What exactly is lifetime banishment?
Well, in Major League Baseball, lifetime banishment means you are expelled from the game. A player who is banned for life is not allowed in the clubhouse, on the field, not allowed to participate in team functions and not eligible for the Hall of Fame. In fact, the only way someone banned can be around baseball is if they purchase a ticket. But, when does that lifetime ban end? One would think that lifetime banishment would end when said person’s life ends. I am of the belief that it should be that way.
The ideal end of a player’s lifetime banishment brings me to Shoeless Joe Jackson. Jackson is one of eight players banished from baseball for the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal. In 1919, the Chicago White Sox lost the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. At the time, the series was a best of nine and the 1919 series went eight games. There is no doubt that the 1919 Chicago White Sox threw the World Series, but there is doubt as to whether or not Jackson was involved in it.
During the 1919 World Series, only one home run was hit in all eight games. That home run was hit by Jackson in the third inning of Game 8. Jackson also had a World Series record (at the time) 12 total hits in the series. In addition to his home run, Jackson also had three doubles. Jackson hit a series-leading .375 (12-for-32) and was 5-for-12 with runners in scoring position, good for a .416 batting average. Jackson scored five times and plated six more runs.
Of the 12 errors the White Sox committed during the 1919 World Series, Jackson did not commit any of them. Jackson even threw a runner out at home plate. The stats don’t lie. Jackson played the game to his very best and played to win.
Jackson was acquitted in a court of law for conspiracy. The players he was banished with later came out and said that Jackson was not in on “the fix.” Jackson never attended any of the meetings to throw the World Series and they only used his name to lend credibility to their plight. Shouldn’t the fact that those who did throw the World Series admit Jackson was not a part of it mean something?
At just 33 years old, Jackson was banished from the game. The game he loved and continued to play in semi-pro leagues in Georgia and South Carolina after being kicked out of Major League Baseball. As for the rest of his career, here is a look. Of Jackson’s 13 years in Major League Baseball, he played a full season only nine times. In 1908 and 1909, Jackson played just five games each year with the Philadelphia A’s. After being traded to Cleveland, Jackson played 20 games in 1910. His nine full seasons were from 1911 through 1917, as well as 1919 and 1920. He played only 17 games in 1918 due to World War I. Jackson’s breakout year came in 1911. For the first time, Jackson played a full season, 147 games. He hit a rookie record .408 that year and finished fourth in the MVP vote. Only Ty Cobb who won the MVP Award had a better batting average (.420). Jackson never won a batting title in his career. He finished second three times (1911, 1912, and 1913) and third three times (1914, 1916, and 1920). For his career, Jackson hit .356, the third highest career batting average ever. Only Cobb (.366) and Rogers Hornsby (.358) had higher averages. Jackson led the league in hits just once, 1913. He finished the season with 197 hits that year. Four times Jackson finished a season (1911, 1912, 1916, 1920) with over 200 hits and did not lead the league in hits. He finished with 1,772 hits in just over nine full seasons. While Jackson was a run producer, he also scored a lot of runs. Jackson had 785 career runs batted in and only one season with 100-plus RBIs, 1920. He knocked in 121 runs that year, good for fourth (Babe Ruth led the league with 137) in the American League. His other eight full seasons, Jackson finished in the top 10 in RBIs ever year except 1914. He was not a home run hitter, but he did finish with 54 career homers in the deadball era (1900 to 1919). Jackson finished fifth in the American League with a career high 12 homers in 1920. That same year Ruth launched 54 homers. Three times Jackson finished the season with over 20 triples and all three times he did that he led the league in three baggers. For his career, Jackson banged out 168 triples, good for 26th all time. Jackson lead the league in doubles once, 1913, with 39. He was second in 1911 (45) and 1912 (44) as well as finishing third in 1916 (40) and 1920 (42). For his career, Jackson banged out 307 doubles. Jackson scored 873 runs in his career, four times crossing the plate over 100 times in a season. From 1911 to 1913, Jackson scored over 100 runs three straight years (126, 121, and 109). The one other time Jackson scored 100-plus was in 1920 when he scored 105 runs. He also finished with 202 career stolen bases. Jackson’s career high was 41 in 1911. In 1999, Jackson ranked No. 35 in The Sporting News’ list of the 100 greatest baseball players. He was nominated as a finalist for MLB’s All Century Team and finished 12th among outfielders (only the top-10 made the cut). Shoeless Joe Jackson was a rising star in Major League Baseball when he was banished. His punishment was a lifetime banishment. His life is over and has been since 1951 when he died of a heart attack. Jackson was one of the greatest players of his time. Hall of Famer Babe Ruth even claimed to have modeled his hitting technique after that of Jackson. It’s time to reinstate Jackson and make him eligible for the Hall of Fame.