Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Shoeless Joe

Today's class was dedicated to Shoeless Joe Jackson. Jackson was a great player whose career was abruptly ended by his implication in the Black Sox Scandal. He was removed from major league baseball by the commissioner due to his possible involvement in the the 1919 World Series? We really don't know what happened. But his life has inspired books and movies such as Field of Dreams.

Since Joe Jackson played at the same time as the great Ty Cobb, a natural question to ask was: Who was the better player. Since getting on base is a desirable goal of a hitter, we compared the season OBP's of Jackson and the OBP's of Cobb. We constructed back-to-back stemplots and five-number summaries. We learned that Cobb was better in getting on-base than Jackson -- on average, Cobb was about 20 points better.

We concluded by watching a portion of Field of Dreams. One of the best parts of the film is watching the ghost players of the past play a game. James Earl Jones gave one of the great speeches about baseball:

"Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. ... And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come."

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