126 years ago today, Joe Jackson was born in Pickens County, South Carolina. He was the oldest son of a dirt poor sharecropper named George. A formal education was a luxury the Jackson family couldn’t afford, leaving Joe without the ability to read or write. Instead he started working in a local textile mill as a young boy.
When he was 13, the owners of the textile mill where he worked recruited him to play on the company baseball team. Without question, Joe was the youngest player on the team. He was paid $2.50 to play on Saturdays. Originally a pitcher, his career as a hurler ended when broke another player’s arm with a wild fastball. As a result, no one on the opposing team was willing to bat against him and his team was forced to position Joe in the outfield. His hitting ability made him a minor celebrity, allowing him to move from mill team to mill team in search of better pay.
According to Joe himself, he got the famous “shoeless” nickname during a mill game played in Anderson, South Carolina. The legend goes that he had new pair of cleats, developed blisters and his feet hurt so much that he had to take his shoes off before an at bat. Apparently he continued to play, absorbing the heckling from fans noticed playing in his socks. One shouted “You shoeless son of a gun, you!”… and the nickname “Shoeless Joe” was born.
He still is widely hailed as the greatest natural hitter in the history of the game. A left-handed batter and right-handed thrower, he smacked sharp line drives to all corners of the ballpark. He was fast enough to lead the American League in triples three times. Amazingly enough, Joe Jackson never won a batting title, but his average of .408 in 1911 still stands as a Cleveland team record and a major league rookie record.
It was a member of of the Chicago White Sox, he was infamously accused of taking part in throwing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds along with seven of his teammates. Even though he was found innocent in court, Joe Jackson was still banned from baseball and ultimately from the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Evidence shows while he was aware, he took no real part in the fix.
During the eight games, the White Sox scored 20 runs. Joe Jackson was personally responsible for 11 of them. Joe had 6 RBIs, which was the most on the team, and scored 5 runs which was also most on the team. Jackson’s batting average was .375 and set a record for most hits in a World Series (12). His batting average led both teams. Shoeless Joe’s only offensive downfall was getting caught trying to steal a base and striking out twice…total…in eight games!