Baseball’s Untold Tale: Shoeless Joe Jackson’s Trial Exposed.

Unearth the untold trial of Shoeless Joe Jackson against the White Sox. Join Jacob Pomrenke and David J. Fletcher as they dive deep into baseball history. Beyond the Mic with Sean Dillon brings you their insights.

Welcome Jacob and David

We’re joined on the Starline by the editors of a book nearly 100 years in the making. “Joe Jackson, Plaintiff, v Chicago American League Ball Club, Defendant: The Never-Seen-Before Trial Transcript” has the complete testimony from Shoeless Joe Jackson’s courtroom trial against the Chicago White Sox and team owner Charles Comiskey. Jacob Pomrenke is chair of the Black Sox Scandal Research Committee of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and editor of Scandal on the South Side: The 1919 Chicago White Sox. David J. Fletcher is co-author of Chili Dog MVP: Dick Allen, the ’72 White Sox and a Transforming Chicago, which placed runner-up for the best Chicago nonfiction book of the year in 2022. We welcome the editors of this story Jacob Pomrenke and David J. Fletcher.

Friends, let’s go Beyond the Mic. Jacob, you’re the director of editorial content for the Society for American Baseball Research, why was this story the one you wanted to tell?

David, you’re an actual physician and medical director who developed the first national DOT medical certification training program. You’ve spent your life trying to clear Buck Weaver’s name. Why was this story important for you?

After combing through this testimony, what was the most damning fact that you saw?

David, you have testified in cases for medical trials. Joe was charged with perjury because his story “changed” over 4 years. Hell, if I ask you about something 4 years ago, would your story slightly change also?

Why was Joe done a disservice by his attorneys?

David, when you started to research this, what were your feelings for Joe and how did they change during this project? And your thoughts Jacob?

The Rockin’ 8:

It’s time for the Rockin’ 8, 8 random questions, answer with the first thing that comes to your mind. There is no Pressure.

1. Which in person baseball memory do you treasure the most?

2. Favorite current baseball player?

3. Both of you a simple, yes or no, will Pete Rose ever enter into the Hall of Fame?

4. Which baseball statistic is the one you wish could be revised or eliminated completely?

5. If you could create a new stat what would it cover Jacob?

6. Pro or anti shift?

7. 1st baseball game you ever attended?

8. Favorite non baseball place in Chicago?

The Back Half:

Will the complete story ever be known?

““Jackson stands self-convicted and self-accused of perjury,” the Judge said. Admonishing Shoeless Joe, “you came to the wrong state, to the wrong city, to the wrong court.”” Joe Jackson was fairly or unfairly punished?

The Houston Astros were caught banging a trash can and miniscule penalties were offered to the team, but nothing for the players. If Houston players would have been brought to Judge John J. Gregory, would there have been a different decision Jacob?


How has cheating in baseball evolved and how has it devolved the game into statistics, shifts and into the pitch clock generation?

With Iowa / Iowa State college teams being affected by gambling scandals, are they being pressured into participating like Joe Jackson?

How ironic was it that the son of the lawyer for Joe Jackson’s became the first executive director for the MLB Players Association?

Should there be a wing of the Hall of Fame for players of greatness on the field, but less reputable off the field aka the Steroid Era?

In or Out:

Should Joe Jackson be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame and will he ever? David?

By keeping Joe out rather than putting him in, he becomes an outcast, like Pete Rose. If you put him and Rose in they are one of many who may not have been a perfect man but one of many. By keeping him out you are giving Joe power.

Since you love baseball, who is the best and worst commissioner for baseball?

Do you believe the Baseball Writers of America do a fair job electing members into the hall of fame or has recency bias affected who gets in?

One Big Question:

Why do you love baseball and how has your love of the game changed?

The Wrap:

Nobody likes the hold stat but they both love baseball. “Joe Jackson, Plaintiff, v Chicago American League Ball Club, Defendant: The Never-Seen-Before Trial Transcript” is the book. We thank the editors Jacob Pomrenke and David J. Fletcher for taking the time to talk with us today.

And that my friends is Beyond the Mic.

Find other Beyond the Mic Conversations with authors here.

Find other Beyond the Mic conversations about baseball here.

Read more about Shoeless Joe Jackson book here.

What do you think?

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1 comment
  • All who are interested in the Black Sox Scandal owe a debt of gratitude to Jacob Pomrenke and David Fletcher for publishing the Joe Jackson civil trial transcript which contains material that is favorable to Jackson. As Gene Carney, the highly esteemed founder of the SABR Black Sox Scandal Research Committee and author of the landmark book BURYING THE BLACK SOX wrote after reading the transcript, “scapegoating Joe was part of the Comiskey cover-up.”

    Pomrenke writes in the Afterword, “The transcript sheds new light on Joe’s participation in the plot to fix the World Series”. It contains an exchange of letters that were presented in evidence between Comiskey and Jackson written in November of 1919 in which the ballplayer, responding to the owner’s offer to pay his expenses if he wished to return to Chicago to discuss the World Series, wrote via his wife that he wanted to clear his name and tell what he knew. As Carney wrote, Comiskey “brushed him off”. Joe’s detractors have expressed skepticism about his claim that he went to Comiskey’s office the day after the Series ended to show him the money and had the door slammed in his face. The transcript shows that Comiskey testified that he never asked Joe to come to his office after the Series, but later admitted on the stand that he did come, waited for an hour and the owner did not see him. When asked about his oft-quoted grand jury comment that he was “ashamed” of himself, Joe answered that he so testified at the “suggestion” of Alfred Austrian, evidence that he was coached by Comiskey’s attorney, who represented the owner’s interests, not Joe’s. As Richard Ofshe and Richard Leo write in “The Decision to Confess Falsely”, “an investigator can capitalize on the subject’s anxiety, fear and emotional turmoil by calling it remorse, and by urging him to respond to his emotion and express his remorse by confessing.”

    Grand jury testimony is often quoted in the transcript. Jackson’s attorney, James Shaw, skillfully exposes the incompetence of Assistant State’s Attorney Hartley Replogle during the proceedings. Not only did Replogle make no attempt to clear up the contradiction between Jackson’s testimony that he was part of the plot and yet always played to win, but he also failed to ask the ballplayer obvious questions that could have exposed the Comiskey cover-up. While he did ask Joe what he said to Chick Gandil when he saw him in Comiskey’s office the morning after the Series, Replogle failed to inquire why Jackson wanted to see the owner if the first place. Did he want to talk about the Series? The fix? Was he summoned to the office or did he go on his own? Was he surprised to see Gandil, the ringleader of the plot, in the waiting room? Did he ask him why he was there or what he intended to say to Comiskey? Instead of asking these obvious questions, Replogle astoundingly asked eleven straight questions about their drinking habits! Had he been asked, I believe Joe would have said that he wanted to show the owner the bribe money he had received from Lefty Williams.

    Joe startlingly testified that he “offered to come here last fall in the investigation, I would have told it last fall if they would have brought me in”, clearly referring to his November 1919 letter. Replogle failed to ask him to explain his offer, to whom it was made, how it was made, what he planned to tell them and what was the response. Brigham, the grand jury foreman, testified that he felt there was no reason to investigate Comiskey. Had he known about the exchange of letters, the foreman might have felt differently, would have wanted Comiskey to testify to explain why he reneged on his offer to bring Joe back to Chicago.

    The Index to the Trial Transcript indicates there were “discussions” between the players and the gamblers. The only “discussion” Joe had was with Bill Burns the morning of Game 1, when he told the gambler that he did not know what the players were planning. Replogle did not seek to clarify how Joe could have been part of the plot, as he testified, and yet did not know what they were plotting. Had he asked Jackson why he said he was a plot participant, the ballplayer might have answered that it was what Austrian “suggested” he say, and that after speaking with Burns, he was so alarmed that he went to Comiskey’s hotel room and asked to be suspended so that there could be “no question” that he was involved.

    Was Replogle really such an inept interrogator or was there something more sinister at work? As Carney wrote, “powerful figures and the establishment of baseball were interconnected with politics, the legal system and the press.” Comiskey, Austrian and Judge Charles McDonald, who presided over the grand jury hearing, were “powerful figures” who had been cronies for decades. Replogle might have realized that if he exposed the Comiskey cover-up he would provide Comiskey’s mortal enemy, Ban Johnson, with the ammunition he could use to destroy the owner and he would not ingratiate himself with these influential men.

    Pomrenke writes of Joe’s “own changing account about his role in the conspiracy.” The transcript shows Comiskey, Austrian and Harry Grabiner, the Sox team secretary, having questionable memory lapses and/or changing their accounts and appearing to be less that truthful in their testimony. While admitting he wrote Joe in November of 1919, Comiskey initially stated that he did not receive a letter from him shortly after the World Series. When asked if he would swear he received no letter, Comiskey responded, “I could swear that I didn’t–maybe I did. I don’t know.” He later admitted that Joe did write to him.

    Joe has been criticized for frequently testifying that he could not remember or did not say the things he said during his grand jury testimony. Comiskey also has memory problems stating, “I can’t remember all those things” and “Do you want a man to remember every little thing for years and years and years.” The owner’s attorney stated, “Nobody could testify just what they testified to because it is so long ago.” While admitting he was shown the November l9l9 letter Comiskey sent to Joe offering to pay his expenses if he wanted to return to Chicago to discuss the Series, Austrian testified that he did not recall what it said claiming, “My memory is not that good.” Grabiner testified that he could not remember receiving a letter from Joe offering to return to tell what he knew. He later changed his account testifying that he did remember the letter and that it had (conveniently) been “misplaced”.

    The transcript includes the testimony of Judge McDonald who claimed Joe told him in his chambers that “he was approached by Gandil in New York at the Ansonia Hotel…Jackson said he wouldn’t accept $5000, that that wouldn’t be sufficient for a common laborer to do a dirty trick…that would require $20,000…and that he did not play his best.” Joe emphatically denied saying this. Mcdonald told the ballplayer during a telephone conversation that he did not believe him when Jackson insisted he was innocent. The Judge said he was testifying from memory and not from notes. He clearly is confusing Joe with Lefty Williams who, in his grand jury testimony, said he was approached by Gandil in New York outside the Ansonia and that, “for $5000 I wouldn’t throw no World Series. That is not enough money for an ordinary working man to do a dirty trick.” Williams also said he could have pitched harder during the Series.

    Judge Gregory jailed Joe for perjury believing he was lying during the civil trial while telling the truth before the grand jury. I believe that had Gregory known the extent of Austrian’s coaching, he may have ruled differently. I think that Joe panicked after he was told by McDonald that he did not believe him. As Ofshe and Leo write, “both guilty and innocent suspects can be made to say…’I did it’,” especially if they are told, as I believe Joe was by Austrian, that they “will be unable to convince a prosecutor, judge or jury of their innocence”, and the innocent can be led “to believe that their situation, though unjust, is hopeless and will only be improved by confessing”, and that “an innocent individual may become more progressively distressed, confused and desperate as he is told of evidence that incriminates him.” Ofshe and Leo also write, “once a suspect fully appreciates his dismal situation, the investigator can influence him to admit guilt if he is led to believe that making an admission will improve his position…(and) offer to support or personally help only if he confesses.” I believe Austrian may well have told Joe that he Comiskey would look out for him, that they would keep him out of jail and would protect him and his wife from gangsters and gamblers. As Alan Dershowitz has written, “Jackson told two diametrically opposed stories, one confessing his guilt and the other protesting his innocence. Logic leads us to believe the first story was probably Austrian’s, the second Jackson’s.”

    At the trial closing, Judge Gregory stated, “it is undisputed that the plaintiff (Jackson) received $5000 from a source traceable to those interested in the conspiracy.” Joe did not deny that he took the money from the floor where it had been thrown by Williams during an argument about Jackson’s name being used with the gamblers without his permission. The transcript shows that Katie Jackson in her deposition stated she deposited the cash on December 1,1919. This has been known for years. Carney wrote about Joe’s wife putting the bribe money “in large bills” in the bank in his book published in 2007 I included it in my book published in 2020 where I wrote, “It is significant that he waited almost two months before making the deposit. He had tried to show the $5000 to Comiskey the day after receiving it and, I am also convinced, he would have brought it with him to Chicago if the owner had responded to his November 15, 1919 letter. Because he received no response, Joe decided in December that he may as well bank it.” As the transcript shows, Joe testified at the civil trial that, “He (Williams) didn’t want the damn stuff…since that lousy, so-called gambling outfit had used my name, I might as well have their money as for him.” He may have thought that he could put the money to good use by paying his sister’s medical bills. Was it a mistake to put the bribe money in the bank and make withdrawals for whatever reason? Yes, but in the context described, I believe an understandable one and one for which the punishment, banishment from baseball for life and exclusion from the Hall of Fame, does not fit the crime.

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