Final Project Written Portion- Did Shoeless Joe Jackson Throw the World Series?

December 17th, 2012

“Shoeless” Joe Jackson was a beloved baseball player that tore up the professional baseball world from 1908-1919. He had the highest batting average ever recorded by a rookie and the fans loved him. Unfortunately, this player’s career met a tragic end. When his team, the Chicago White Sox, was playing in the World Series of 1919 against the Cincinnati Reds the Sox lost with a devastating 5-3 games. Since the White Sox were the favorite to win, this record aroused serious suspicion about the validity of the games. It was discovered that many of the players might be under the influence of bookies and had thrown the Series. Eight players, including Joe Jackson, were accused and put on trial for fraud. The question is- did Joe actually throw those games? He insisted throughout the trial that he was innocent and his record suggested that he was playing like his normal, talented self.

This conspiracy was discovered because a year after the series, two players confessed to having participated in throwing the World Series. One of the initial confessors was Joe Jackson but he later retracted his statement. In Jay Bennett’s essay “Did Shoeless Joe Jackson throw the World Series” he states “Even if he had taken the money for throwing the Series, his .375 batting average and record 12 hits in the series indicate that he may have played on the level anyway” (Pg.241). While this is one view, others say that while Joe’s playing was impressive, he did not hit the clutch level that he normally had before. While all eight players were found not guilty on all charges, there was still suspicion surrounding the events and all of them were banned from professional baseball for life. While these players were forever dubbed the “Black” Sox, Joe was still loved and many people agreed that he must be innocent because of the way he played. Fifty years after the scandal, Mills and Mills (1970) figured out a way to find out the truth.

They introduced the new baseball statistic Player Win Average. It contended that a player’s performance should be judged on the amount the increase or decreases the team’s chance of winning. Win and Loss points are awarded to players on a play by play basis whether or not they are increasing or decreasing their team’s chance of winning. The system measures all players equally and considers the different game situations. For example, When Jackson had a forced walk to start the 8th inning of game six; it was just as important as a home run because it increased their chances of winning just as much. According to the analysis of his performance in these games, his contribution toward the goal of victory was not only superior to many of his own players, but higher than many of the players for the opposite team as well. Out of all the player’s scores for batting throughout the Series, Jackson had the highest in every game of both teams. His positive batting and fielding scores far outweigh any mistakes he made. Also supporting his case that he played to the best of his ability was that his batting average (.563) was higher in the series than during a regular season. Also, Jackson’s batting performance had 68.6% more clutch value than all the other hitters that were put in his similar batting situations. That is, he had a much higher than average effect and positive influence on the performance of his team. All of this data that has been collected has seemed to prove that “Shoeless” Joe Jackson played phenomenal games of baseball.

So, when asking whether or not Joe Jackson threw the 1919 World Series one has to look at the facts. Joe Jackson was the third most valuable player in contributing to his team and the seventh most valuable player overall in the series. When he was up to bat, Jackson made greater contributions to his team’s chances of winning than any player throughout the entire Series. Out of all of the “Black” Sox that were accused of conspiracy, he was the only one that had more of a positive impact on the games than a negative one. Jackson had a higher batting average in the Series than he did during the regular season. Also, when it came to clutch situations and high pressure during the game his batting performance excelled suggesting that he was trying as hard as he could to secure a win for his team.

With all this information, it would seem that Joe Jackson did not intentionally throw the 1919 World Series. His initial confession might be from guilt of knowing about the plot, or from shame that he might have accepted at first than later decided he could no longer go through with it. We will never truly know his level of involvement for he insisted on his innocence until the day he died. But we can prove that he played to the best of his ability, and excelled on the baseball field just as he always had done.

This was an important historical event. It was the first black mark on the great American past time of baseball. Luckily, there are still many people researching this event which is why there is such a plethora of data available. In 2007, new documents were discovered that once belonged to the lawyers of the White Sox players. Hopefully these documents will shed new light on a confusing and upsetting scandal. The American History Museum and others like it should invest in digging deeper into these charges and possibly clearing the name of Joe Jackson. Baseball fans everywhere want to know the truth.

 

Bibliography

 Bennett, Jay. “Did Shoeless Joe Jackson Throw the 1919 World Series?” The American Statistician 47 (1993): 241-50. Print.

“Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum.” Joe’s Story  :. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.

Voigt, David Quentin. “The Chicago Black Sox and the Myth of Baseball’s Single Sin.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 62 (1969): 293-306. Web.




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