At the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum, it ain’t so

From Marc Fisher at The Washington Post on February 3, 2012:

Greenville, S.C., is where everything you think you know about “Shoeless” Joe Jackson is wrong.

Here in his home town, where a statue of Shoeless Joe occupies a prominent spot on Main Street, where kids still play on Shoeless Joe field and the Shoeless Joe museum sits just outside the entrance to the lovely minor league baseball stadium, Jackson is no goat. He’s a great baseball player and a good man who has been wronged by the keepers of history.

That’s certainly not what I learned growing up. Sure, Jackson’s statistics are stellar, but most fans have heard of him only because of his enduring place in popular culture as the most famous symbol of the Black Sox scandal: the Chicago White Sox players’ decision, 93 years ago, to throw the 1919 World Series.

“Say it ain’t so, Joe,” a plaintive young fan is said to have pleaded as his hero walked by after news of the players’ corruption broke.

But in the tidy little red brick house with white aluminum awnings where Jackson died in 1951, that confrontation never took place. Here, in a museum with a single purpose — to clear one man’s name — that famous quotation is revealed as just one more fantasy, one more piece of anti-Jackson propaganda that got glommed onto a narrative in which fiction like the movie “Field of Dreams” has became hopelessly blended with reported accounts such as the book (and movie) “Eight Men Out.”


The Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum has been a proud institutional member of SABR since 2008.

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Originally published: February 6, 2012. Last Updated: February 6, 2012.