Athletics history: When Shoeless Joe Jackson was sent to Cleveland

Once upon a time, in the early days in Philadelphia Athletics history, the franchise had a young Shoeless Joe Jackson. His trade was one of the worst in team history.

Back in the early days of Philadelphia Athletics history, manager Connie Mack was at the top of his game. His eye for baseball talent was extraordinary, as the A’s were about to embark on an impressive run in the early part of the 1910s. That eye brought him a young outfielder named Shoeless Joe Jackson, who Mack purchased from the Greenville Spinners of the Carolina Association.

While Jackson was a star in the southern leagues, he just could not replicate that success in Philadelphia. He had all of ten games in an A’s uniform, with just six hits and six RBI in 41 plate appearances. Mack knew that Jackson had the talent, but he also knew that the southern kid would not prosper in Philly, on a team comprised mainly of northerners who ridiculed Jackson’s literacy and heritage.

At the same time, the A’s were in search of another outfielder that could help their push for the postseason. As such, on July 23rd, 1910, they brought back Bris Lord, a solid outfielder who had been with the team from 1905 through 1907. In exchange, the A’s sent $6000, Morrie Rath, and a player to be named later. A week later, Jackson was sent to Cleveland as that other player.

Lord had a solid run back in Philadelphia. In his 318 plate appearances with Philly in 1910, he produced a .280/337/.146 batting line, hitting 13 doubles and 11 triples. His 1911 season was even better, as Lord produced a .310/.355/.429 batting line, with 37 doubles and 11 triples. He placed 14th in the MVP vote that year, but more importantly, the A’s won the World Series in both seasons.

However, Lord struggled in 1912. With the A’s still a contending team, Lord was shipped out, traded with Claud Derrick, cash, and a player to be named later (Ben Egan) to Baltimore in the International League. He would return to the majors for 73 games with the Braves the following season before heading back to the minors.

Rath only had 78 plate appearances with Cleveland, notching just 13 hits before he returned to the minors. He would make a few more trips to the majors, playing for the White Sox from 1912 through 1913, and later appearing with the Reds in 1919 and 1920. Ironically, he was part of the Reds team that defeated Jackson and the White Sox in that infamous World Series.

Jackson was the real prize of the trade. He immediately blossomed in Cleveland, surrounded by more southern players and away from a major metropolitan area like Philadelphia. Before he was traded to the White Sox over fears that he would bolt to the Federal League, he produced an incredible .375/.441/.542 batting line in his six years, with 168 doubles, 89 triples, and 138 steals.

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Shoeless Joe Jackson first broke into the majors in Philadelphia. However, he was part of one of the worst trades in Athletics history, traded for a player who is now remembered more for his unusual nickname – The Human Eyeball.

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