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The ‘Emperor Of Baseball’ Halts Shoeless Joe’s Run At The Hall03:27
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MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred denied a request to reinstate Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was banned from baseball in 1920. If reinstated, Jackson would have been able to be elected, posthumously, to the baseball Hall of Fame. ( Elsa/Getty Images)
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred denied a request to reinstate Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was banned from baseball in 1920. If reinstated, Jackson would have been able to be elected, posthumously, to the baseball Hall of Fame. ( Elsa/Getty Images)
This article is more than 4 years old.

"Shoeless" Joe Jackson had a career batting average of .356 — the third highest in baseball history. The former outfielder played in MLB from 1908 to 1920 before being banned by then-commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis for his alleged role in the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Eight members of the White Sox allegedly took money to throw the 1919 World Series.

The Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum in Greenville, South Carolina, recently sent letters to current MLB commissioner Rob Manfred calling for the ban on Jackson, who died in 1951, to be lifted. Manfred denied the request. Only A Game's Bill Littlefield responds.


Years ago, in a conversation with a friend of mine who is a fine poet, I mentioned, for some reason, the Commissioner of Baseball.

My friend is not a baseball fan. She smiled.

“The Commissioner of Baseball,” she said. “It sounds like the Emperor of Ice Cream.”

Even in arenas other than the ones in which games are played, there should be space for forgiveness and mercy.

I had not thought of such fellows as Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Bowie Kuhn, and A. Bartlett Giamatti in that context. Perhaps I should have. I knew the Wallace Stevens poem titled “The Emperor of Ice-Cream.” I especially liked the poem’s refrain: “The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.” It has always seemed to me a fine deflating of emperors in particular and in general of people who take themselves too seriously.

This week, there’s more evidence that my friend had the right idea.

Baseball, like ice cream, is dessert.

Work, family, and friends are the main course.

But baseball is also a business, and so it must have a commissioner, and such has been the case since the owners hired Judge Landis to rescue their business from ridicule after the so-called Black Sox Scandal. Part of the commissioner’s strategy was to ban eight members of the Chicago White Sox from baseball, never mind the failure of a jury of their peers to find them guilty. If Landis could have deprived the Black Sox of ice cream, he’d probably have done that, too.

This week, Commissioner Manfred declined to overrule Judge Landis, whose judicial decisions were frequently overturned. Joe Jackson, one of the so-called Black Sox, remains ineligible for membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Coincidentally, the Pope, who might be characterized as the Emperor or Commissioner of the Catholic Church, chose this week to exercise compassion and forgiveness, at least over the period of one year.

He authorized priests throughout the world to extend the sacraments of the church to women who’d been denied that opportunity for committing what previous Popes regarded as an especially grievous sin.

It’s a shame the Commissioner of Baseball can’t see that sometimes departing from tradition is wise as well as charitable. Even if Joe Jackson, unsophisticated even by the standards of ballplayers in 1919, understood the mechanics and implications of the Black Sox Scandal, should his shame endure into eternity?

Even in arenas other than the ones in which games are played, there should be space for forgiveness and mercy.

Where’s the Emperor of Ice Cream when we need him?

Related:

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.

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