Joseph "Shoeless Joe" Jackson
Still A Hero To Many
On December 16, 1951, Jackson was to be honored by the Baseball Writers Association of America in a ceremony held on Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town television program. His former Cleveland teammate, Tris Speaker, was to present him with a gold clock. But Jackson died on December 5. "No ruling could bar Shoeless Joe from his fans' hearts," said Peter Ames Carlin and Lorna Grisby in a People article. "As recalled in biographies and embellished in movies such as Field of Dreams and Eight Men Out, Jackson's saga grew into a parable of the struggle between innocence and greed. Though not everyone agrees that Jackson played the series to win, as some supporters claim, many believe the time has come to enshrine him in baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York."
Jackson died of a heart attack in his small home, a short distance from Shoeless Joe Jackson Memorial Park, which was created in his honor on the site of the baseball diamond behind Brandon Mills. He is buried at Woodlawn Memorial Park, where visitors, many of whom first came to know him through the films that portrayed him, leave flowers and sometimes notes. Frommer said Jackson "has become an American icon, one of those figures who is both hero and antihero. Joe Jackson is an epic figure in our sports culture. His story is one of continuing fascination and interest."
In 2002, Joe Wade Anders, grandson of Joe Anders, one of Jackson's closest friends, unveiled the life-size statue of Jackson in Greenville's West End. The clay model was sculpted by Douglas R. Young, who worked on it in the lobby of Greenville City Hall. Visitors stopped each day to follow his progress—schoolchildren, workers on their lunch hour, and other visitors. Young allowed them to knead the clay for the statue, and Jackson's right shoe, more easily reachable than his left, is now permanently larger because of the many times it was touched by small hands before it was bronzed.
In 2002 members of the Baseball Reliquary in Monrovia, California inducted Jackson into their Shrine of Eternals, often referred to as the "West Coast Hall of Fame." He was honored with inductees Mark Fidrych of the Detroit Tigers and Minnie Minoso of the Chicago White Sox in a ceremony held at the Donald R. Wright Auditorium in the Pasadena Central Library, Pasadena, California, where Nola accepted the award on behalf of the family.
"The obstinacy of the baseball establishment seems only to have added to the fondness for Jackson in West Greenville," noted an Economist writer. "Local children have written letters on behalf of their hero. Another project is to set up a museum devoted to mill-league baseball teams. Reunions have been organized for mill-league players.… Jackson's characteristically modest grave is distinguished from its neighbours by the presence of several baseballs quietly left there by admirers."
Two of Jackson's most ardent supporters have been Hall of Famers Bob Feller and Ted Williams (the last man to hit .400 in the majors), and Williams died unsuccessful in his quest. Through the decades since the scandal, Jackson's induction has gained support, but not everyone feels that time can erase his guilt, if in fact he was guilty, something that may never be known for certain. Dick Heller noted in Insight on the News that even if he didn't participate, Jackson at least knew of the plot to throw the series and yet never told manager Kid Gleason or Comiskey. "Some see the campaign to reinstate Jackson—the first step toward Cooperstown—in the same terms as Pete Rose's … application to have his ban lifted," wrote Heller. "Really, though, there are no similarities. Rose probably bet on baseball games—the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming—but there is no indication that he did less than his best as a player or manager."
"Jackson's rags to riches story and figurative return to his original condition has made him a legendary sports figure," wrote Lowell L. Blaisdell in American National Biography. "Sympathy for his humble origins, admiration of his great natural ability, and dismay at his eventual exclusion from baseball's Hall of Fame caused many sports fans to identify with his name and career."
"In a country that gives second chances to countless miscreants—Richard Nixon, Marv Albert, Latrell Sprewell—why not a salute to Shoeless Joe?" commented David A. Kaplan in Newsweek. "His part in The Fix will always be remembered. It must be. But should not this baseball immortal at long last be celebrated?"
- Joseph "Shoeless Joe" Jackson - Career Statistics
- Joseph "Shoeless Joe" Jackson - Going Home Again
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