“It is better to risk saving a guilty man than to condemn an innocent one”
State 30: South Carolina February 24th
We woke up at a Walmart in Columbia to the most peculiar scratching sounds on Rosie’s roof. Neither Nate nor I had the foggiest idea what that noise was, or more importantly, who or what was making it! Figuring it was some type of animal, I decided to turn on Rosie’s roof fans hoping to scare away whatever it was. No sooner after doing so, I heard what sounded like an entire flock of birds take into flight, and Nate joked about the inches of caked on bird shit he would have to chisel off the solar panels on Rosie’s roof! Sorry birdies! Rosie is our home, and not your birdhouse! Please see the pictures below.
Three days ago, Nate and I took a day off the road, and got a hotel to celebrate our 6-year wedding anniversary! We have been together for 12 years total! Unfortunately, I developed bronchitis and spiked a 101.2 fever, so there was not a whole lot of celebrating going on. Nate brought me to the walk-in clinic, and loaded me up with antibiotics, cough syrup, and Tylenol. When I get sick, I get very sick extremely fast, so I desperately needed to rest! The last time I was sick, I ended up being admitted into the hospital for 4 days, which you can read about by clicking here. Since we are solely living off our savings, hotels are a rare treat for these two frugal vagabonds. Not only was I unable to enjoy my coveted hotel time, I was sick on my anniversary. I ended up sleeping in the hotel for 2 days straight. After my fever broke, I spent one day in Columbia resting in Rosie. After 3 days, I was finally beginning to feel better, and was ready to continue on my cross country journey.
I must say Columbia was quite a nice city. While Charleston is a major tourist destination and becoming a city of out of state transplants, the same cannot be said about Columbia, and our time spent in the city was our first experience with the Carolina Southern hospitality I have long heard of. The people were genuinely friendly but not phony, and the city was clean, quaint, cute and interesting. As silly as this may sound, the main downtown library was one of the coolest I had seen featuring 10 story glass walls with massive trees actually growing inside of the building. Nate and I were both sad when it was time to leave Columbia.
On our way out of South Carolina’s capitol city, we had one last quick stop to make at the Cross Country Couple's “Roadside Attraction” for South Carolina; The World’s Largest Fire Hydrant. Standing 39 feet tall, weighing in at 675,000 pounds, and constructed to withstand a direct hit from a tornado, the world’s largest fire hydrant will leave dogs everywhere lifting their hind legs in excitement! Unfortunately, posted signs specifically prohibit peeing. Sorry Fido! Unveiled on February 18, 2001, the sculpture was created by a local artist named Blue Sky, and is called Busted Plug Plaza. Ironically, the date of the unveiling of the World’s Largest Fire Hydrant coincides with the anniversary of the Union Army burning Columbia to the ground during the Civil War. The hydrant was designed to be tilted to appear as it was perhaps hit by the world’s biggest truck. The cement barricades and chain-link fence surrounding the giant hydrant are part of the artist’s design making the appearance of the damaged plug even more believable. Apparently, water once shot up from the base of the hydrant, and would have been the most interesting water feature of our entire cross country trip. However, the water pumps broke in 2012, and have yet to be fixed. Please see the picture below of the World’s Largest Fire Hydrant.
After departing Columbia, we drove 103 miles Northwest to Fluor Baseball Field in Greenville where we discovered a statue depicting the Cross Country Couple's "Famous Person" for South Carolina; Joseph Jefferson Jackson; more commonly known as “Shoeless Joe Jackson” Shoeless Joe was a Major League Baseball player whose career spanned 12 seasons in the early 20th century. He is immortalized for having the 3rd highest career batting average in the history of Major League Baseball at .3585. In the 1911 season, Jackson hit a .408 average the 6th highest to this day! Shoeless Joe ranked number 35 on The Sporting News List of “The 100 Greatest Baseball Players”, and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team”. Legendary ballplayers such as Nap Lajoie, Roger Hornsby, Ty Cobb have all said, “Jackson was the greatest hitter I had ever seen”, and even Babe Ruth had stated he modeled his hitting technique after Jackson’s. Why is Shoeless Joe Jackson's name absent from the hallowed halls of Cooperstown?
Despite receiving high accolades from fellow legendary players and setting a slurry of MLB records many of which still stand to this day, a dark cloud overshadows Jackson's accomplishments, which abruptly ended his promising career in its prime. Shoeless Joe is also immortalized for his alleged conspiracy along with 7 of his teammates in the Black Sox Scandal to throw the 1919 World Series. Despite his exemplary play during the 1919 World Series and being found not guilty in a 1921 trail, then baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, banned Shoeless Joe and 7 of his teammates from baseball for life making him ineligible for induction in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
For close to a century, serious doubts have been cast about Jackson’s involvement in the fix, and even the 7 others who were involved denied his participation. In addition, Jackson was illiterate, and questions have been raised if he was even able to understand the documents he was signing. Jackson's exemplary stats in the 1919 World Series offer additional evidence of his innocence. During the World Series, Jackson had a batting average of .375 the highest average of both teams, he hit the only home run in the series, handled 30 balls in his left field position without making a single error, scored the winning run in the 10th inning of Game 6, and set an all-time World Series record of 12 base hits in the post season.
In the decades since Jackson's banishment from baseball, numerous attempts have been made for his reinstatement, and the most recent came in 2015 by Arlene Marcley, the President of the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum. Not only has every sitting MLB commissioner over the past century refused Shoeless Joe’s reinstatement, each has denied repeated requests to reopen the case to investigate Jackson’s involvement in the Black Sox Scandal. Hopefully, a baseball Commissioner with a pair of “baseBALLS” will one day agree to reexamine Shoeless Joe’s alleged involvement in the scandal objectively instead of politically, so one-day Joseph Jefferson Jackson “Shoeless Joe” may take his rightfully earned place among baseballs elite in Cooperstown, NY.
It was time to learn about what baseball historians have hailed as “America’s pastime’s greatest travesty”. Around the corner from Fluor Field was the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum the home where he lived and died. Unfortunately, the museum was only open on Saturdays, which was not the day we were visiting Greenville. Major disappointment! I would have loved to have spoken with the museum’s curator, and to have seen Shoeless Joe’s home. It was time for a Plan B! A quick google search revealed Shoeless Joe was buried in a cemetery right in Greenville, so off we went in search of his final resting place.
With 30 states already explored on our Cross Country Journey, we have become accustomed to scouring graveyards in search of our state's famous person. Some cemeteries thoughtfully post signs directing visitors to the famous persons grave, which you can read about by clicking here. While other cemeteries do not post signs, they are small enough that after an hour of creepy aimless wandering you eventually find who you are looking for, which you can read about by clicking here. The cemetery where Shoeless Joe was buried was gigantic, and there were no signs posted directing us to his grave. Clearly, we needed some help from the locals. We found a funeral home on the far side of the cemetery, which seemed like the ideal place to ask for directions. Lori has had a lot of premature tragic loss in her family and understandably does not like funeral homes. Nevertheless, she graciously agreed to go inside to find out where Shoeless Joe was buried, and 10 minutes later, Lori returned to Rosie stating the young lady she spoke with would escort us to the grave. A few moments later she emerged in a golf cart, which we followed back across the cemetery. After a brief walk, we had finally arrived at the final resting place of the Cross Country Couple's "Famous Person" for South Carolina; Shoeless Joe Jackson. His headstone was entirely framed with baseballs, and pairs of shoes were lovingly left behind in his honor. Although Jackson passed in 1951, it was inspiring to see fans still celebrate his life and contributions to baseball. Please see the pictures below.
After departing the grave of Shoeless Joe Jackson, we drove across town to Walmart where spent our last night in South Carolina.