Two of the poems I most admire are very short. One is simply a name – Shoeless Joe Jackson. Read it aloud and feel the assonance and alliteration. The other is a phrase Say it ain’t so, Joe, delivered sadly, with its final rhyme. There is a mythic quality in both of these poems.
The name, Shoeless Joe Jackson; the actual historic figure born in the rural South; his bat, Black Betsy, and his role in the 1919 Black Sox Scandal; the wounded plea of a small boy on the courthouse steps; and baseball itself-are all the stuff of mythology. And mythology is sort of a hanging curveball for writers and film-makers.
Born in Pickens County, South Carolina, around 1888, give or take a year (the Jackson family Bible, which recorded such events, was destroyed in a fire) Joe Jackson, by all accounts, was a remarkable natural athlete.