Time to Rethink Black Sox Legacy Amid Field of Dreams Game

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Shoeless Joe Jackson, and the rest of his teammates banned from baseball due to the Black Sox scandal, are not in the Hall of Fame, but they do have a strong presence in Cooperstown.

On the main level of the baseball hall of fame, you’ll see prominent photos of Shoeless Joe, the 1919 Chicago White Sox, and various artifacts relating to the team and the scandal. The hall has ace pitcher Eddie Cicotte’s pocket watch, manager Kid Gleason’s jersey and the very first ball thrown in the World Series on display.

Yes, if you recall from “Eight Men Out” the primary indicator that chicanery is afoot, “tell Cicotte to hit the first batter if the fix is on”- that’s here!

The Hall of Fame resides on Main Street in Cooperstown, and it’s surrounded by shops specializing in baseball cards, memorabilia, regalia and various other paraphernalia. The store of this sort closest to the Hall’s entrance is named Shoeless Joe’s.

That is symbolism and irony that you just cannot buy.

Speaking of things I cannot buy, some of the most expensive baseball cards in these shops are those of the Black Sox, with each one costing several hundred dollars at minimum. We spoke with some Hall of Fame guides, and they confirmed the following:

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-Black Sox memorabilia is some of the highest in demand and price, and it’s very rare

-A Shoeless Joe Jackson glove was once in the hall, but was later removed due to authentication issues.

-Shoeless Joe has less of a presence in the museum due to problems of provenance and verification; not due to anything involving his reputation or values, ideology etc.

Cooperstown does not distance themselves from the team in the manner that the Chicago White Sox do. While it’s understandable why the Sox do it, it’s probably time to rethink that, and perhaps yesterday’s big announcement is a step in that direction.

Yes, the White Sox will be playing the New York Yankees at the Field of Dreams movie site, in Dyersville, Iowa on August 13, 2020. The announcement comes just 53 days shy of the centennial of game one of the 1919 World Series.

The product rollout for this marketing gimmick of a baseball game comes at the same time that sports betting is being legalized, and henceforth de-stigmatized and mainstreamed in the United States. Maybe 100 years was a long enough sentence for the Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Black Sox to serve?

Especially when you consider that they were acquitted in court. After all, if you’re going to capitalize on the 1980s baseball movie boom/the very popular mythology surrounding Jackson, then you really should just jump in the water, instead of dipping your toes in.

These are concepts that we’ve explored, both in written and in podcast form, long before this game was ever conceived of.

Along the concourse walls of Sox park is a visual history of the ball club. While Shoeless Joe and the 1919 White Sox are represented, no mention, at all, is made to the Black Sox scandal.

On one hand, yes, why would you want to call more attention to the prime example of somebody undermining the wholesomeness of pure competition and genuine ambition in order to get paid by mobsters? That doesn’t make sense.

On the other hand, it is only the most interesting and captivating moment in baseball history, and it inspired the greatest book and movie in baseball history.

And Jackson, owner of the third highest batting average in MLB history, maintained his innocence (even perjuring himself in order to do so) until his dying day. And he was an extremely interesting and engaging human being in many ways beyond the Black Sox World Series too.

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Also, you don’t get to pick and choose when it comes to history. What’s out there, about any given subject or person is already out there, and it’s up to you if you want to celebrate it or not.

Since the White Sox are now blatantly trying to garner attention by capitalizing off the widespread interest in Joe Jackson and the Black Sox in another state, they may as well just go all in all the way at home too.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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