Yesterday, it was revealed that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred had declined to reinstate Shoeless Joe Jackson in response to a petition submitted by the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum in Greenville, South Carolina.
Manfred said he did not want to second-guess the ghost of Kenesaw Mountain Landis, MLB’s first Commissioner and the man who banned Jackson and seven other members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox (a.k.a. The Black Sox) for throwing that year’s World Series against the Cincinnati Reds despite the fact the players had been acquitted in a court of law. But this was insufficient for this particular federal judge who famously (or infamously) decreed:
Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player that throws a ball game; no player that undertakes or promises to throw a ball game; no player that sits in a conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing ball games are planned and discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball. Of course, I don’t know that any of these men will apply for reinstatement, but if they do, the above are at least a few of the rules that will be enforced. Just keep in mind that, regardless of the verdict of juries, baseball is competent to protect itself against crooks, both inside and outside the game.
Simply put, baseball is a law unto itself. In which case, Pete Rose has no chance in hell of getting reinstated. You might recall that he formally applied for reinstatement back in March. I wrote about it at the time and arrived at the following conclusion:
If Shoeless Joe Jackson of the 1919 Black Sox scandal fame cannot get into Cooperstown nearly 100 years after he was acquitted in a court of law then Charlie Hustle’s application isn’t going to get out of the on deck circle.
After all, Rose eventually admitted to betting on baseball (although it does not appear he bet against his own team). The evidence that Shoeless Joe (and for that matter Buck Weaver) were part of the conspiracy is dubious to say the least. The other men involved in the fix admitted that Jackson never participated in any of their meetings. It’s pretty clear that Shoeless Joe didn’t get the memo that there was a fix on because he hit .375 with a home run and 6 RBI in the 1919 World Series, the best offensive stats of any player on either team.
Then again even if Rose isn’t reinstated, can we really say he’s been banished? He currently serves as a studio analyst for Fox Sports 1 and participated in this year’s All-Star Game festivities which were held in Cincinnati. All of this despite his admission that he bet on baseball. Shoeless Joe wasn’t allowed to enter a big league ballpark as a spectator. He was relegated to playing semi-pro baseball often under assumed names.
Late in life, Shoeless Joe was running a liquor store and one day in walks Ty Cobb. The Ty Cobb. He recognizes Shoeless Joe, but Shoeless Joe does not reciprocate. Eventually Cobb approaches Shoeless Joe and asks,
“Don’t you know me, Joe?” “I know you,” replied Shoeless Joe. “But I wasn’t sure you wanted to speak to me. A lot of them don’t.”
Ironically, Cobb would also be involved in fixing a game in 1919, shortly before the World Series, when as player-manager of the Detroit Tigers conspired with Cleveland Indians player-manager Tris Speaker along with Tigers pitcher Dutch Leonard and Indians pitcher Smoky Joe Wood to let Detroit win a game so they could have third place in the American League (the Indians had finished second). At the time, the top three teams in each league would get World Series bonus money.
The plot was not revealed until 1926 when Leonard, angry at Cobb for cutting his career short by overworking him, made American League President Ban Johnson aware of the situation by giving him letters exchanged between him and Cobb proving there was a fix. Johnson did force Cobb and Speaker to resign their positions and turned the evidence over to Commissioner Landis. But he opted to look the other way. Cobb and Speaker were not banned from the game. Cobb was part of the inaugural class to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 while Speaker was inducted the following year.
The long and the short of it is that Rob Manfred doesn’t want to make waves. If he reinstated Shoeless Joe he would have to reinstate Pete Rose.
The irony here is that if Manfred did reinstate Shoeless Joe and/or Rose, it does not guarantee they would be inducted into the Hall of Fame. It isn’t a slam dunk that either the baseball writers or the former players on the Veterans Committee would induct either of them. Just ask Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.
Meanwhile, Shoeless Joe Jackson has been dead for nearly 65 years and hasn’t had a moment of peaceful rest.