Greenville, the mill, and Joe

Greenville was once known as the textile center of the world, owing to the booming textile business that thrived here from the late 19th century through two thirds of the 20th century. The western edge of Greenville County was home to the factories and the villages that housed the workers and their families. Many of the "mill hill" folk rarely traveled far beyond the borders of the village; after all, everything needed to sustain life was right there: The company store had food, clothes and shoes; and nearby West Greenville had everything else. Yes, life in the village was simple, compact and unadorned...but there was a passion, and it was Textile League Baseball

While most village dwellers did stay close to home, one young man broke the alluring bonds of being a "lint head" by becoming one of the greatest baseball players in the history of the game. Joseph Jefferson Jackson came like a shot of hot weave room air to the fields of Brandon. There, he caught the eye of baseball scouts and before long was on his way to the major leagues. However, "Shoeless" Joe’s stellar career ended with the scandal that "rocked the baseball world." Allegedly, he and seven teammates conspired with gamblers to influence the outcome of the 1919 World Series. To this day, Joe’s family, friends and baseball fans everywhere have urged Major League Baseball to reinstate Joe to baseball’s good graces by allowing him membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame, so far to no avail. Did Joe conspire to "throw" the Series? The statistics from that October classic do not reflect that of a man on the take; and Joe himself denied any wrong doing until his death in 1951. 

In any event, Joe’s on and alleged off field activities have made him a legend. Several popular plays and movies have included characters depicting Joe, the best of which is the movie Eight Men Out.  Furthermore, the field at Brandon where Joe honed his considerable skills inspired Greenville County to create the Shoeless Joe Jackson Memorial Park, complete with an entrance constructed of brick from the old Comiskey Park where Joe played for the White Sox. Today, a bronze statue of Joe stands in the City’s west end, and recently the city relocated Joe's Brandon home to a site across the street from the new downtown stadium, Fluor Field. Plans to convert Joe's old home place into a museum honoring him and textile league baseball are under way.

Regardless of what really happened in 1919, the legend of Shoeless Joe Jackson continues to grow... and so does the city of Greenville. No longer just a “mill town”, Greenville now boasts an impressive array of international companies and cosmopolitan residents; thriving and expanding, yet tempered by the southern charm you would expect to find here. 

Nearly one hundred years later, folks still debate    Joe’s exploits on and off the diamond. If you're visiting Greenville this Summer, take a trip out to Brandon. Perhaps when it's quiet, and a gentle summer breeze is blowing out to right field, you'll hear the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd as Joe circles the bases one more time. Perhaps… 

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 west end statue facing brandon
  brandon mill...where joe worked
brandon field today
   west greenville mural
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