Shoeless Joe looms over ‘Field of Dreams’

‘Field of Dreams’ – They built it, he came

Shoeless Joe Jackson

Shoeless Joe Jackson may have been banned from baseball and kept out of the Baseball Hall of Fame but there’s no arguing he was one of the most beloved characters of “Field of Dreams.”

As played by Ray Liotta in Phil Alden Robinson’s 1989 classic about an Iowa farmer plowing under his corn to build a ball field for disgraced, long-dead ballplayers, he was the first of the spirits to arrive on Ray Kinsella’s (Kevin Costner) rural baseball diamond. And from there, he would invite the rest of his Black Sox teammates from the 1919 betting scandal, as well as other departed stars.

There are a few things to know about Shoeless Joe. He got his nickname at age 13 playing for a mill team in his hometown of Greenville, S.C. With his feet blistered from a new pair of cleats, he was in too much pain to put on shoes so he played in stocking feet. After hitting a bases-clearing triple, one fan was heard calling him, “You shoeless b…, you!” The moniker stuck.

The other thing is that the real Shoeless Joe batted lefthanded and threw right while Liotta’s version batted right and threw left. Robinson had hired Liotta partly because he was so impressed by the actor’s baseball skills, so the glaring inaccuracy, he felt, wasn’t that important, reasoning that no one alive at that time had seen Jackson swing a bat and that the movie, after all, was a fantasy.

Viewers can live the story again this week when “Field of Dreams” airs Thursday, Aug. 13, on Retro.

Full name: Joseph Jefferson Jackson

Born: July 16, 1887

Died: Dec. 5, 1951

Birthplace: Pickens County, S.C.

Height/weight: 6 feet 1 inch/200 pounds

Teams: Philadelphia Athletics (1908-09); Cleveland Indians (1910-15); Chicago White Sox (1915-20)

Position: Left field

Bats/throws: Left/right

No.: None. Players didn’t wear numbers on their uniforms until the late 1920s.

Career stats: In 4,981 at-bats, batted .356 (fourth highest in MLB history) with 54 home runs, 792 RBIs, a .423 on-base percentage and a .940 OPS

Honors and achievements: World Series champion (1917); Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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