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Photo by Milton Morris
"Shoeless Joe" Jackson's old home, restored and opened as a museum in 2008, showcases his achievements and memorabilia. Founder Arlene Marcley holds a Louisville Slugger like the bats the company made for Shoeless Joe during his playing days. Items on display include a baseball left on Jackson's grave, inscribed by a young fan: "Somehow I know you are the greatest ever."
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Photo by Milton Morris
Located at the corner of Main and Augusta streets, the “Shoeless Joe” Jackson plaza features a life-size statue of the baseball legend.
“Welcome to Joe’s house!” Arlene Marcley greets her guest cheerfully at the door of a tiny brick bungalow, the home of a baseball legend.
Inside is a veritable shrine to Joseph Jefferson Wofford Jackson, the famed “Shoeless Joe” of the Chicago White Sox. Baseball fans know Jackson’s sad tale—banned for life from the game he loved after he and seven others were accused of conspiring to throw the 1919 World Series. But Jackson’s saga all started and ended in South Carolina.
“Joe’s house,” where Jackson lived and died, is now the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Baseball Library in Greenville. Filled with Jackson memorabilia, his restored house gives the phenomenal ballplayer due hometown recognition, thanks largely to Marcley’s efforts.
“Anything to do with Joe Jackson is a treasure,” says an admiring Marcley.
Marcley discovered Shoeless Joe in the 1990s while working for Greenville’s mayor. Fans phoned the mayor’s office frequently, seeking details about the city’s famous native son. Marcley did some research, became a dedicated Jackson fan, and founded the nonprofit museum, where she leads tours to share Jackson’s story.
Born in Pickens County in 1888, Jackson moved to Greenville’s Brandon Mill village as a child when his dad took a job at the cotton mill. Jackson began working in mills himself at age 6, never attending school. By 13, he was working 12-hour days, but he was also a star on the textile mill’s men’s baseball team.
His extraordinary talents—Babe Ruth reportedly called Jackson’s swing “the perfectest”—earned him a spot with the minor league Greenville Spinners. He quickly rose to the majors in Philadelphia, Cleveland and, finally, Chicago. Acquitted of wrongdoing in the World Series scandal by a Chicago jury, Jackson was nevertheless banned for life from professional baseball in 1921.
Jackson and wife Kate eventually came home to Greenville and built their bungalow in 1940. Despite his ban, Jackson found ways to enjoy baseball again, teaching neighborhood kids how to bat, managing local mill teams and playing exhibition games with barnstorming teams.
“He’d play under an assumed name, but people knew it was Joe Jackson, and they’d come to see him play,” Marcley says.
In 1951, Jackson suffered a heart attack and died in his home’s front bedroom. That sunny yellow room now features a life-size cutout of Jackson, surrounded by game photos and articles, old gloves, uniforms and fan tributes. The home’s entry hall tells the tale of how a pair of too-tight shoes, abandoned mid-game, earned Jackson his nickname. Its wood-paneled office is a library with more than 2,000 books about Jackson’s life and baseball.
Decades later, baseball fans still admire Jackson’s achievements and debate his guilt. Meanwhile, Marcley has launched a new petition to lift his ban, in hopes of clearing his path for admission to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Visitors can sign the petition in Jackson’s old living room or on the museum’s website.
“All his life, Joe said he never did anything to throw that game,” Marcley says. “I want to see his name cleared.”
Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Baseball Library is at 356 Field St., Greenville, across from Fluor Field.
HOURS: Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Private tours by appointment.
ADMISSION: Free. Donations and gift-shop purchases help support operations.
DETAILS: (864) 346-4867; shoelessjoejackson.org
Greenville’s ‘Shoeless Joe’ Jackson sites
Shoeless Joe statue and plaza, corner of South Main and Augusta streets: A life-size bronze statue of Jackson swinging his bat, on a base built with bricks from Chicago’s old Comiskey Park, where the White Sox played.
Shoeless Joe Jackson Memorial Park, 406 West Ave.: The baseball field where Jackson once played, beside the old Brandon Mill, is just off Shoeless Joe Jackson Memorial Parkway on U.S. 123. Every odd year, the park hosts the Vintage Games, an old-style doubleheader between teams representing the Jackson museum and Georgia’s Ty Cobb Museum. Next date: Oct. 24 at 10 a.m.
Jackson gravesite, Woodlawn Cemetery, 1901 Wade Hampton Blvd.: Joe and Kate Jackson’s graves are usually covered with baseballs, shoes, gloves and other paraphernalia left by fans. Guided directions to the gravesite are on the museum’s website.