Eckhartz Press

Joe Jackson, Plaintiff, vs Chicago American League Baseball Club, Defendant:

The Never-Before-Seen Trial Transcript

Sports Byline USA Interviews Jacob Pomrenke About the Newly Released Joe Jackson Trial Transcript Book

Sports Byline USA Interviews Jacob Pomrenke about the newly released Joe Jackson vs Chicago American League Never-Before-Seen Trial Transcript Book. The Co-author gives us some exclusive insights into the complex character of Shoeless Joe Jackson and Charles Comiskey as it is revealed through their own words in the original trial transcript from the 1924 Black Sox Trial.

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Jacob Pomrenke Joe Jackson Trial Transcript Book Interview

Interview Transcript

Sports Byline USA interviews Jacob Pomrenke

Joe Jackson Plaintiff versus Chicago American League Ballclub Defendant: The Never Seen Before Trial Transcript

Originally aired July 14, 2023

Rick Tittle: Welcome back to the show. Ray Tittle with you coast to coast and around the world on the American Forces Radio Network. It’s a pleasure now to welcome to the show Jacob Pomrenke. He’s here to talk about a book that he has co-authored called Joe Jackson Plaintiff versus Chicago American League Ballclub Defendant: The Never Seen Before Trial Transcript. First of all, Jacob, welcome to the show. Secondly, Pomrenke? Did I get it?

Jacob Pomrenke: Yes, that’s right. 

Rick Tittle: Okay. I just remember as a lifelong baseball fan, feeling very sorry for Shoeless Joe Jackson, who didn’t have a bad World Series, if you look at his numbers, and that he was such a bumpkin, he didn’t know what he was signing or what he was getting himself into. So am I close there just with sort of the premise of all this? 

Jacob Pomrenke: Well, that is the myth that we all grew up knowing about Shoeless Joe through Eight Men Out, both the book and the film. But the real story is a little bit more complex. He was illiterate, he could not read or write, but he was a very shrewd businessman, and he did know what he was doing. This trial transcript is something that no one has really seen before in 100 years. It shows that he really did have a pretty good idea of what he was doing with the 1990 World Series fix. 

Rick Tittle: Well, they were exonerated in court and then of course, Judge Mountain Landis came in and kicked him out for life anyway. So getting back to the transcript, when you were looking at the defense and the prosecution and eyewitness testimony, what were some of the things that were really shattering to you? 

Jacob Pomrenke: Well, I think the biggest thing when you’re reading through this entire transcript with all the lawyers arguing and reading Shoeless Joe’s real words and what he had to say about the World Series and the Black Sox Scandal and his own involvement in it, he was confronted with his old grand jury testimony, while he was on the witness stand for this trial. And it was fascinating to read through his words and see his story changed a lot over the years. And so to see his own testimony, in his own words, is quite a revelation. 

Rick Tittle: So after what happened in 1919, about five years later, probably on the advice of counsel, he went back and sued for backpay. Is that right? 

Jacob Pomrenke: That’s right. That’s what this trial is all about. He was out of baseball; he had already been banned for life and he was just trying to get anything he could. He didn’t think he’d be able to play in the Major Leagues again, so he was trying to sue to get a little bit of his contract money that he felt was owed to him from the Chicago White Sox. So he sued his former employer, and they all went to trial, and they all had to take the stand and talk about it. 

Rick Tittle: We always hear that Comiskey was really tight fisted and gave them flat champagne, and this was sort of the genesis behind their revolt, so to speak. How did you find the White Sox owner? 

Jacob Pomrenke: So that’s actually one of the really interesting parts of this story is that Charles Comiskey had to take the stand and testify under oath for three days. And it’s fascinating to read his words and talk about his team operations and his finances. And one of the things that we learned through this trial and in the Black Sox Scandal is that the Chicago White Sox were actually one of the best paid teams in baseball in 1919, contrary to the traditional myth that they were the worst-paid team and the most talented, they were actually one of the highest paid teams, and we have salary records to prove that  now. 

Rick Tittle: I know that Eddie Cicotte, Old Knuckles, this guy basically right around World War I, he was the best pitcher in baseball. So how did you find his complicity in all this? 

Jacob Pomrenke: So Eddie Cicotte was one of the ringleaders of the Black Sox Scandal. He and Chick Gandil, they were the two players who approached the gamblers not the other way around. They were the ones who initiated the fix and recruited their own teammates to be part of this. Again, that’s not the myth that we all kind of grew up believing through Eight Men Out, but that is the real story. Eddie Cicotte’s testimony is preserved in this trial and so we’re able to again, read his own account and his own words, too. 

Rick Tittle: We know about him. The one that we don’t hear about as much is Lefty Williams, and this is a guy who stunk in that World Series. I think he had three losses with an ERA over like six and a half or whatever it was, but there was no doubt that if he was on the take, it was pretty obvious, huh? 

Jacob Pomrenke: Absolutely. Yeah. He still holds the World Series record for most losses in a single Fall classic. I’m not sure that record will ever be broken. But Williams was deposed for this trial, and he had to talk about his involvement and how poor his pitching was on the witness stand. I’m sure that wasn’t a good day for him. 

Rick Tittle: And then also when you think about the characters I remember Happy Felsch. I think he was from Germany or like he had this big bowl dog-looking face. What was his involvement? 

Jacob Pomrenke: So Happy Felsch was the star center fielder. He was one of Shoeless Joe’s friends, and he was called to testify as well. He actually ended up with kind of a sad conclusion to this trial. He was cited for perjury at the end of the trial, as was Shoeless Joe Jackson because, again, they were confronted with their old (Grand Jury) testimony, and they denied ever been involved in the Black Sox Scandal, which, of course, isn’t true at all. And so, the judge cited Shoeless Joe and Happy Felsch for perjury and threw them in jail for an afternoon and that was kind of how the trial ended. 

Rick Tittle: The quote from Felsch I remember is, I think he made $2500 a year or whatever, and he got $5000 so he got two years pay. Then afterwards he said, “all I had to do is play a couple more years, I would have made much more than the five grand.” This is a dead ball era, and this guy was a home run hitter, right? 

Jacob Pomrenke: Absolutely. Yeah. If he’d have been able to continue his career into the 1920s, with Babe Ruth and the lively ball era, you know, there’s no telling what kind of numbers he would have put up. 

Rick Tittle: What about the perjury for Shoeless Joe? How did they prove it? How did he perjure himself in the trial? 

Jacob Pomrenke: So one thing to keep in mind here is that there were multiple legal proceedings with the Black Sox Scandal, there’s the grand jury in 1920 that investigated the World Series fix and then there was the criminal trial in 1921 in Chicago where the players were charged with conspiracy to throw the World Series, and they were found not guilty on that trial. Then years later, this was the civil trial, and so what happened was, the players were confronted with their old testimony from the grand jury in 1920, here in 1924. So, when their stories changed, and they couldn’t remember the right details, and they said, “oh, this is not the answer that I gave back in 1920,” the judge was able to say, “well, you’re lying in one of these testimonies. It doesn’t matter which one you’re lying in; I believe you’re lying here in 1924 but we’re going to charge you with perjury anyway.” Their stories changed over the years. First they said they were completely guilty, they threw the World Series, they were bribed by gamblers and then years later, they said, “we never did it. We had no involvement. We didn’t even accept anybody.” And so this is how the judge was able to find them guilty of perjury. 

Rick Tittle: As shrewd as Shoeless Joe was, and one of the greatest players ever from what we hear, we talk about how he was kind of, let’s just say, not very bright, this whole lawsuit then bites him in the tail by perjuring. himself. Just how savvy was he? And how much jail time did he get? 

Jacob Pomrenke:  Well, he only served for a day, right at the end of the trial, and then he went home to Georgia and South Carolina, to continue his life. He was very successful after baseball; he had a number of successful businesses in his hometown in South Carolina and he continued playing baseball in these independent leagues and outlaw leagues until he was in his early 50s. So, he had a pretty good life after this was all over but here on the witness stand being under oath he didn’t exactly get great advice from his own lawyers, but he was unable to avoid the perjury charge. Again, he did pretty well otherwise, but this trial was kind of a sad end to the to the Black Sox saga. 

Rick Tittle: Well, everybody should make sure to pick up the book. It’s fascinating, co-authored by guest Jacob Pomrenke. It is called Joe Jackson Plaintiff vs. Chicago American League Ball Club Defendant: The Never Before Seen Trial Transcript. Jacob congratulations on the book and thanks for stopping by. 

Jacob Pomrenke:  Thank you. 

Rick Tittle: It’s interesting, I always hear Bill Burr. Bill Burr knows a lot about sports for a comedian. He knows a lot about sports for anybody really. But he always says he hates it when they say Black Sox because he says that he thinks there may be some youngsters out there that think that’s a different team. They should just say the 1919 White Sox so everybody knows what happened. But still, to this day, you think about the authority that the first commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis, to now the Commissioner is just a stooge of the owners. All right, I’m ready Rick Tittle, we’ll take a quick break and we’ll come on back on Sports Byline.

The Joe Jackson vs Chicago American League, Never-Before-Seen Trial Transcript book, is now available through Eckhartz Press.