago loses, Joe went 6 for 21 with 3 runs, 3 rbi, and 1 HR. In the 3 Chicago wins Joe went 6 for 11 with 2 runs, 3 RBI, and no HR.

A break down of Joe in the lost Games:

Game 1 – 0 for 4, 1 run, Chicago loses 9-1

Game 2 – 3 for 4, no runs or rbi, Chicago loses 4-2

Game 4 – 1 for 4, no runs or rbi, Chicago loses 2-0

Game 5 – 0 for 4, no runs or rbi, Chicago loses 5-0

Game 8 – 2 for 5, 2 runs, 3 rbi, 1 HR, Chicago loses 10 – 5 (Note: by the time Joe hit his solo HR in the 3rd, Chicago was losing 5 – 0; by the time he got his second hit, a two run double in the 8th, Chicago was losing 10 – 1)

So, basically Joe hit like crap in the loses, unless the game was a blow out in which case he scored and drove in runs.

I also read somewhere that Cincy had 3 or 4 triples to left field in that WS. Even back then hitting a triple to left field was extremely hard to do, especially when left field was manned by one of the greatest defensive left fielders of all time.

Go ahead and cling to the dream that he did not purposefully throw the WS. It is fine if you want to be a fool.

DBELL

August 5th, 2009
2:04 pm

fine to enshrine jo jackson ito hall now but what man wouldnt want to be alive when enshrinement occurs…shoulda bin dun wen he was above groun