July 2, 2012

HOVG Heroes: "Shoeless" Joe Jackson


KEVIN CHANEL on “SHOELESS” JOE JACKSON

“Shoeless” Joe Jackson deserves to be in the REAL Hall strictly for being a badass.

1919 World Series vs. Cincinnati, Jackson hit .357 BA with a .956 OPS after having stared at a candle’s flame each previous night in order to rid his eye of its evil curse of being able to see the discoloration of the red stitching on a scuffed up greasy ball humming at him at dead ball era velocity before deciding whether to snap it to the pull or opposite field before twirling the bat with palms at the knob and lofting it skyward.

An original “five-tool player,” Joseph Jefferson Wofford Jackson earned the nickname “Shoeless” at age 19 when one day he wasn’t wearing shoes in full-view of an unoriginal hack scribe.  Having eschewed booklarnin’ from his upbringing in rural-to-say-the-least Greenville SC, this new moniker was an improvement over his incumbent sobriquet “Einstein.”

Joining his first non-bumpkin league unit, Jackson quit the game his first two seasons in Philadelphia after not being able to hire his own valet and sommelier on road games.

Jackson was traded to Cleveland Naps in 1910 for world-renowned moyl Bris Lord. In his first full year, Jackson batted .408, a rookie record. He subsequently hit above .300, and some seasons well above.

Continuing his meteoric rise to future Hall of Fame, can’t miss status, Jackson threatened to quit once again, growing his hair in dreadlocks and refer to his antics as just “Shoeless Being Shoeless”, thereby cementing his reputation as an eventual mercurial enigma.

Upping the “I won’t play” ante, he spent the off-season before the 1916 campaign as the fifth or six Marx Brother, depending on whom you ask.

Thespian life grabbed Joe by the nads to the point where he refused to report for Spring Training. After much coercion by his wife Yoko, he eventually caved and whacked a combined .327 on the year, being traded to the Chicago White Sox for a blind circus freak and box seats to Siegfried and Roy.

Following more seasons of dazzling play, Jackson allegedly schemed with a handful of arrogant dumbasses to tank the 1919 World Series. Newly deputized backwoods hick judge-with-a-grudge Kenesaw “SlackJaw” Landis offered Jackson and seven Sox teammates a choice of punishments – either be banned from the American pastime for life, or until the Chicago Cubs win another Fall Classic.

The eight newly-deputized Southside pariahs prophetically jibed “I like those odds!”

In 1988, Jackson was depicted by working actor D.B. Sweeney as a quick-witted victimized rube in John Sayles’ “Eight Men Out”.  On a personal note, I spoke with Sweeney years later at a celebrity pro-am golf tournament in San Diego.

And by “celebrity” I allude to the caliber of event normally reserved for such respected luminaries as Dean Cain or Alan Thicke.

Anyway, I asked Sweeney his opinion on Shoeless Joe.  He gave a terse “I think he’s guilty” response then scanned the gallery for someone with a camera who might recognize him.

My retort of “but he hit .375 and was a total badass in the 1919 Series” was met with something along the lines of “but who knows how well he could have played? Maybe he held back from a diving catch or pulled up on a swing or two”.

I replied “yeah, maybe…and maybe someday your career will skid to the point where you play unremarkable non-featured characters on ALL versions of ‘CSI’.”

Ooohh…burn!

Joe Jackson deserves to be in the Hall more than Pete Rose deserves to be in the Hall. He posted awesome numbers in a shortened career and was a dominant presence with bat and glove.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kevin Chanel gave up his ecclesiastical teachings to focus on religion, going to his first game on June 12, 1970 in San Diego, vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates. He then changed his name to Kevin Chanel and devoted his life to baseball. This lasted a good six years until the first Ramones album. Chanel later did some time with ChinMusic! Magazine and eventually Punk Rock Confidential.

Now look at him.  Chanel can be found online talking baseball at Bugs and Cranks.

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