Shoeless Joe Jackson in Greenville, South Carolina
Greenville, South Carolina hits a home run for baseball fans with the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum.
“Most Americans learn about Shoeless Joe Jackson through the movie ‘Field of Dreams,’” Arlene Marcley, president of the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Baseball Library, said. “Although the movie is fiction, the story of what happened to Shoeless Joe is true.”
Before it was ever a movie, Field of Dreams was known as a book called Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella. Kinsella is a Canadian author who graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1978 and penned Shoeless Joe in 1982.
The book, like the movie, doesn’t suggest Joe Jackson is more guilty than not, but it deals with the pain of having to leave baseball behind after being accused of being part of a conspiracy to fix the World Series in 1919. The museum in Greenville remains strong in supporting the memory of one of baseball’s greatest hitters and supports the innocent verdict a court of law declared regarding the incident.
“The fact that Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the first baseball commissioner, banished Joe from baseball without so much as a hearing is obnoxious to most of us,” Marcley said. “Joe Jackson has the third highest lifetime batting average in the history of the game, yet he is barred from being inducted into the Hall of Fame. As tragic as that is, there is magic to the story of Shoeless Joe that attracts people of all ages.”
His legendary catching and throwing was just part of Joe Jackson’s magic. “Whether it’s the fact he began working in the textile mills when he was six; that he never learned to read or write; or that he thrilled the crowds with his magnificent throwing arm and spectacular catches in the field, Joe Jackson remains the most publicized and beloved baseball player in the world,” Marcley said.
The museum is Joe’s actual home, where he lived and died, in Greenville. Although moved three miles from its original location, the home is now a reverent memorial to the man who changed baseball. In 2006, it was moved to 356 Field Street, coincidentally the same as his .356 batting average, the third highest in baseball history.
“Visitors come to the museum to learn more about Joe and his extraordinary life. The fact that Joe lived and died in the house gives greater meaning to the stories the tour guides tell about his youth, his professional career and the years beyond his banishment from the game he loved,” she said.
The house features photographs, memorabilia and items from Joe’s life. “Visitors enjoy seeing photographs of Joe at all ages,” Marcley said. “Perhaps the most nostalgic room is the master bedroom where Joe passed away in 1951. This room is dedicated to his career with the Chicago White Sox. The room includes an original stadium seat from the old Comiskey Ball Park in Chicago. Another favorite room is the kitchen which has vintage 1940s decor. It brings back a lot of memories to folks who grew up in the 1940s and 1950s.”
The museum is open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and admission is free.