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Looking back at the Cleveland Indians' acquisition of Shoeless Joe Jackson

Or how one Hall of Famer’s [asterisk] acquisition was one of the more lopsided trades in club history.

Even though Shoeless Joe is shown as a White Sox here, he actually played more games with Cleveland in his career.
Even though Shoeless Joe is shown as a White Sox here, he actually played more games with Cleveland in his career.
Michael Nagle/Getty Images

Way back in 1908, the Philadelphia Athletics had brought up a hot shot prospect from South Carolina. While the southern native had flourished in the Carolina Association, his play in the big city of Philadelphia was nothing short of awful. And in 1909, the pattern repeated itself, as he tore up the South Atlantic League, but again struggled mightily out of the Deep South upon his call up.

Manager Connie Mack knew he had a great player, but the combination of the big city of Philadelphia, and the constant ribbing of his teammates about his illiteracy meant he would likely never succeed with the Athletics. Instead of Mack giving it one more try in 1910, he made a deal with Cleveland on July 23 for Bris Lord (who had played for Mack from 1905 to 1907) and $6000 for Morrie Rath and a player to be named later. A week later, that player to be named later was announced as Joe Jackson [Note: the highest paid player in 1910 was $9000].

Cleveland allowed him to finish the season in the Southern Association with the New Orleans Pelicans and he played 24 games in September with the Naps. Cleveland was a much smaller town and most of his teammates were fellow southerners, so he fit in pretty well. He slashed 387/446/587 that month and solidified his spot in the Cleveland outfield. That 1032 equated to a ridiculous 221 OPS+ and a 212 wRC+ (1.4 bWAR and 1.3 fWAR).

Granted it was a small sample size, but manager Deacon McGuire had no problem putting him into the starting lineup the following year. And man did that pay off with one of the greatest three-year runs that not only the Indians saw but in all of baseball history. And Joe was far from a slouch in the outfield as he averaged 30 assists per season. Those 30 assists more than made up for the 15 errors he averaged.

In 1914, the upstart Federal League came into existence and tried to pry Jackson from the Naps, but he decided not to jump. But two starters did make the jump and with Nap Lajoie finally showing his age (he was 39), the Naps finished in last place for the first time. Jackson also missed 35 games with a broken leg in 1914. That winter, he headlined a vaudeville show and threatened to retire at 27. But between his wife and Cleveland owner Frank Somers, he finally reported. But Somers was in financial straits and needed to deal either Jackson or shortstop Ray Chapman to keep the newly named Indians soluble. Plus there were rumors that the Federal League was offering Jackson $10,000 a season, almost double his $6000 salary.

So Somers put him on the market. The Washington Senators offered a decent package, but Somers wanted more. White Sox owner Charley Comiskey ponied up a deal Somers couldn't refuse. Somers re-signed Jackson at $6000 per year for three more seasons, and then dealt him for pitcher Ed Klepfer, outfielder Braggo Roth and a ridiculous $31,500 in cash on July 30. [Outfielder Larry Chappell was named as a player to be named the following February].

Morrie Rath only played 24 nondescript games in Cleveland in 1910 and was lost to the White Sox in September 1911 Rule 5 draft after spending the year with the Baltimore Orioles of the Eastern League.

Bris Lord was decent in the last part of 1910 for the Athletics (136 OPS+) and good in 1911 (120 OPS+). But he struggled in 1912 (82 OPS+) and was traded to the Baltimore Orioles (this time in the International League) late in 1912. The Orioles then dealt him to the Boston Braves in May of 1913, which was his final major league season.

The final totals on the deal:

Athletics

Bris Lord

G

PA

2B

3B

HR

BA

OPS

OPS+

bWAR

wRC+

fWAR

1910

70

317

13

11

1

280

752

136

2.6

135

2.4

1911

134

631

37

11

3

310

784

120

3.8

118

3.8

1912

97

429

12

9

0

238

627

82

0.2

83

0.2

Total

301

1377

62

31

4

281

728

112

6.6

111

6.4

+ $6000 cash

Naps/Indians

Morrie Rath

G

PA

2B

3B

HR

BA

OPS

OPS+

bWAR

wRC+

fWAR

1910

24

78

3

0

0

194

239

68

0.1

72

0.1

Joe Jackson

G

PA

2B

3B

HR

BA

OPS

OPS+

bWAR

wRC+

fWAR

1910

20

86

2

5

1

387

1032

221

1.4

212

1.3

1911

147

641

45

19

7

408

1058

193

9.2

184

9.3

1912

154

653

44

26

3

395

1036

192

9.6

186

9.1

1913

148

623

39

17

7

373

1011

192

7.6

186

7.5

1914

122

513

22

13

3

338

862

156

4.6

153

4.3

1915

83

338

16

9

3

327

858

155

2.7

146

2.3

Total

674

2854

168

89

24

375

983

182

35.0

175

33.8

- $6000 cash

Net Result:

It is clear the Cleveland ball club won this trade. And while they might have lost out on the back end of the deal to the White Sox, financially that one was a clear win. But next week's post will address part of that tale.