Joseph Jefferson Jackson was born on July 16, 1888 in Pickens County, South Carolina. Joe's parents, George and Martha Jackson, had eight children, of which Joe was the oldest. By age 13, Joe was starring on the baseball team of the textile mill where his father worked.
Jackson began his semipro career at age 18, and quickly advanced his way through the minor leagues. During a minor league game, Jackson played in stocking feet because his team was short of players and his new cleats had worn blisters on his feet. This shenanigan earned him the nickname "Shoeless Joe."
Jackson continued to improve as he progressed through the Cleveland Indians farm system, developing an extremely strong arm and a swing that was envied by many other players. He first broke into the Major Leagues in 1911, a year where he batted .408 for the Indians, setting a rookie record for batting average that still stands today. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox in 1915, and went on to lead the team to the 1917 World Series Championship.
After being expelled from baseball for his alleged involvement in the 1919 scandal, Joe and his wife, Katherine, moved to Savannah, Ga. There, Jackson opened a dry cleaning operation and continued to play ball for semipro teams in the area. In 1929, the Jacksons moved to Greenville, Sc. where Joe eventually died on December 5, 1951.
Jackson is undoubtedly the most well-known of the eight men banned from baseball because of the Black Sox scandal of 1919. Jackson was known as one of the greatest natural hitters the game had ever seen, and it was even rumored that Babe Ruth copied his batting stance. One of the most controversial issues associated with the scandal is whether Jackson was every truly involved with the scheme. There is no hard evidence proving Jackson's guilt in the matter, and his stats certainly make a case for his innocence.
Below are Jackson's statistics from the series:
In addition to his performance on the field, court testimonies by his teammates and some of the bookies involved with the scandal further his case. It was determined that Joe was aware of the scandal, because he personally asked White Sox owner Charles Comiskey to bench him for the series to dispel any confusion about his involvement. Comiskey refused, and Jackson was forced to play anyways.
The decision to ban Joe Jackson from Major League Baseball was ultimately made by Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis, not the courts. The decision was justified by Landis' intent to send a no tolerance message to those who had attempted to use the sport as an instrument for gambling.
In an interview given in the October, 1949 issue of SPORT magazine, Joe was quoted as saying,"I have no axe to grind, ...I'm not asking anybody for anything... I can say that my conscience is clear and that I'll stand on my record in that World Series."
To this day, there remains a large contingent of fans who continue to lobby for Joe Jackson's reinstatement into the record books, as well as his induction into the Hall of Fame.