Joe Jackson began his professional baseball career in 1908 with the Philadelphia Athletics organization. For his first two years, Jackson was up and down between the minor and the major leagues, playing only ten games with the Athletics. Becoming increasingly unhappy Jackson was traded to the Cleveland Naps in 1911 where he played his first full season. The Cleveland organization would eventually be called the Indians in 1915. That year Jackson compiled a .408 batting average, a record that still stands for rookie seasons. Coming into the prime of his career Jackson batted .395 and led the American League in triples in 1912. The next year Jackson led the league with 197 hits and .551 slugging average.
The White Sox
In August of 1915 Jackson was traded to the Chicago White Sox. Even with his new surroundings his tremendous career continued. In 1917 Jackson and the White Sox accomplished the greatest feat in all of baseball, a World Series title. During the series Jackson batted .307 and led the White Sox to victory over the New York Giants.
In 1919, Jackson and the White Sox found themselves back in the running for another World Series ring. Jackson batted .351 during the regular season and .375 with perfect fielding in the World Series. The heavily favored Sox found themselves in a losing battle against the Cincinnati Reds. During the next year while batting .385 and leading the American league in triples Jackson was suspended after allegations that 8 members of the White Sox threw the previous World Series. In 1921 a Chicago jury acquitted Jackson of helping to fix the 1919 World Series, but Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the first commissioner of baseball went against the ruling and banned all eight players, including Joe Jackson, from baseball for life.
The Greatest Natural Hitter
Ty Cobb called him “the greatest natural hitter I ever saw.” They called him “shoeless” because he was once spotted playing in his native South Carolina in his stocking feet when new shoes proved too tight.
In 1911 this good natured, 21 year old had a rookie-of-the-century season with 233 hits and a .408 batting average with “Black Betsy,” his special 48 ounce bat. He went on to establish a lifetime batting average of .356, the third highest in history.
Shoeless Joe was implicated in the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919 and was forced to leave baseball. Many doubt his guilt and others doubt his innocence, but no one doubts that he remains one of the greatest players of all time. Babe Ruth said, “I decided to pick out the greatest hitter to watch and study and Jackson was good enough for me.”
Welcome to Shoeless Joe’s. In the tradition of Joe Jackson and Babe Ruth, we will always do our best to be “the greatest natural hitter” you ever saw!