Joseph Jefferson Jackson was born in 1887 in Pickens, South Carolina. At the age of six he was put to work sweeping floors at a local textile mill to help support his family. Unable to attend school, Joe never learned to read or write. At the age of thirteen, while still working at the mill, Joe was asked to play baseball for the men’s textile league. Started as a pitcher, Joe was moved to the outfield after he threw a pitch so hard he broke the catcher’s arm. A natural on the field, he further honed his skills and became an outstanding hitter and left fielder. In 1908, while playing the first game of a doubleheader as a semipro player, a new pair of spikes had rubbed blisters on his feet. He removed his shoes for the second game and played barefoot, thus earning the nickname that followed him for life…”Shoeless Joe Jackson”.
Joe went on to play major league ball, and in 1919 found himself playing for the Chicago White Sox in the race for the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Allegations that eight members of the White Sox had conspired to throw the series quickly spread, angering a nation and threatened the future of baseball. Joe Jackson was among the accused. All eight men were indicted and went to trial, but were acquitted of the charges. During the so-called “BlackSox” scandal, former judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis had been named as America’s first commissioner of baseball, and despite the ‘not guilty’ verdict, took it upon himself to ban Joe Jackson and the other seven players from ever playing baseball again.
Throughout the scandal, and for the rest of his life, Joe Jackson proclaimed his innocence.