Shoeless Joe Jackson

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God knows I gave my best in baseball at all times and no man on earth can truthfully judge me otherwise.

Joseph Jefferson Jackson (16 July 18885 December 1951) was a left fielder in Major League Baseball who played for the Philadelphia Athletics, Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox. One of the greatest hitters of his era, he was one of eight players banished for life from professional baseball for his alleged participation in the Black Sox scandal; known primarily by his nickname "Shoeless Joe" Jackson.


If I had been the kind of fellow who brooded when things went wrong, I probably would have gone out of my mind when Judge Landis ruled me out of baseball.
They say I was the greatest natural hitter of all time. Well that's saying a lot...
  • I asked to be suspended before the world series of 1919. I didn't want to play after I heard what was going on. But I had to play, and I did play. Look at the records I made in that series. Look at Buck Weaver's, too, and you don't need any more proof that we played.
    • As quoted in "Twelve Years After White Sox Scandal, 'Shoeless Joe' Jackson, Savannah Pants Presser, Takes Time For Reminiscence" by William Braugher (NEA Sports Editor), The China Press (April 13, 1932)
  • You know, yourself—Walter Johnson. The only way you could hit him was to poke the ball. I used to wait for his curve. Used to kid him by standing up straight with the bat leaning against my hip.
    • When asked to name the best pitcher he ever faced; as quoted in "Twelve Years After White Sox Scandal..."
  • Old Joe remembers "a spraddle-legged hitter who looked good" whom Joe taught to change his tactics to pivot hitting. "He's the only fellow I ever tried to convert to the style who jumped onto the ideas in a minute. He was a young fellow named Babe Ruth who wanted to learn."
    • As paraphrased and quoted in "Joe Jackson Fondles Warclub, Wonders What Might Have Been," Boston Globe (May 5, 1932)

This is the Truth! (1949)

Jackson's reminiscences as told to Furman Bisher, sportswriter for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, in SPORT magazine (October 1949)
  • If I had been the kind of fellow who brooded when things went wrong, I probably would have gone out of my mind when Judge Landis ruled me out of baseball. I would have lived in regret. I would have been bitter and resentful because I felt I had been wronged. But I haven't been resentful at all. I thought when my trial was over that Judge Landis might have restored me to good standing. But he never did. And until he died I had never gone before him, sent a representative before him, or placed before him any written matter pleading my case. I gave baseball my best and if the game didn't care enough to see me get a square deal, then I wouldn't go out of my way to get back in it. Baseball failed to keep faith with me. When I got notice of my suspension three days before the 1920 season ended — it came on a rained-out day — it read that if found innocent of any wrongdoing, I would be reinstated. If found guilty, I would be banned for life. I was found innocent, and I was still banned for life.
  • I went out and played my heart out against Cincinnati. I set a record that stills stands for the most hits in a Series, though it has been tied, I think. I made 13 hits, but after all the trouble came out they took one away from me. Maurice Rath went over in the hole and knocked down a hot grounder, but he couldn't make a throw on it. They scored it a hit then, but changed it later. I led both teams in hitting with .375. I hit the only home run of the Series, off Hod Eller in the last game. I came all the way home from first on a single and scored the winning run in that 5-4 game. I handled 30 balls in the outfield and never made an error or allowed a man to take an extra base.
  • I was responsible only for Joe Jackson. I positively can't say that I recall anything out of the way in the Series. I mean, anything that might have turned the tide. There was just one thing that doesn't seem quite right, now that I think back over it. Cicotte seemed to let up on a pitch to Pat Duncan, and Pat hit it over my head. Duncan didn't have enough power to hit the ball that far, particularly if Cicotte had been bearing down. Williams was a great control pitcher and they made a lot of fuss over him walking a few men. Swede Risberg missed the bag on a double-play ball at second and they made a lot out of that. But those are things that might happen to anybody. You just can't say out and out that that was shady baseball.
  • I guess the biggest joke of all was that story that got out about "Say it ain't so, Joe." Charley Owens of the Chicago Daily News was responsible for that, but there wasn't a bit of truth in it. It was supposed to have happened the day I was arrested in September of 1920, when I came out of the courtroom. There weren't any words passed between anybody except me and a deputy sheriff. When I came out of the building this deputy asked me where I was going, and I told him to the Southside. He asked me for a ride and we got in the car together and left. There was a big crowd hanging around the front of the building, but nobody else said anything to me. It just didn't happen, that's all. Charley Owens just made up a good story and wrote it. Oh, I would have said it ain't so, all right, just like I'm saying it now.
  • I have read now and then that I am one of the most tragic figures in baseball. Well, maybe that's the way some people look at it, but I don't quite see it that way myself. I guess one of the reasons I never fought my suspension any harder than I did was that I thought I had spent a pretty full life in the big leagues. I was 32 years old at the time, and I had been in the majors 13 years; I had a life time batting average of .356; I held the all-time throwing record for distance; and I had made pretty good salaries for those days. There wasn't much left for me in the big leagues.
  • All the big sportswriters seemed to enjoy writing about me as an ignorant cotton-mill boy with nothing but lint where my brains ought to be. That was all right with me. I was able to fool a lot of pitchers and managers and club owners I wouldn't have been able to fool if they'd thought I was smarter.
  • I guess right here is a good place for me to get the record straight on how I got to be "Shoeless Joe." I've read and heard every kind of yarn imaginable about how I got the name, but this is how it really happened:
    When I was with Greenville back in 1908, we only had 12 men on the roster. I was first off a pitcher, but when I wasn't pitching I played the outfield. I played in a new pair of shoes one day and they wore big blisters on my feet. The next day we came up short of players, a couple of men hurt and one missing. Tommy Stouch — he was a sportswriter in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the last I heard of him — was the manager, and he told me I'd just have to play, blisters or not.
    I tried it with my old shoes on and just couldn't make it. He told me I'd have to play anyway, so I threw away the shoes and went to the outfield in my stockinged feet. I hadn't put out much until along about the seventh inning I hit a long triple and I turned it on. That was in Anderson, and the bleachers were close to the baselines there. As I pulled into third, some big guy stood up and hollered: "You shoeless sonofagun, you!"
    They picked it up and started calling me Shoeless Joe all around the league, and it stuck. I never played the outfield barefoot, and that was the only day I ever played in my stockinged feet, but it stuck with me.
  • Charley Somers, who owned the Indians, was the most generous club owner I have ever seen... The first year I came up to Cleveland, in 1910, I led the league unofficially in hitting. When I went to talk contract with him for 1911, I told him I wanted $10,000. He wasn't figuring on giving me more than $6,000, and he wouldn't listen to me.
    "I'll make a deal with you," I told him. "If I hit .400 you give me $10,000. If I don't, you don't give me a cent."
    It was a deal, I signed the contract, and I hit .408. But I still didn't win the American League batting title. That was the year Ty Cobb hit .420. I was hitting .420 about three weeks before the season was over and Mr. Somers called me in to pay off, told me I could sit it out the rest of the season. I told him to wait until the season was ended and I wasn't quitting. I wrote my own contract the rest of the time I was in Cleveland.
  • They say I was the greatest natural hitter of all time. Well that's saying a lot with hitters like Wagner, Cobb, Speaker and Ruth around. I had good eyes and I guess that was the reason I hit as well as I did. I still don't use glasses today.
  • I have been pretty lucky since I left the big leagues. No man who has done the things they accuse me of doing could have been as successful. Everything I touched seemed to turn to money, and I've made my share down through the years. I've been blessed with a good banker, too — my wife. Handing the money to her was just like putting it in the bank. We were married in 1908 when I was just 19 and she was 15, and she has stood by me through everything. We never had any children of our own, but we raised one of my brother's boys from babyhood.
  • I repeat what I said when I started out — that I have no axe to grind, that I'm not asking anybody for anything. It's all water over the dam as far as I am concerned. I can say that my conscience is clear and that I'll stand on my record in that World Series. I'm not what you call a good Christian, but I believe in the Good Book, particularly where it says "what you sow, so shall you reap." I have asked the Lord for guidance before, and I am sure He gave it to me. I'm willing to let the Lord be my judge.

Quotes about Jackson

Joe's swing was purely natural, he was the perfect hitter. ~ Ty Cobb
  • Joe's swing was purely natural, he was the perfect hitter. He batted against spitballs, shineballs, emeryballs and all the other trick deliveries. … I can still see those line drives whistling to the far precincts. Joe Jackson hit the ball harder than any man ever to play baseball.
    • Ty Cobb, as quoted in Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball (2008) by Harvey Frommer, p. 72
  • In two years, he had risen from a poor millhand to the rank of a player in the major leagues. The ignorant mill boy had become the hero of millions. Out on the hot prairies, teams of "Joe Jacksons" battled desperately with the "Ty Cobbs". There came a day when a crook spread money before this ignorant idol and he fell. For a few dollars, which perhaps seemed like a fortune to him, he sold his honor...
  • Jackson's fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning.
    • Connie Mack, as quoted in Joe Jackson : A Biography (2004) by Kelly Boyer Sagert, p. 145
  • I decided to pick out the greatest hitter to watch and study, and Jackson was good enough for me.
    • Babe Ruth, as quoted in Say It Ain't So, Joe! : The True Story of Shoeless Joe Jackson (1999) by Donald Gropman
  • I copied Jackson's style because I thought he was the greatest hitter I had ever seen, the greatest natural hitter I ever saw. He's the guy who made me a hitter.
    • Babe Ruth, as quoted in Joe Jackson: A Biography (2004) by Kelly Boyer Sagert
  • Everything he hit was really blessed. He could break bones with his shots. Blindfold me and I could still tell you when Joe hit the ball. It had a special crack.
    • Ernie Shore, as quoted in Baseball America (2001) by Donald Honig, p. 107
  • Jackson was not only a natural hitter, but he had a set style, a grooved swing. I can't ever remember him being in a batting slump. His swing was so perfect that there was little chance of it getting disorganized. He was the greatest natural hitter who ever lived.
    • Tris Speaker, as quoted in Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball (2008) by Harvey Frommer, p. 74
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