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Joe Jackson Must Remain Banned From the HOF

In light of Rafael Palmeiro's steroid suspension, a new debate has arisen in baseball circles.  There are those that would have steroid users' statistics erased.  Ignoring the statistical nightmare that would create, the Erasing Statistics Debate often progresses into a Hall of Fame debate.

It is argued by some that if suspected or admitted steroid users are eligible for the Hall, then Joe Jackson should also be eligible.

I honestly don't have an answer for steroid users and Hall of Fame eligibility.  But I have noticed how the old claims about Joe Jackson have been resurrected and many people are again campaigning for him to be admitted to the Hall of Fame.

Conveniently, I have just finished reading the excellent 1963 account of the Black Sox Scandal, Eight Men Out.  Eliot Asinof's work is the authority on the fix.  The book clarifies some common misconceptions about Joe Jackson.

Let me admit these two things: Jackson was illiterate, and Jackson was underpaid.  While these things inspire sympathy, they should have no bearing on his Hall of Fame eligibility.

Joe Jackson very clearly intentionally conspired to lose the 1919 World Series.  Stop right there - here's what you were about to say:

"Of all the players, Jackson's involvement in the conspiracy seemed the least plausible, as his on-field stats were sparkling -- a .375 batting average and a perfect fielding percentage during the series. A jury later acquitted Jackson of the charges, and despite holding the third highest lifetime batting average in baseball history at .356, the legendary outfielder remains an outcast from the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown."

That's a statement from the popular Field of Dreams movie site. Thousands of people are reading that incomplete, misleading account of Jackson's performance. 

Or take this recent post from the ironically titled blog "The True Spin On Sports."  The post comes out in favor of Jackson but never mentions the $5,000 he accepted.  It's filled with inaccuracies and misspellings.  For example:

"Shoeless Joe" was the only player who maintained that he was innocent throughout the controversy."

Sorry, folks.  Joe Jackson willfully confessed to his significant role in conspiring to lose the World Series to a Judge and a Grand Jury. I cannot hammer this point home enough.

But let's start with the aquittal of the eight players.  The players were charged with a conspiracy to defraud the public.  They were not charged with a conspiracy to throw baseball games. 

Back in the early 1920s, everyone in the country understood that the players conspired to lose - most of them publicly confessed.  The truth is that the players got off on a technicality - since they never intended for the public to learn of their conspiracy, they were not guilty of conspiracy to defraud the public.

In Part 2 of this column, I'll explain how Joe Jackson did indeed play poorly on purpose in the 1919 World Series.  I'll also make it clear that his stats aren't worthy of the Hall even if he was innocent.


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