Redemption For 'Shoeless' Joe?

The World Series begins Saturday night. It's been a long wait for the Chicago White Sox who have not won a championship since 1917.

CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports that fans and friends of the fallen star of that team hope the hoopla could give their hero a second chance.

The White Sox home in Chicago's South Side is a world away from Greenville, S.C. But Joe Anders plans to root for his late friend's favorite team.

"Joe really liked the White Sox," Anders says.

Joe is "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, perhaps one of the greatest outfielders ever — and one of eight White Sox players charged with accepting a pay-off to throw the 1919 World Series.

"But he told me, he says, 'I am innocent of what they accuse me of,'" Anders says.

For decades, fans and baseball historians like Mike Nola have argued Jackson refused to fully participate in the fix.

"The guy hits .375. He has 12 hits, which was a World Series record," Nola says.

When the alleged conspirators were finally put on trial, either good fortune or Chicago shenanigans — take your pick — played a hand. Signed confessions from Shoeless Joe and his teammates mysteriously disappeared. Despite an acquittal, baseball's commissioner banned the eight from ever playing Major League Baseball again.

"I think if he had lost an arm, it wouldn't have hurt him any more," Anders says.

Jackson moved to Greenville, played for local textile plants, and became Anders' baseball mentor.

"This particular day," Anders recalls, "he called me and says, 'Come down here good buddy,' as he called me. He said, 'I want you to meet the greatest hitter to ever play the game of baseball.' He said, 'This is Ty Cobb.' Ty Cobb immediately said, 'No! He said Joe Jackson is the greatest!'"

Jackson has been great box office too in "Field of Dreams" and "Eight Men Out."

"This is a story that just will not die," says Lester Erwin, a distant relative of Jackson.

Erwin gets buried in letters. Many are from kids wondering why the ban was never lifted to make Shoeless Joe eligible for the baseball Hall of Fame.

"It's really neat cause they all just fall in love with Joe," Erwin says.

"Had there not been some of the scandals that have gone on with Pete Rose betting on baseball, with the steroids issue, Joe Jackson very well may have gotten his just due," Nola says.

But baseball's pariah has become a patron saint in Greenville. Ballparks, highways and even a statue give Jackson the honors baseball will not. And that saddens one of the last living men to know him.

"I miss him terribly. Baseball misses him," Anders says. "I'll keep at it as long as I'm around cause I believe in Joe."

After all, the chance for redemption, some say, is part of what baseball is all about.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com