Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, September 1, 2015, 7:27 a.m.
I heard last night the new baseball commissioner, Rob Manfred, was going to make a new ruling on the case of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, and I naturally figured he was going to be reinstated.
It’s not going to affect the pennant races. Jackson was banned ninety-four years ago. He’s no longer available to pinch-hit. He died while Truman was president.
But Manfred said no for no apparent reason. It makes no sense to reopen a case that’s nine-four-years old and then announce there’s no change.
Ah, thought about it. Then I said, uh, naaahhhhh.
Since I am a South Carolinian, I’ve known the story of Shoeless Joe Jackson since my earliest memory, and while I’ve always been sympathetic — he was a poor, illiterate kid from a mill neighborhood with incredible skill and precious little discernment — I’ve also thought him guilty.
Jackson may not have participated in the Chicago White Sox’ throwing of the 1919 World Series, but he knew about the plot. I hate it for him.
Lots of people grow more demanding as they grow older. I grow more tolerant.
What changed my mind was the remark of one Ted Williams, who, once upon a time, traveled to Cooperstown to lobby for Jackson’s reinstatement.
Supposedly, Williams said something along the lines of, “Only baseball would ban a man for life and then keep him banned fifty years after he was dead.” As I recall, Williams’ language was a tad saltier.
I read that quotation in a book a few years ago but couldn’t find either the book or an online source this morning. I did discover that Williams said, in 1998, “Out of baseball for life, he served his sentence. He died while under that ban.”
Williams died in 2002.
So what was this? A publicity stunt?
Ladies and gentleman, the grand and omniscient Commissioner of Baseball has deigned to reopen the case of one Joseph Jefferson Jackson. After pondering the matter at the peak of Kennesaw Mountain, the Commissioner has concluded …
It makes no more sense than a man who batted .375 and scored from first base on a single actually, at the same time, losing the World Series on purpose.
Manfred might as well have desecrated Shoeless Joe’s grave.
Now I have my third opinion on the subject: Leave the man be.
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