Shoeless Joe Jackson and seven Chicago White Sox teammates were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Even though he was innocent, Jackson was still banned from baseball which cut short his stellar career. He remains on Major League Baseball’s Ineligible List which means he cannot be elected to the Hall of Fame unless his name is off the list. There have been efforts by some, including the late Ted Williams, to get Jackson removed from the list but to no avail. For over one hundred years, Major League Baseball has not changed its mind about Shoeless Joe Jackson.
Ray Liotta portrayed Jackson in Field of Dreams. The 1989 movie can still make grown men cry but didn’t soften the hearts of the MLB powers that be about Jackson. Liotta died in his sleep on May 26.
Field of Dreams 2 or fever dream
The following is not a script for Field of Dreams 2. But, maybe like Ray Kinsella in the fields of Iowa, a fever dream.
Setting: The great baseball diamond in the sky. There’s rustling in the outfield corn. Shoeless Joe Jackson breaks his steely gaze from home plate and turns. Ray Liotta emerges.
Jackson: Hey, kid.
Liotta: Joe…is this…
Jackson: Ray, I wanted to thank you for telling my story.
Liotta: (looking around, amazed) Uh, you’re welcome. I did my best.
Jackson: I batted left-handed and you batted right. Other than that, you did a great job.
Liotta: I talked about that in the interviews. Dead ballplayers didn’t come back to life either. (reaches in his pocket to take out his phone and Google interviews).
Jackson: What the heck is that?
[Liotta explains cell phones to Shoeless Joe]
Jackson: That was a lot. Let’s talk baseball.
Liotta: Yeah, you should be in the Hall of Fame.
Jackson: Baseball doesn’t want to be associated with betting at all. Once there was even a hint of that. I was done. They don’t change their mind about that kind of stuff.
Liotta: Well, a lot has happened in 100 years.
Jackson: I check in every now and then but I’m busy playing in a league up here.
Liotta: Pete Rose broke that asshole Ty Cobb’s record for the most hits.
Jackson: I can’t wait to see that SOB so I can rub it in.
Liotta: Rose ended up getting banned for betting on baseball when he was a manager. Can’t get into the Hall of Fame but is always signing autographs somewhere.
Jackson: And after that, the commissioner probably hated gambling even more.
Liotta: I can find out. What’s the WiFi password?
Jackson: Moonlight Graham.
Liotta: After Giamatti banned Rose, Fay Vincent ran baseball until ‘92. Vincent said because of the Rose case, ‘they were very adamant against betting. We saw the risks and the danger of corruption, and we saw that the mafia was involved in some of the things we investigated.’
Jackson: I told you! Baseball wants nothing to do with gambling. Even a hint of it. That’s why even though I put up the best numbers that World Series, I will never be in Cooperstown.
Liotta: The next commissioner hated it too. Bud Selig. Back in 2012 he said ‘gambling was evil, creates doubt and destroys your sport.’
Jackson: See! Baseball doesn’t change its mind about gambling.
Liotta: Well, in 2017, the Supreme Court made sports betting legal outside of Nevada.
Jackson: Ray…baseball doesn’t change its mind.
Liotta: Rob Manfred’s the commissioner. He says that betting, legal or not, is already happening. It’s a ‘form of fan engagement’ and ‘can fuel the popularity of the game.’
Jackson: If you build it, they will come…
Liotta: Sports betting is legal in a bunch of states now. You can bet right on your phone.
Jackson: And baseball’s okay with this?
Liotta: The league signs deals with sports betting companies that make them an “official gaming partner.” Instead of corn in the outfield they have advertisers, like DraftKings.
Jackson: So, the league does change its mind.
Jackson: And you can bet on who wins the game?.
Liotta: And the over/runs for runs, the run line, player props, there’s lots of things. No run first innings are popular now.
Jackson: And I’m not in the Hall of Fame? Or Pete Rose? Ray, ease my pain.
Liotta: Hey, Joe, wanna have a catch?
Jackson: I’d like that. But can we watch Goodfellas on your phone after?
Lead image Charlie Neibergall/AP