This is, without a doubt, the worst book on Shoeless Joe and the 1919 World Series. Hornbaker''s book can hardly be considered history. There is no historiography here, for starters. The author cites nothing but original newspapers in his research, omitting...
This is, without a doubt, the worst book on Shoeless Joe and the 1919 World Series.
Hornbaker''s book can hardly be considered history. There is no historiography here, for starters. The author cites nothing but original newspapers in his research, omitting endnotes for stories that he clearly lifted from other writers on the subject. Even worse, Hornbaker takes the newspaper reporting of the 1910s at face value, providing no context to stories that are well known as being overly embellished and exaggerated. Long-discredited anecdotes resurface, such as the story of Lefty Williams being threatened before the 8th game of the 1919 World Series (a story that Eliot Asinof later admitted came solely from his own imagination) and the infamous kid outside the courthouse asking "It isn''t true, Joe, isn''t it?" And, worst of all, Hornbaker doesn''t even treat the newspapers right, citing only individual papers and articles that support his point and ignoring the rest. There is no bibliography, perhaps because this would call attention to how little research Hornbaker really did.
Even after picking and choosing his sources carefully and ignoring everything else, Hornbaker can''t get his story right. Was Jackson truly illiterate or only partially so? Different passages of this book indicate different things. Was Jackson a brilliant businessman who turned his meager salary into a financial bonanza, or was he so poor and destitute that he had no choice but to take crooked money? We''ll never know, since Hornbaker argues both points, sometimes in the space of only a few pages. Was Jackson a natural genius who was undereducated, or was he an ignorant hick who fell because he was victimized? Here, Jackson is smart when he needs to be, and is utterly dumb and naive when it helps argue his innocence.
The whoppers in this book could start their own fast food chain. After Hornbaker presents the extremely scant and unconvincing evidence that Jackson may have had an affair in 1915, he tells us that this tryst was clearly the worst decision of Jackson''s life. I suppose that taking $5,000 from Lefty Williams was a brilliant move in comparison. After several chapters depicting Jackson''s role in the World Series fix, including clear insinuations that Jackson''s play was not always on the level, Hornbaker turns in the final chapter to pronounce that there is no evidence that he did anything wrong in 1919, and that he should have never been barred from the game. Most damning of all is a picture caption claiming that the 1919 White Sox are "considered by many experts to be the greatest ballclub in major league history." One could make the case that they were a better club than the 1919 Reds, but I''ve never seen anybody claim that they are the greatest team of all time - "expert" or amateur fan.
Above all, the writing stinks. Hornbaker doesn''t seem to know basic English phraseology. Words like "however," "though," and "but" are sprinkled around at random, with no thought given to how they fit in the overall logical structure of the paragraph. Where was the copy editor?
Hornbaker should be ashamed of this work. It was a slog to read through, was full of inaccuracies, and should not be considered a proper work of baseball history. It is appalling that this book was a finalist for the SABR Ritter Award in 2017. I seriously doubt that anybody on the committee actually bothered to read it.