In the midst of researching a forthcoming post on the economics of sports bribery, we’ve been learning a heckuva lot about the backstory on Shoeless Joe Jackson, the baseball great whose legacy is tarnished by the Black Sox Scandal of 1919. We dig the fact that Jackson was a linthead who spent his childhood working in a textile mill, and would have stayed there were it not for Textile League Baseball. Because back before professional baseball was a vertically integrated monopoly, some of the greatest talent came up through company-sponsored teams that played in the hinterlands, where drunken, brawling crowds and hardscrabble fields were the norm. We particularly like this description of a certain Textile League diamond’s hazards:
A favorite target for Bill Osteen and his teammates in 1916 was an oak tree in center field at Poe Mill Park inside the fence. The ground rule was that “a person cannot take more than two bases on a ball hit to a field ornament.”
Check out a brilliant photo history of semi-pro Carolinas baseball here. The ladies team above didn’t consist of lintheads, but rather milkmaids.