A deadly hitter and a fielder whose glove was called “the place where triples go to die,” Shoeless Joe Jackson carved a name for himself in baseball history for his monumental skills and on-field achievements. But his legacy remains a sad one, tainted by association with the infamous “Black Sox Scandal” of the 1919 World Series. In response to suspicions that the White Sox had thrown the series under the influence of sports bookies, baseball commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis banned Joe Jackson and seven of his teammates for life, sending a no-tolerance message regarding the presence of betting in baseball.
Of all the players, Jackson’s involvement in the conspiracy seemed the least plausible, as his on-field stats were sparkling — a .375 batting average and a perfect fielding percentage during the series. A jury later acquitted Jackson of the charges, and despite holding the third highest lifetime batting average in baseball history at .356, the legendary outfielder remains an outcast from the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
On July 16, 1888, the future “Shoeless Joe” was born Joseph Jefferson Jackson in Pickens County, South Carolina, as the eldest of George and Martha Jackson’s eight children. As a child Joe worked alongside his father in a textile mill in Brandon Mill, SC, and by 13 was starring on the mill’s baseball team.
Jackson began playing semipro ball at age 18 and quickly advanced to the minors. It was here that he earned his nickname “Shoeless Joe,” based on the fact that he discarded a pair of bothersome new spikes in the middle of a game and played the rest of the way in his stocking feet.