Jackson, Weaver backers buoyed: Hopeful ban may be lifted for pair of 1919 Black Sox

January 6, 2004

Chicago Tribune
By Michael Hirsley

Now that the truth about Pete Rose’s betting on baseball is coming out, does a Rose by any other name smell as sweet?

If Rose gets past his past, can “Shoeless” Joe Jackson have his ban from baseball lifted posthumously?

Author Eliot Asinof says Rose’s high-profile case has eased the climate on bans and that Rose, Jackson and Buck Weaver, Jackson’s 1919 White Sox teammate, “should all definitely be reinstated into baseball.”

Asinof’s book “Eight Men Out” chronicles the Black Sox Scandal in which Jackson and seven teammates allegedly conspired to fix the 1919 World Series they lost.

Ray Allen, co-founder of the Shoeless Joe Jackson Historical Society, is encouraged by the prospect of Rose applying for reinstatement and initiating “a process with Major League Baseball that will at least create guidelines and a forum for us.”

The society has been seeking to have Jackson’s case revisited for more than two decades.

Chicago attorney Louis Hegeman, who drafted a petition to Commissioner Bud Selig on behalf of Jackson’s advocates, is less optimistic about a trickle-down from Rose’s case to Jackson’s.

“If baseball does anything for Pete Rose, it will be out of a calculated weighing of what they think the public reaction will be,” Hegeman said.

Jackson died in 1951 without complaining publicly about his punishment.

“Shoeless Joe suffers from the greatest impediment of all,” Hegeman said. “Unlike Rose, he can’t lobby for himself, go on talk shows. There’s not that great a groundswell of support for Joe Jackson. His strongest recent advocate, Ted Williams, died before Selig responded to his arguments.”

Selig has said repeatedly that the Jackson case remains under review.

Richard Levin, a spokesman for Major League Baseball, said, “I wouldn’t want to speculate on whether developments with Pete Rose would lead to other possibilities.”

Asinof believes Rose’s case has created “a climate now where reinstatement of heroic figures in the game should be considered. Baseball has lost its honorific glow. No sophisticated baseball fan thinks their heroes are that pure off the field. We now know that the great Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker were suspected of fixing games.

“It is unbelievable how great and inspirational a baseball player Pete Rose was, but he is not one of nature’s noblemen.”

Rose’s and Jackson’s bans should be lifted “because they were great ballplayers on the field,” Asinof said. Though Weaver lacked the Hall of Fame credentials of Rose and Jackson, Asinof said Weaver was a solid player “who never took a dime” in the alleged fix.

“Buck was innocent of the plot,” said David Fletcher of Champaign, one of the late Sox third baseman’s ardent supporters. On behalf of Weaver’s relatives, he has petitioned the commissioner’s office for Weaver’s reinstatement along with Jackson’s.

“I am clearly excited about what’s happening with Pete Rose,” Fletcher said. “I think if Selig can reinstate him to baseball, this is a crack in the window for restoring honor and respect for two men who have been wronged for 85 years.”

Similarly, Allen said, “If Major League Baseball is going to look at Pete Rose’s case, they should look at our case for Joe.”

The crux of the Jackson Historical Society’s argument is that he was not at the meeting with gamblers when the bribe was negotiated, that he tried to give the money back and that he played well in the Series. Jackson, whose .356 lifetime batting average is the third highest in history, led all hitters in the 1919 Series with a .375 average.

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