Another peek at baseball's good old days--or, in this case, bad old days--by veteran sports-historian Frommer (Growing Up at Bat, 1989, etc.).
Frommer's protagonist in this tale of tragedy and deceit is Shoeless Joe Jackson, whose reputation is undergoing a mini-renaissance thanks to Field of Dreams (1989), although probably not enough of one to propel him into the Hall of Fame (Jackson is widely considered to be the greatest player excluded from the Hall). Frommer paints Shoeless Joe as a baseball natural ("Joe Jackson hit the ball harder than any man ever to play baseball''-- Ty Cobb), an illiterate hick (his table utensils consisted of knife and fingers), and an innocent man snared by the greatest scandal in baseball history. The facts as laid out by Frommer (and many before him) convince: While seven teammates on the 1919 Chicago White Sox threw the World Series, Jackson played errorless ball and hit a spectacular .375. Nonetheless, Commission of Baseball Judge Landis, whom Frommer dislikes ("always one to have his own way, always one to go out of his way to make an extra dollar''), banned Jackson from the game for life. The man who batted .408 in his rookie year ended up playing pseudonymously in pick-up leagues throughout the South. A riveting appendix presents in toto Jackson's testimony before a grand jury investigating the "Black Sox'' scandal.
Otherwise, this biography-cum-history offers many small pleasures (among them, the fact that Jackson's autograph sold in 1990 for $23,100, the highest price of any 19th- or 20th-century signature) but no dazzle; for the Joe Jackson of myth, W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe (1982) can't be beat.