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It just ain’t right

 

Mary Jane Owen
Columnist

  It just “ain’t” right! Here it is, frost on the ground in Henry County and we have no World Series conclusion. I never will adjust to the playing of America’s favorite pastime, baseball, and winding up the season in a World Series that is played at winter’s door step. It has not always been thus. I recall that on my wedding day in early October of 1958, we had to insist that the men turn off the TV so the ill-fated ceremony could take place. The Milwaukee Braves, after winning the previous year,  got knocked out in the final game. A November World Series ain’t right.  And as for who will or should win, I really do not care.

   I’m harkening back to my Dad who shared his love for and stories of the game. He was a young, avid baseball fan when the 1919 series in which the Chicago White Sox (aka Black Sox) “threw the game.” The big target of the “fix” was placed firmly on the back of one Joe Jackson, “Shoeless Joe” as he was better known, was a South Carolinian. His tale is worth telling as an example of what can happen when some power mongers get a’hold of an innocent, unschooled guy, and laying down a sorry legend that nearly ruined the game. For sure it ruined “Shoeless Joe.” 

  While I’m no expert, there exists today strong evidence that Shoeless Joe was, in fact, an easy target for a mean owner, Charles Comiskey, an even meaner sportswriter, Hugh Fullerton, and a well-known racist, “Kennesaw Mountain” Landis, baseball’s first Commissioner. Evidence strongly suggests that Joe played to win, and in fact alerted Comiskey prior to the series that a “fix” was on. He was ignored. Truth be told, and I think this is the real issue, he was an illiterate, poor boy who went to work at the age of six sweeping floors in one of the local textile mills. Fortunately he was a natural and gifted athlete and was able to attract attention when he was allowed, at the age of twelve, to play on the owner-sponsored baseball team. Mill teams were popular, highly competitive and were often a good source for recruiting major league talent. Owners encouraged this competition because it built loyalty to the team, the town they represented and kept the players from complaining about their long hours and meager pay.

  Joe played successfully first for Connie Mack’s Phillies and became a game changer when traded to the Chicago White Sox. Babe Ruth himself declared Jackson one of the best and most natural hitters he had ever seen. Sox owner, Comiskey was known for his arrogant, parsimonious and often cruel treatment of his players. As the World Series approached, the Sox were primed to seek better compensation which they could achieve by the prospect of a payoff by a group of big time gamblers who made promises of $100K per player if they would “throw” the game. Joe was invited to enter in, but refused several times to join in the fun. Despite making Comiskey aware of the impending fix, he was denounced and certainly ignored. Game on, Joe unconditionally played to win, clearly shown by an examination of the stats. No matter, he did take a pittance, about five thousand dollars and therein dirtying his hands and for time to come bore the undeserved blame for the fix.

  Upon investigation, it was discovered that Comiskey himself was about to “get his tail caught in a crack” which would jeopardize his status and so along with the other power mongers, including the new Commissioner of Baseball, “Kennesaw Mountain” Landis, he knew that Joe in particular had little, if any, idea about how to defend himself. After all he was the butt of many jokes, ignorant and an easy target, they pinned the blame on Joe for the besmirching of America’s favorite pastime. As for Joe, he lamely objected but finally just took it on the chin.

  Joe’s story brings to mind the bigger picture wherein the poor and ignorant even today often remain thus because they provide a ready market for the powerful, rich, greedy and unethical who bolster their social and financial status. Nourishing a cadre of weak, disenfranchised, illiterate folks can be the source of building great fortunes. History bears this out. Inhibiting the poor masses their ability to learn, diminishes the opportunity that they can live the American dream. Is this not the real reason we cannot agree on what to do with those “illegal immigrants” who are willing to do the hard labor that others are unwilling to do, and to continue to measure the worth of a child’s ability to learn on the basis of standardized tests which even the educators themselves have a difficult time analyzing, forcing them to spend their time “managing” rather than providing authentic, interesting instruction?

  It seems to me, old and foolish as I may be, that we have this thing all wrong. Ought we not to support anything that helps the downtrodden to better themselves, enabling them to earn their own way, hence boosting a sagging economy? That would be mutually beneficial AND just. It is a fact that we spend, as a nation, far more operating prisons filled with the illiterate or under educated than we do on public schools. If we put ourselves to thinking and encourage our politicians to look at budget reduction through a different lens, we may find therein a solution. I just wish we’d quit squabbling, think beyond our own selfish needs and do what is right by creating opportunities for building human dignity, equal access and opportunity and freedom and justice for all. If we don’t, it ain’t right.

   

  Mary Jane Owen is a veteran educator. She has two children and one grandson. She’s an avid Braves fan, reads, writes, and gardens.

 

 

 

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