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Detailed Book Review
Just Joe: Baseball's Natural         
Just Joe: Baseball's Natural
By Thomas Perry
ISBN: 978-1-929763-30-6
Price: $17.95
Shipping: $4.00
Just Joe: Baseball's Natural, as told by his wife highlights the extraordinary career of South Carolina's Joseph Jefferson Jackson, more well-known as "Shoeless Joe." Related from the imagined perspective of his wife Katie, Just Joe examines the life of a couple devoted to baseball, and more importantly, to each other.

Jackson's career, especially his batting prowess and his involvement in the 1919 World Series "Black Sox" scandal, is well known. However, what's largely unknown is how Joe and Katie Jackson gracefully weathered the criticism and condemnation from fans and the first commissioner of the game, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis. With a quiet dignity, Jackson relied on his fabled Black Betsy bat, scorching "blue darters" and winning the hearts of fans long after his major league days were over. Through it all, Katie Jackson offers a sympathetic portrait of her man and their life and times.

Just Joe: Baseball's Natural is also available as an ebook on Amazon.com for the Kindle.

Thomas K. Perry is also the author of the play, Shoeless Joe, which premiered in 1995.

Book Review Details:
Reviewed Appeared In: Sports Literature Association
Reviewed By: Ron Kaplan
Text Of Review: From his humble Southern roots, up to and including his banishment from organized baseball, Joseph Jefferson Jackson was considered one of the brightest stars in the sports firmament. Even the mighty Babe Ruth claimed to have modeled his style after the lithe lefty. The story of Shoeless Joe has been chronicled in many forms: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, theater, and film. Those volumes almost exclusively follow his exploits on the diamond, with an emphasis on the 1919 Black Sox scandal, understandably a highlight (and low point) of the slugger's career.

Thomas K. Perry, a Jackson Überfan and researcher, has dared to step outside the box. He has entered a place where few, if any, male baseball fiction writers have gone: writing from the distaff point of view, in this case the voice of Katie Jackson, Joe's wife. "Her" story begins as a smitten adolescent in Pickens County, South Carolina, where she realized as a 12-year-old that she was destined to be Mrs. Joe Jackson. It ends a lifetime later, when, after dying of cancer, she is reunited with her love at the Pearly Gates.

While a good portion of Just Joe revolves around the ballplayer's amateur, minor, and major league careers, it is more concerned with the domestic relationship between husband and wife. Katie is obviously a proud and loyal helpmeet as she goes on about "my man," a pet name that's perhaps a bit overused, but undoubtedly in character. She is more impressed with how he is embraced by his fans than his batting average, stolen bases, or spectacular fielding. She is also the illiterate Joe's "agent," reading his contracts, as well as the sports pages, and is appalled with the low regard in which he is held by his employers, especially Charles Comiskey, the penurious White Sox owner.

The 1919 Fall Classic is a focal point of Just Joe, as Kate describes how her Joe was duped by players, gamblers, and Comiskey and his minions (in the aftermath) alike, railroaded out of the game that was second in his affections only to his wife. About a third of the fictional biography is devoted to their lives after Joe's "retirement." Never out of the public eye for long, Jackson had his supporters in later years, including Ted Williams, who pays a visit to Katie in the book. Through the good and bad times, she is assertive that no matter how "organized" baseball turned its back on Joe Jackson, he always considered it the greatest game in the world.

Those who know the true-life story will understandably feel sadness as Just Joe winds down, aware of what is to come: Joe's death on what might have been the verge of his re-acceptance. It is ultimately a tale with a good dose of disappointment, overshadowed by the healthy measure of love and appreciation for Jackson, both Katie's and the author's.

Date Reviewed: 09/04/2007
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