In 2012 a small piece of history was returned to its rightful place. This part of history has its own tale to tell. But first here is a little background information.
A Future Baseball Star Born in Poverty
In South Carolina July 16, 1888 Joe Jackson was born into poverty. Due to the lack of child labor laws then and his poverty stricken family, Joe was hired at age 6 to sweep the lint that accumulated quickly on mill floors. He never learned how to read or write. Jackson continued to work in the mill as he grew up. One of the favorite past times of back then were baseball games between mills. Joe started out playing at a young age on these teams.
Joe Jackson Begins His Career
Later Joe was hired at the age of 13 to play on the mill’s adult men’s baseball team for these competitions. While playing one of these games his batting and throwing prowess was discovered. Mr. Jackson emerged as a great baseball player with an amazing, innate talent to play ball. His lifetime batting average of .356 still stands as third best in baseball history.
The Nickname Begins
Once during a mill game, Joe’s shoes were rubbing blisters on his feet. He took the shoes off and played the remainder of the game barefooted; a fan from the other team noticed his unshod feet and yelled, “You shoeless son of a gun.” Shoeless” Joe Jackson became his nickname. Oddly he only played without shoes that one time.
Accusations in the 1919 World Series
After playing for different teams he played for the White Socks and became famous for his skills. While playing with the White Socks in the 1919 World Series he and seven other players were accused of taking bribes to throw the game. Joe swore his innocence even on his death-bed and in truth played one of his best games that day! Even the newspapers could not believe he was guilty and they originated the expression, “Say it ain’t so, Joe!”
Joe’s Life After the Trial
Shoeless Joe never played his beloved baseball again professionally after the trial but did coach several teams in Georgia. Later he and his wife, Kate, moved back to South Carolina where he opened a liquor store in Downtown Greenville. He later died in December of 1951. Investigations are still in progress to prove his innocence as new information is being uncovered.
His Legacy Lives On
Well over half a century after his death many sports fans still love him. Baseball fans, old and young, from all over the world visit the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum in Greenville, South Carolina. His fans still leave baseballs and flowers on his grave.
Joe loved and lived baseball. If you saw the movie “Field of Dreams,” you can learn more about Shoeless Joe Jackson. Here is the link to the museum and many more details of his career: http://www.shoelessjoejackson.org/
Miss Kate, Joe’s Wife and Financial Manager
Now for Miss Katie’s part of the story. Joe married Miss Katie when she was 15 years old and he was 20. They remained married until his death in 1951. Miss Katie ran the finances for Joe’s career. He loved her and respected her sharp handling of numbers and money. Miss Katie was devoted to him as well. They never had any children but enjoyed neighborhood children’s visits.
Miss Katie and My Grandmother Were Neighbors
Shoeless Joe and Miss Katie, as I knew her, lived beside my grandmother, Nina Youngblood in Greenville, SC on Welborn Street. Miss Katie was not only a neighbor but a friend of my grandmother’s. Their houses side by side had white picket fences around them. Both ladies loved their flowers and their homes.
Miss Katie knew me as a little girl, between the ages of 1-8 when I would come with my mother and sister to visit grandmother. Back then we rode the bus everywhere because we only had one car and Daddy needed it for work.
Miss Katie Loved Our Visits.
Sometimes we would ride the bus to visit grandmother after I had a doctor appointment for strep throat. When I was about 4 I got a shot of penicillin in one hip and a vitamin shot in the other, which made me limp along pitifully with a hand on each injection site. Miss Katie always spoke of how cute and pitiful I looked walking like that.
Miss Katie’s Cedar Chest
Upon her death in 1959 Miss Katie gave her cedar chest, very likely her hope chest, to Grandmother Youngblood. When Grandmother died, she left the chest to me because of Miss Katie’s fondness for me. I actually remember her too, as well as being in her kitchen and living room and the beautiful irises and roses she cherished around her yard.
I enjoyed using the chest for many years and loved the beauty of its cedar finish and the wonderful cedar scent it never lost. After several moves it was stored in an outbuilding. Although frequent dry weather marred it’s beauty, I was able to renew some of the wood’s luster and moved it into my bedroom.
Time to Return Home
Several years later I decided it was time to send the chest back to its home. I contacted Miss Arlene Marcley, the curator of the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum in Greenville, SC about donating the cedar chest to them. I had enjoyed and kept it for myself long enough. But now the time had come for it to return to where it belonged.
Home at Last
The Jackson home-place on Welborn Street was disassembled in 2006 and relocated to 356 Field Street on a site dedicated to the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum in downtown Greenville, South Carolina.
The opening of the museum was in 2008 and is located across from a large baseball stadium. Old furniture, donations, mementos and awards of Joe and Katie fill the house. The kitchen and living room were refurbished with furniture and donations given by friends and made to look like it did when I was a child.
Now the museum has another piece of Miss Katie’s history to go in a room. Arlene and Bill Marcley were really excited to have the cedar chest. They had not known about it until I contacted them.
Donating the chest made me a little sad but a lot happier, knowing the chest is now where it should be: a place to help people remember Shoeless Joe and Miss Katie and to celebrate an amazing athlete from history.