Chicago's Black Sox


Shoeless Joe Jackson

Jackson played well in the Series and pointed to that fact to show that he wasn't involved in the fix.

Jackson played well in the Series
and pointed to that fact to show that
he wasn't involved in the fix.
(CHS ICHi 19569)

One Jackson fan was local batmaker Charlie Ferguson. When Jackson was fifteen, Charlie took a four-by-four timber of hickory and carved a thirty-six-inch, forty-eight-ounce bat. Charlie shaped that bat to fit Jackson's large and growing hands. When it was finished, the bat was pure white. Charlie knew Jackson liked black bats, so he coated it with several layers of tobacco juice. Jackson affectionately named his bat "Black Betsy." The grandstand crowds would yell down to Jackson: "Give 'em Black Betsy, Joey! Give 'em Black Betsy!"

Joe Jackson began his professional career in baseball with the Carolina Association's Greenville Spinners in 1908. That same year, he married his long-time sweetheart Katie Wynn. In his first season as a professional ball player, Jackson batted .350, hit home runs, and made plays in the outfield that brought cheering fans to their feet. Anyone who saw the nineteen-year-old Jackson play knew he was the best player in the league. While playing for the Spinners, Jackson acquired his nickname. Over the years, many stories circulated as to why he was tagged "Shoeless" Joe. According to Jackson, it happened after he played ball wearing a new pair of shoes. They blistered his feet. The next day when the team was short on players, the manager told Jackson to play despite the blisters. Jackson tried his old shoes, but when those hurt, he played in his socks. In the seventh inning, Jackson hit a triple. The bleachers were close to the field, and as he ran for third base, a fan noticed his socks and yelled, "You shoeless sonofagun you!" Shoeless never played in socks again, but the name stuck.

After one season with the Spinners, the Philadelphia Athletics bought his contract for $325. He played there one season and was traded to Cleveland. He was a star in both Philadelphia and Cleveland, and fans in those cities were sad to see him leave. Jackson arrived in Chicago to play with the White Sox in 1915.

In 1919, known for his natural abilities on the field and his extraordinary home runs, Jackson was well on his way to becoming a baseball legend. Today, however, he is remembered for his association with the Black Sox. Jackson's fate was sealed one night on the final road trip of the 1919 season. Jackson was taking a walk when Chick Gandil approached. Gandil explained to Jackson that seven players had gotten together to throw the World Series, and Jackson would receive $10,000 to help them out. Jackson refused that night and again a few nights later in Chicago. Gandil had raised the ante to $20,000 and remarked that it would happen with or without Jackson. To insure the fix, Gandil used Jackson's name with the gamblers, and Jackson became forever linked to a scheme he tried to avoid.




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