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Ask Athlon Sports: Baseball Hall of Fame

Q: Should “Shoeless” Joe Jackson be in the Hall of Fame?

— Glenn Zdziarski, Chicago, Ill.

A: One of the tragic figures in baseball lore, Jackson was embroiled in what was known as the Black Sox Scandal, in which members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to fix the World Series. While his defenders point to Jackson’s largely stellar play in that Series — he batted .375 and committed no errors — Jackson admitted to a grand jury that he had taken $5,000 from gamblers, due in part to owner Charlie Comiskey’s stinginess. Although Jackson apparently attempted to warn Comiskey of the fix, and despite the fact that he was acquitted by a criminal court of having any role, he was banned from the game by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, and he remains on the ineligible list, precluding his election to the Hall of Fame.

Would Jackson be in the Hall if not for the ban? Almost certainly, especially given the fact that he would have added more productive seasons to his ledger. As it is, his career totals, which were stunted by the ban, would probably be enough for induction were his candidacy presented in a vacuum. His lifetime batting average of .356 is third all-time; his adjusted OPS is ninth-best in baseball history; his 168 career triples are 26th-best all-time.

The real question is, should the ban be lifted? That’s a trickier subject. Baseball has always taken gambling as a deadly serious matter and a threat to the game’s integrity; hit king Pete Rose remains conspicuously absent from the Hall for betting on games. But we’re prepared to say that a posthumous lifting of the ban — Jackson died in 1951 — would be an appropriate gesture and would allow baseball to honor one of the greatest natural talents to swing a bat.

— Charlie Miller, Editorial Director

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