Hello and welcome to Issue 014 of Shoeless Notes, the email newsletter for the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Baseball Library in Greenville, South Carolina.
It’s been a while since the last time you heard from us, and, well… A LOT has happened. So we’re going to use this as a way to catch y’all up on what we’ve been up to for the last six months or so.
Before we get to that, though, with the holidays around the corner and the end of the year fast approaching, we wanted to remind you that now is a great time to place an order for some holiday gifts or to make a donation to our museum. As a 501(c)3, all donations made to our museum are tax-deductible. If you’d like to make a donation via check, PayPal, credit or debit card, or even Venmo, CLICK HERE.
If you have a baseball fan in your life, we’ve got all sorts of gifts for them in our online gift shop. All memberships to our museum purchased from now until the end of 2021 will be for the 2022 calendar year and will come with a 2022 Member enamel pin. If you’d like to see what we have available in our online store, CLICK HERE.
If you’re more of an Amazon shopper, there is still a way for you to help support the museum with your shopping! Whether it’s during the holidays or any time of year, you can shop using the Amazon Smile program. Amazon Smile is a program which donates .05% of your eligible purchases on Amazon to the charity of your choice.
CLICK HERE to select our museum as your preferred charity, and then any time you use Amazon after that, just start by going to smile.amazon.com instead of simply going to amazon.com. Do your shopping as you normally would, and the donation will be made to our museum at no extra cost to you.
Okay, now that that’s all out of the way, let’s catch up! These past six months have been the busiest in our museum’s history, and while it has certainly been exhausting, it has also been incredibly rewarding. We were closed from December of 2019 until the last week in June of 2021. Those months, as you hopefully have seen, were spent working and preparing for this new chapter in our history. All of that work was being done behind the scenes, though, and we weren’t really able to share a lot of it with any of you.
The entire month of June was spent feverishly trying to get the museum ready. We were handed back the keys from the construction crew and had only a couple of weeks to turn a completely empty house and addition into a fully functioning museum and gift shop. If you were following @shoelessmuseum on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you saw a bunch of time-lapse videos and some of the planning that went into making it all happen. I was the one making all of the posts, but I certainly wasn’t doing all of that work alone.
Tom and Chris Whitehouse of ManCave Pictures provided nearly all of the images which are on display at the museum. We’ll talk more about ManCave in a future newsletter to shed light on exactly how incredible their work is, but suffice it to say that our museum has gotten the rave reviews it’s gotten since opening again thanks, in large part, to the amazing job they did for us. Chris lives overseas, but Tom flew down from Virginia to help me layout, frame, and hang all of the pictures he and his brother supplied.
Lori Wallach, Tom Whitehouse of ManCave Pictures, and Dan Wallach on June 25, 2021, the day the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Baseball Library finally reopened.
My mom, Lori, was also an enormous help, as always. You may know her from the wildly popular segment “What’d Ya Think, Mom?” on the smash-hit podcast, My Baseball History. You may know her as the scorekeeper at the Vintage Base Ball games we play every year. You may even know her as one of the docents at our museum. But I just know her as Mom. She’s always been there to help with everything, and the museum wouldn’t have reopened when it did (or possibly at all) without her tireless efforts.
We finally reopened on June 25, which meant the month of July was our first full month being open again. With our new schedule, July was also the first month in our history which saw the museum open every single day. By the time July was over, more than 1,500 people had been through the doors to see us. It was so gratifying to see everyone’s reactions hear their feedback and to finally be able to share all those months of hard work. I can’t tell you the number of times people have thanked us for being open or mentioned how they’ve been wanting to come to the museum for years, but it had always been closed when they tried.
In the months during baseball season, we were open 7 days a week, from at least 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. In non-baseball months, we’re closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Those hours have allowed thousands of people to visit us in the 5 months since we’ve been open, and will hopefully encourage many more to do the same in the future.
We have been extremely lucky to have found a group of volunteers to fill all those hours being open to the public. In July, we solidified our list of volunteers, trained them (or, in some cases, re-trained them with the new displays, exhibits, and stories), and set them loose. The personal touch our volunteers add to the experience is something that sets our museum apart.
Can you walk through without them? Sure. But to have them with you, telling you stories about who Joe and Katie were as people, telling little anecdotes about Joe’s playing career, and dispelling the myths many people believe after having seen Eight Men Out or Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary makes a tour truly memorable.
Without the unwavering dedication of our volunteers, our museum wouldn’t have been able to operate the way it has been. The volunteers who have so generously given their time to us since we’ve been open have included Tom Blaha, Anthony Grego, Wynn Herbert, Randy Knight, Jan Lemay, Mike Miller, Art Mills, Gregory Palovich, Barry K. Patterson, Janice Sastre, Steve Skipwith, Jamie Thaemert, Lori Wallach, and Ken Wentzel.
If volunteering sounds like something that interests you, send me an email at [email protected] with the subject line “VOLUNTEER” and I’ll reach out soon with more information.
One of the clues of the scavenger hunt on Joe’s birthday. Can you guess where this balloon was?
One more thing in July was Joe’s birthday. On July 16, Joe would have turned 124 years old. In honor of his birthday, I made a little scavenger hunt all over Greenville. At five different spots which hold significance to Joe’s life and career, I put a balloon, a little piece of cake, a birthday card, a baseball, and a free membership pin. I didn’t say where the places were, I just posted pictures zoomed in on the balloon. By looking in the reflection of the balloon, and using the context clues of some of the captions, people were able to locate all five throughout the course of the day. Then they brought their membership pin to the museum and took a tour. It was a great day, and a fun way to celebrate and remember Joe.
Joe’s 1949 South Carolina driver’s license, which features his authentic signature at the bottom, was sold at auction in August of 2021.
On August 7, Joe’s 1949 South Carolina driver’s license was sold at auction. That piece is significant because it is one of the few items which has surfaced all these years later which Joe actually owned and touched, but it is also rare and valuable because it has Joe’s real signature on it. Very few authenticated signatures exist of Joe’s, and most of them are on legal documents. By the time the auction ended, the winner had bid more than $120,000 to own this incredibly unique piece of history.
A few days later, on August 12, Joe’s name was trending on all of the social media platforms again. The White Sox and Yankees played a regular-season Major League game at the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa. It was the first game ever held at the site, and the first MLB game ever played in Iowa. An 8,000-seat stadium was constructed adjacent to the field where the movie was filmed, specifically for the game. Tim Anderson of the White Sox hit a walk-off home run into the corn to beat the Yankees. It’s been called the first-ever stalk-off home run in baseball history. I know it’s kind of corny, but I like the sound of it anyway.
The Field of Dreams game couldn’t have been scripted any better.
The game was a very special event, so as soon as it was announced that they would be playing there, I knew I had to go if there was any possible way to make it happen. Thanks to the support of everyone on social media and a couple of big favors, I was one of the 8,000 extremely lucky people to have been at the game. A tweet I made at the game about mailing an ear of corn and a museum membership to a contest winner was seen by over 340,000 people. It was a day I’ll never forget. If you want to hear all about it, come visit the museum and I’ll talk your ears off!
We’re on to September, now, which was an amazing month for us. One of our supporters, a long-time Joe Jackson fan from the Chicago suburbs named Wally Papciak, decided he was going to go on a bike ride. From September 16-20, Wally rode 356 miles from his home in Des Plaines, Illinois all the way to Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan as a way to raise money in support of our efforts to promote literacy.
Wally Papciak went on a 356-mile bike ride in honor of Joe Jackson to raise money for our museum.
Wally’s route took him along bike trails, local roads, and minor highways to make it as safe as possible, while also making the total mileage come out to exactly 356, an homage to Joe Jackson’s prodigious lifetime batting average. If you follow us on social media, you saw our posts all that week as we followed Wally’s journey. He made it into more than just a bike ride, though. He turned it into a history lesson, telling us interesting facts about all of the places he stopped and passed along the way before ending up in Detroit. Thanks to Wally’s tenacity and enthusiasm, we raised over $5,500! We couldn’t be more thankful, and it allowed us to jump-start an enormous project, which we’ll get to in a minute.
October saw another major auction bring Joe Jackson’s name into the headlines again. Early in the month, a photograph allegedly signed by Joe in 1911 sold at auction for $1.47 million, setting the record for the highest price ever realized for an autographed sports photo. There have been some very heated debates as to the legitimacy of the claim that the photo was actually signed by Joe, and while we firmly believe it was not actually signed by Joe Jackson, the price realized just goes to show how highly sought-after memorabilia related to him still is.
The 2021 Shoeless Joes in our new vintage uniforms.
On October 30, our museum played our annual Vintage Base Ball Games, a tradition which started in 2009. This year, the games were held in Royston, Georgia, hosted by the Ty Cobb Museum. Our team was made up of 14 players from all over the country who have grown to become like a second family at this point. Our team won both games, improving our record all-time against the Peaches to 10-2. Next year’s games will be held in Greenville, so if you’re interested in either playing in the games or coming to watch, let me know.
In November, we announced the first-ever Joe Jackson Card Art set. The 20-card set comes in a hand-numbered box and will be limited to 356, in honor of Joe’s lifetime batting average. I invited 20 artists from all over the world to create their own take on a baseball card of Joe, so the front of each card is completely unique to each artist’s style and design. The layout on the back of the cards was done by Mike Mottolese, who also created the box design.
The first-ever Joe Jackson Card Art set. 20 cards in a hand-numbered box, limited to 356.
The set goes in chronological order, progressing through Joe’s life and career with each card. On the back of each card, the top half gives a little bio about the artist who created the front. The bottom half tells a continued narrative about Joe’s life and career, and when all 20 cards are read in order, you’ll get the whole story. It was an honor to work with so many talented artists, and we couldn’t be prouder of how everything in the set turned out. Not to mention, it’s for a pretty great cause. Proceeds will go toward furthering our efforts to promote literacy. To order your set, CLICK HERE.
We keep talking about literacy. Wally’s bike ride raised money to further our efforts to promote literacy. Proceeds from the sale of these card sets will go toward furthering our efforts to promote literacy. But what, exactly, does that mean? What are we actually doing to promote literacy? Well, that brings us to December.
At 9:00 am on December 5 at Shoeless Joe Jackson Memorial Park in Greenville, we are officially unveiling the first box in our ongoing community book box project. This project has been months in the making, and we are thrilled to finally be at a place to launch. We have partnered with Greenville County’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism who have agreed to let us place these boxes full of free books at any ballpark in Greenville County.
Eventually, there will be dozens of these boxes all over South Carolina, and hopefully beyond. But the first one will be placed at 406 West Avenue at the ball field by Brandon Mill – now called Shoeless Joe Jackson Memorial Park – where Joe played baseball as a 13-year-old for the Brandon Mill men’s team in the Textile League.
Community book boxes will be filled with books and placed all over Greenville County by the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Baseball Library to promote literacy.
The box was designed by Mitchell R. Ransdell and Thomas (Ben) Rishforth and will be filled by our museum with baseball books and children’s books. Once placed, the understood agreement is that if you take a free book from the community book box, you just have to replace it with another book you brought from home. That way, the boxes will never go empty, and there should be an ever-rotating selection.
We have partnered with Soteria At Work to build boxes for us in the future. Their mission is to provide transitional job opportunities to people who face significant obstacles to employment. SAW gives people the opportunity to reclaim their lives as they build job skills and rejoin the workforce. They are working to make sure people are given the second chance in life which Joe never got from baseball, and we are honored to be working with them.
To learn more about our community book box project, or to sponsor a box, CLICK HERE. Also, if you’re in the area, please feel free to join us at Shoeless Joe Jackson Memorial Park at 9:00 am on Sunday, December 5 as we unveil the first box. We chose December 5 because that is the 70th anniversary of Joe’s passing, and we couldn’t think of a better way to honor him than to officially unveil our first box at his park that day.
Each newsletter, we’re going to spotlight one new member as a token of our appreciation. This issue, we’d like to tell you a little bit about Teresa (Kennedy) Slack, who recently became a member.
New member and local Greenville historian Teresa (Kennedy) Slack.
Teresa moved to West Greenville in 2008 and immediately fell in love with the local history. After meeting historian Don Koonce, they started working together on a documentary about the textile industry. Over the next six years, Teresa had the privilege of interviewing several people who knew Joe Jackson. Teresa became the historical director for the film, which was released under the name Building An Empire: The Textile Center Of The World.
Teresa isn’t a huge baseball fan, but she had heard about the Black Sox Scandal years ago. After listening to stories about Joe from people who knew him, Teresa learned a lot about the man behind the scandal. That he was a very kind and humble man. The people she interviewed were children when Joe returned to Greenville, and several told stories of a man who always took time to teach the local boys the game of baseball. When young kids knocked on the door of his liquor store, Joe never turned them away. He would instruct them to stay outside and would return with a chair, and the youngsters would ask Joe to tell them stories of playing in the big leagues.
Toward the end of the film, there are several interviews. One gentleman, Ray Morgan, talks a good bit about Joe Jackson. Ray’s father coached the Brandon Mill team when Joe returned and was managing at Woodside Mill. While Teresa didn’t start out as a huge baseball fan, she has learned that Joe Jackson is so much more than the scandal which follows his name. She’s learned about his kindness and devotion to his family, friends, and to Greenville, at large.
Teresa has also been a big help with our museum, especially when it comes to the Textile Room. She is happy to be a member of our museum, helping to preserve and teach this part of Greenville’s rich history. Anyone who wants to view her documentary can do so if they CLICK HERE. I highly recommend it.
If you want to have a chance to be the new member we spotlight in our next newsletter, you can BECOME A MEMBER of our museum at whichever level best fits your current budget.
As always, thanks for being here. Until next time…