The Field of Dreams game is finally here. The mystic surrounding the game is because of the iconic 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” starring Kevin Costner, Ray Liotta, and James Earl Jones. The film would not be what it is without the Chicago White Sox and specifically, ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson.
In the film, Shoeless Joe Jackson appears from a cornfield then later returns with seven other members of the 1919 Black Sox. Shoeless Joe Jackson is played by Ray Liotta. Interestingly enough, Ray Liotta has never even seen the movie. He talked about it in a 2016 interview with Colin Cowherd.
"“I remember reading that and I said ‘this is the silliest thing I have ever seen. What do you mean this ghost comes out of the corn and then this guy he’s making money with corn and then he builds a field.’ I just didn’t get it.”"
While Liotta might not have understood the movie or Joe Jackson’s impact on American pop culture, his importance to White Sox history cannot be understated. Shoeless Joe got his nickname during a mill game played in South Carolina when he was a teenager. Jackson was wearing a new pair of cleats and got blisters on his foot. His feet hurt so much he took his shoes off before he was at-bat.
The Chicago White Sox and Shoeless Joe Jackson have a long storied history.
Jackson spent six years with the White Sox from 1915-1920. His lifetime batting average was .356. During his 13 year career, he amassed 1,772 hits, 792 RBIs, 54 home runs, and had an OPS of .920. Jackson could be the most underrated White Sox hitter of all time. Jackson’s .340 career batting average is the highest of any player to ever put on a White Sox uniform. He also ranks top ten in franchise history for triples, on-base percentage, and OPS.
Jackson holds the White Sox single-season record for triples with 21 in the 1916 season. In 1920, he recorded the most multi-hit games in a single season for any White Sox player with 69. Jackson also owns the White Sox’s second-highest batting average in a single season when he hit .382 in 1920. His 218 hits that season are also the second-most in White Sox history.
In the 1917 World Series, he hit .305 against the New York Giants en route to a 4-2 series victory. In Game 2 of the series, he had a critical two-run single in the fourth inning which helped spark a five-run rally.
He also turned in the defensive play of the series when he dove to catch a line drive with a man on base in the seventh inning of Game 1. The White Sox were leading 2-1 at the time and his efforts helped the White Sox secure the victory.
However, his legacy will forever be tarnished because he was a member of the 1919 ‘Black Sox’ scandal. He was a part of eight men who were banned from baseball in 1920 for conspiring to fix the outcome of the World Series for gamblers. Jackson was still indicted despite hitting .375 with three doubles, one home run, and six RBIs for the series.
Years later, his teammates that threw the series confirmed that he was not at any of the meetings with the people plotting to fix the series. Despite the unfortunate end to his career, he will forever live in baseball lore. The Chicago White Sox will grace the field in Iowa wearing replicas of the same style Jackson used to wear, ensuring his memory will live on.