Greenville's 'Shoeless Joe' Jackson considered one of baseball's all-time greats

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Baseball Hall of Fame Library Cooperstown, N.Y.


Joseph Jefferson Jackson, one of the best baseball players of his generation, was most remembered for his association with the 1919 Chicago White Sox and a conspiracy to fix the World Series widely known as the Black Sox Scandal.

As a result, baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned Jackson from playing and subsequent efforts to induct him into baseball’s Hall of Fame have been dismissed.

A statue of Jackson stands in Joe Jackson Plaza in downtown Greenville's West End.

Born in Pickens County and raised in the Brandon Mill community of Greenville, Jackson played for three Major League teams during his 12-year career. His career batting average is the third highest in history. According to historians, Babe Ruth later claimed that he modeled his hitting technique after Jackson's.

His .356 lifetime batting average is third best in history behind Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby. Primarily a left fielder during his career, he hit .408 as a rookie in 1911, a record which stands.

A part of Jackson lore was the bat that he nicknamed “Black Betsy.” Jackson had names for all his bats, but “Black Betsy” was eventually owned by a nephew in Greenville who auctioned it in 2001 for $577,610.

In 1999, The Sporting News rated him 35th on the list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players.

Jackson began working in Brandon Mill as a child, had little formal education and was purportedly illiterate. It would become a factor during the Black Sox Scandal, and it has affected the value of his memorabilia.

He began to play for the Brandon Mill baseball team in 1900 at age 13, and according to one recounting of the legend after sustaining blisters from a new pair of cleats during a mill game in Anderson he removed the shoes -- hence the nickname “Shoeless Joe.”

In 1908 he began his professional baseball career with the Greenville Spinners of the Carolina Association, married 16-year-old Katie Wynn and signed with the Philadelphia Athletics.

After struggling for two years, Jackson was traded to the Cleveland Naps. Jackson’s first full season in the big leagues was 1911.

In August 1915, Jackson was traded to the Chicago White Sox. Two years later, Jackson and the White Sox won the American League pennant and also the World Series.

The White Sox returned to the World Series in 1919 but lost to the Cincinnati Reds. Allegations that Jackson and seven of his teammates conspired to fix the outcome of the World Series surfaced the next year. A grand jury was convened in Chicago during September 1920. In 1921 the players were acquitted, but Landis, the newly appointed Commissioner of Baseball, banned them claiming baseball's need to clean up its image took precedence over legal judgments.

Jackson played with and managed a number of minor league teams for several years primarily in the Carolinas and Georgia and often under an assumed name.

He later opened a dry cleaning business in Savannah, Ga., where he played minor league ball, and in 1933 he moved back to Greenville.

After first opening a barbecue restaurant, Jackson and his wife opened "Joe Jackson's Liquor Store." In 1951, at the age of 63, Jackson died of a heart attack. He is buried at Woodlawn Memorial Park at the intersection of Wade Hampton Blvd. and North Pleasantburg Drive.

In November 1999, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a motion to honor his sporting achievements, supporting a move to have the ban posthumously rescinded, so that he could be admitted to the Hall of Fame.

A number of well-known players have championed Jackson’s induction to the Hall of Fame, and several grassroots efforts have attempted to influence the game’s hierarchy.

Current baseball commissioner Bud Selig has said claimed Jackson's case was under review. To date, no action has been taken.

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Source: HEIDI HEILBRUNN / Staff

Jackson is buried in Woodlawn Memorial Park, which is located at the intersection of Wade Hampton Boulevard and Pleasantburg Drive near Wade Hampton High School.