Congratulations to Dave “Big Papi” Ortiz on his recent induction to Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Many fans expressed disappointment that Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Curt Schilling were not selected. That caused us to reflect on those ballplayers who Major League Baseball (MLB) has deemed ineligible; and, as such, banned from the sport. In our opinion, Joseph Jefferson Jackson – “Shoeless Joe” – represents the epitome of ballplayers who have been unjustly banished from the sport, and should be reinstated and enshrined at Cooperstown.
The conspiracy to throw the 1919 World Series – the notorious “Black Sox Scandal” – is one of baseball’s darkest moments. However, the debarment of Joe Jackson for his “involvement” in the fix remains a controversial topic.
It is now known that Shoeless Joe Jackson refused the $5,000 bribe on two separate occasions. Additionally, Joe Jackson attempted to inform Charles Comiskey, the “overly frugal” owner of the White Sox, about the fix. However, Comiskey declined to meet with Joe Jackson.
Years later, players who were implicated in the scandal admitted that Jackson did not actively participate in the fix.
Jackson’s performance during the 1919 World Series lends credence to his “innocence.” Joe Jackson had a fantastic series! He was 12-for-32 (a .375 batting average); he was 5-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Joe Jackson hit the Series’ lone home run, and he was credited with 6 RBI.
Unfortunately, Joe Jackson remains on MLB’s ineligible list, which precludes his election to the Hall of Fame. Efforts to reinstate Joe Jackson have been futile. In 1989, MLB commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti declined to reinstate Joe Jackson. In 2015, Commissioner Rob Manfred concluded that “. . .[It] is not possible now, over 95 years since these events took place and were considered by Commissioner Landis, to be certain enough of the truth to overrule Commissioner Landis’ determination.”
In 2020, ESPN reported that MLB had shifted its policy and that the league “has no hold on banned players after they die because the ineligible list bars players from privileges that include a job with a major league club.” At this point, it is unclear how this policy change will affect Shoeless Joe Jackson’s Hall of Fame prospects.
It has been a little over 100 years since Joe Jackson played left field in the Major Leagues. After a century of being banned from baseball – a banishment that has been enforced on paltry, controversial evidence – it is time for MLB to correct that egregious error. It is time for baseball to reinstate Joe Jackson and elect him to the Hall of Fame – where he so rightfully belongs.
John Di Genio and Albert J. Cupo