Jimmy picked up the black wood baseball bat, a replica of the enormous bat Shoeless Joe Jackson used when he played for the Chicago White Sox, and held it up to his shoulder. For an instant, you could see in his eyes and little smile that he was imagining himself at home plate during a World Series, this one, hopefully, with a happier ending than Joe's.
We were at the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Baseball Library
, located in the modest house Jackson and his wife owned in Greenville
. The museum tells the story of Greenville's
most famous and infamous son.
Jackson was a phenomenal baseball player, one of the best to have ever played. He still has the third highest batting average in the history of Major League Baseball, almost 100 years later. He's also one of the most controversial and tragic figures in baseball history.
Jackson rocketed from a poor and illiterate mill hand to baseball great, but was banned from Major League Baseball at the height of his career and abilities after his team, the White Sox, was accused of throwing the 1919 World Series. The museum makes a compelling case that Jackson was innocent and wrongly barred form the game he loved, but Shoeless Joe remains on MLB's ineligible list to this day. His story has been immortalized and romanticized in movies and books.
The museum was fascinating for my baseball-loving son, but I think it was almost as compelling for my daughter, who is far less enthralled with the sport. She loved the stories told by the volunteers about Joe's childhood in Greenville. As the eldest child in a poor family, he started working in the mills for 12 hours a day when he was six years old. He never went to school, and never learned to read. "I'm six," Mary Frances said to herself.
But it was Jimmy who studied the photographs and newspaper stories of Joe's crushing fall that hung on the walls. He stared at Joe's uniform jersey and mitt. He hoisted that bat. Mostly, though, I think he loved talking to the fantastic and dedicated volunteers in the museum who made the case for Joe's innocence, talking earnestly with my little boy about statistics, plays, and the history of those fateful games. They took his questions quite seriously, which is something all children really want, I think.
Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum is located at 356 Field St., right across the street from Fluor Field, home of the Greenville Drive
. It's open from on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free, and donations are appreciated.
The museum is right across the street from Fluor Field, and will take less than an hour to see for families with children. If you're a true baseball fan without children, you might want to allot more time for yourself, as there is a lot to read and knowledgeable volunteers to speak with. The Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and a Greenville Drive game are an easy double-header.