Historic July 16, 1923 Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis Autographed Letter as sent to Shoeless Joe Jackson Regarding MLB Reinstatement – PSA/DNA MINT 9
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The imperious Commissioner of Baseball wasted no time in informing the baseball world that the acquittal of the Black Sox in a Chicago courtroom a day earlier would free the accused only from the jail cell, and not from their banishment imposed at the close of the 1920 season. Public sentiment likewise continued to weigh heavily against the ballplayers despite their acquittal, the result of the mysterious disappearance of key evidence, including records of confessions and other incriminating statements made to the grand jury in the early stages of the investigation. When Jackson, Williams, Felsch and Weaver appeared together in a semi-pro game, The Sporting News was unsparing in its derision of the 3,000 spectators. “Just Like Nuts Go to See a Murderer,” it wrote.
The most visible figure in the greatest scandal in baseball history was arguably its most innocent. Considered by many to be the elite power hitter of his age, Joseph Jefferson Jackson had grown up poor and uneducated in rural South Carolina, working twelve hour shifts at a textile mill from the age of six. It was with the mill’s industrial league team that Jackson got his start in baseball, leading to his eventual escape from the stifling poverty of the region. But a life traveling between the great cities of early twentieth century America did little to bring sophistication to the superstar slugger. Baseball historians’ characterizations of Jackson’s participation in the conspiracy to throw the 1919 World Series typically range from “confused” to “unwilling.”
Many point to Jackson’s stats in the 1919 Series as proof of his innocence, his .375 average tops for the losing White Sox, and his Game Eight homer the only long ball posted. But Landis remained unmoved by these apparent mitigating factors, and with the presented letter he ended any hope for Jackson that he might return to Major League competition. The text, in full:
July 16, 1923
Mr. Joe Jackson,
Your letter, which is dated 7-29, came here in my absence and through an error in forwarding, was delayed in coming to my attention.
Before I can pass upon your application for reinstatement, it will be necessary for you to forward to me for consideration in that connection, a full statement in detail of your conduct and connection with the arrangement for the “throwing” of the World’s Series of 1919. I feel I should say to you that there will be no reinstatement of any player who had any connection therewith.
Very truly yours,
[signed] Kenesaw M. Landis
Today material related to Shoeless Joe and the 1919 World Series ranks among the most coveted in the baseball collecting hobby, and this may well be the most noteworthy and desirable piece ever to reach the public auction block. Landis’ confirmation of his merciless sentence must have been a devastating blow for the disgraced legend, and one which apparently arrived after nearly a year of tense anticipation. One can imagine Jackson’s wife reading this text to her husband as the terrible consequence of his misdeeds made its full weight known.
Single typed page on Landis’ personal letterhead exhibits original mailing folds but no other issues of note. Full Grading LOA from PSA/DNA, Mint 9. Full LOA from James Spence Authentication.