2023 W. Floyd Allison History Award

The winner of the 2023 W. Floyd Allison award is Claire Gilfillan.

Below is her winning essay:

“Shoeless” Joe Jackson
Claire Gilfillan

Joeseph Jefferson Jackson, known as “Shoeless Joe,” was born on July 16, 1887, in Brandon Mills South Carolina. Jackson grew up poor, never learned to read, and worked at a cotton mill. Jackson had a rough life but pushed past obstacles and played Major League Baseball. Shoeless Joe got his nickname after rebelling by playing without shoes in a game, because of foot blisters. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson exemplified a true South Carolinian and represented our state well.
Jackson was a rebel from birth. He was born into a poor family. Joe went to work at the early age of just six. Joe Jackson never went to school, so he was illiterate. As an early teen he was a supreme baseball player. This is when he earned the nickname “Shoeless Joe.” He had gotten a new pair of cleats and they hurt his feet, so he took them off and played without shoes. He is a good representation of a true South Carolinian because of his rebellious ways. According to avalon.law.yale.edu, South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union before the civil war. It shows a lot about how rebellious the State of South Carolina is. Joe Jackson was a very rebellious person, going against the grain, and doing things his way. He exemplifies a true South Carolinian. According to Brittanica.com, Joe Jackson got sick as a child from cotton fibers in his lungs, since he worked in the mill as a young child. Yet he pushed through tough times and became successful despite his rough childhood.
Though South Carolina is a small state, we make sure that our voice is heard. South Carolinians have a way of leaving memorable impressions on others across the nation. The first shots of the Civil War occurred in South Carolina, at the battle of Fort Sumter. This is a memorable event in American history because it played a crucial role in the Civil War. This is the same way with Joe Jackson, people in history will always remember him as a shoeless baseball player from South Carolina. Joe Jackson, besides being shoeless sometimes, was an amazing baseball player. According to baseball-almanac.com, “Jackson was 21 years old when he broke into the big leagues on August 25, 1908, with the Philadelphia Athletics.” Jackson was incredibly young and talented when he debuted. His batting average was 0.356 which was outstanding, especially in professional baseball. Babe Ruth once said “I thought he was the greatest hitter I had ever seen, the greatest natural hitter I had ever saw. He’s the guy who made me a hitter. I copied his swing.” This came from Babe Ruth, one of the greatest players of all time. This shows that South Carolinians are memorable.
South Carolinians are known for a lot of things and having a good work ethic is one of them. Most famous South Carolinians work extremely hard to become what they are or were. Joe Jackson was the same way. Born poor, he had to rise above challenges and climb to the top. Not only did he work hard on the baseball field, but he worked hard in the mill as well. His mother and father both worked at Brandon Mills in Greenville, South Carolina. Joe Jackson started playing baseball because of the mills. Most factories and mills had baseball teams, and they competed. At thirteen, he started playing for his mill and worked as hard at his job as he did on the field. Jackson did not know it then, but soon he would no longer have to work in a mill but would play baseball for a job with the Greenville Spinners. Jackson made more money playing baseball than he did in the mill. His first contract was for seventy-five dollars a month, (in the mill he only made forty-five dollars per month). Since Joe Jackson never went to school and was illiterate, he signed his first contract with an X.
South Carolina is unique. We as South Carolinians are unique people as well. We have been through a lot of highs and lows as a state and have an incredibly rich culture. Shoeless Joe Jackson was no different. He had a unique, special bat, made from a strong hickory tree, and darkened with tobacco juice. Tobacco was a major part of South Carolina’s economy prior to the American Revolution and made South Carolina the richest colony. The tobacco-stained bat was thirty-six inches long and weighed forty-eight ounces, which is an extremely long and heavy bat. Joe Jackson called his bat “Black Betsy,” his prized possession, which he even used in the Major Leagues.
South Carolina gives you a small-town feeling and makes you feel at home. Most people have a hometown, which they love. Joe Jackson loved his hometown too, according to the Society for American Baseball Research, “Joe made his first major-league appearance on August 25, and singled in his first trip to the plate. However, Joe was homesick, and three days later he boarded a train back to Greenville. He returned in early September, but Philadelphia, a city of two million people, was frightening to the illiterate country boy.” Joe Jackson loved his hometown and went as frequently as he could when he was not playing baseball. He is a good representative of South Carolina because he left a legacy and set many records that still stand today. He worked against the odds, went against the grain, was a bit of a rebel, exemplified a true South Carolinian, and represented our state well.