Sunday, October 23, 2005

Shoeless Joe

At the top of the front page of the Lifestyle section in Friday’s Houston Chronicle, a…character appeared next to the Texas star: a sock puppet with an Astros batting helmet on top.

There was a little balloon that said, “Hi! I’m Shoeless Joe, the sock puppet. I will be commenting on the World Series right here each day.” Below the balloon was Shoeless Joe’s tip o’ the day: Never name your team after something you wear in PE class…And remember, White Sox stink!

It caught my attention for several reasons. First, this odd puppet is named after left fielder ‘Shoeless Joe’ Jackson, a member of the infamous 1919 scandal that hit the Chicago White Sox – and sports fans throughout the US – like a bomb. The accusations of conspiring with gambler Arnold Rothstein to throw the 1919 World Series to Cincinnati.

It led to a famous expression in the 1920s. During the trial of eight accused Sox players (including Jackson), A small boy outside the courtroom tearfully shouted to his tarnished hero, Jackson, “Say it ain’t so, Joe!”

So reason #1 was, why name a sock puppet “Shoeless Joe?” Just to hit back at Houston’s World Series adversary, Chicago? Seemed tasteless to me.

Second weird reason: the “Shoeless Joe’ puppet hasn’t shown up in the newspaper since. Maybe I’ve overlooked it. Can’t find it on the Chronicle’s Web site, either. So. Maybe somebody complained. Maybe somebody who actually knew about the ‘Black Sox’ scandal tipped the word to the Sports editor.

In any case, the sock puppet is missing in action. And good riddance, too: not only juvenile, but unfunny…especially to people who still revere Joe Jackson.

Which impels me to offer you a Web site: – that’s where, to this day, fans who remember ‘Shoeless Joe Jackson’ have put up their defense of the Sox hero. (And that’s the source of the terrific baseball photo, the real Jackson, to give credit where it’s due.)

Named after Jackson’s bat, this is a great site not just for baseball fans, but for everyone who’s interested in the impact of sports on American culture. Check it out. And if the sock puppet shows up again, let me know.

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