As Joe Jackson settles into the left-handed batter's box in ballparks around the South, a voice inevitably rises from the stands.

'Hey Joe,' a fan will yell. 'What are you doing with shoes on?'

Jackson, a freshman baseball player at The Citadel, usually responds with a shrug and a smile.

'It's always the same thing,' Jackson said. 'I've heard it so many times, it doesn't bother me anymore.'

In Jackson's view, the occasional razzing from the stands is a small price to pay for a family connection to one of the most famous, and controversial, figures in baseball history — Shoeless Joe Jackson.

The Citadel's Joe Jackson, who is enjoying a fine rookie season with the Bulldogs, is the great-great-great nephew of Shoeless Joe, who was born in Pickens County, lived in Greenville and gained notoriety for his role in the 1919 Black Sox scandal, when members of the Chicago White Sox conspired to fix the World Series.

Shoeless Joe's role in the scandal is a matter of historical debate. But for the Jacksons, the connection to Shoeless Joe is a source of family pride.

"It really means a lot to us," said Jackson, who went to Mauldin High School near Greenville. "Especially since we are from Greenville. A lot of people respect Shoeless Joe in Greenville, and he's a big part of the city itself. It's neat that everybody asks about him and thinks that it is cool that I'm related to him."

Family Tree

Shoeless Joe was born as Joseph Jefferson Jackson in 1887 in Pickens County. He was one of eight children born to George Elmore and Martha Ann Jackson, farmers who moved to Pelzer and then to Greenville when Joe was about 5 years old.

One of Shoeless Joe Jackson's brothers was Lee Earle Jackson, who was known as Papa Jack and is the great-great-great grandfather of The Citadel's Joe Jackson, whose full name is Joseph Ray Jackson. Both his father and grandfather are named Joseph, as well.

"My grandfather (Lee Earle) knew Shoeless Joe, of course, and named his son Joe to keep the name in the family," said Jackson's father. "I named my son after my father, but the link to Shoeless Joe didn't hurt, either."

Joe became aware of that link while in elementary school. He was first interviewed about Shoeless Joe when he was 8 years old, and wrote a book report about his great-great-great uncle.

"When I was in fourth or fifth grade, they built a statue of him in Greenville," Joe said. "That's when I really started taking an interest in it, and my teachers started asking me about it. But I haven't read too much about him. We have relatives who knew him and friends who knew him, and I try to go by what they say."

Black Sox

Shoeless Joe went from the mill leagues around Greenville to the Major Leagues, playing for the Athletics, Indians and White Sox and batting .356 over a 12-year career from 1908 to 1920. Babe Ruth once said he modeled his swing after Shoeless Joe's.

But Shoeless Joe is best known for his role, whatever it was, in the 1919 Black Sox scandal. The White Sox were favored over the Reds that year, but lost the Series in an upset. Eight White Sox players were accused of throwing the Series, including Shoeless Joe.

Shoeless Joe hit .375 during the Series, the highest average on either team, and threw a runner out at the plate. The story has it that he twice turned down money to fix the Series before a teammate left $5,000 on his hotel bed.

A jury acquitted the Chicago eight -- legend has it that a young fan said "Say it ain't so, Joe" to Jackson on the courthouse steps -- but baseball commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis banned all eight players from the game.

Shoeless Joe never played in the majors after 1920, bouncing around in semi-pro ball for the final 20 years of his career. He and his wife, Kate, ran a dry-cleaning business in Savannah and then a liquor store in Greenville, where he died in 1951, still proclaiming his innocence.

The Jackson family, of course, has their own view on Shoeless Joe's guilt or innocence.

"Shoeless Joe told the family he was innocent, and usually family tells family the truth," said the youngest Joe Jackson. "The story we're told is that some players were thinking about throwing the World Series, and he heard about it but didn't say anything.

"Then, after a couple of games he comes into his room and finds $5,000. He tried to give it to (White Sox owner) Charles Comiskey, but he couldn't get past the secretary. We're told that he ended up giving the money to charity."

Shoeless Joe's name remains on Major League Baseball's ineligible list, meaning he cannot be voted into the Hall of Fame. But his name lives on, in a museum in Greenville in his former house, and at Shoeless Joe's Hill at Riley Park, where The Citadel plays.

And, mostly, in young Joe Jackson himself.

Freshman impact

The Citadel's Joe Jackson may never bat .356 over a 12-year Major League career like Shoeless Joe did, but the rookie from Mauldin High School has established himself as a promising player in his own right.

Jackson, a 6-1, 180-pounder who plays catcher and designated hitter for the Bulldogs, is batting .329, second-best on the team, and has driven in 22 runs. He hit his way into the lineup, batting .400 for the first month of the season, and coach Fred Jordan calls him the Bulldogs' catcher of the future.

"He's had a very solid freshman year to this point," Jordan said. "He's probably performed a little more consistently than we had anticipated, especially offensively."

Jackson's father, who played golf at Furman University, introduced Joe to a variety of sports when he was younger. Baseball is the one that took, and Joe was drafted by the Royals out of high school before deciding to attend The Citadel.

"When he first told me he was interested in The Citadel, I was surprised," Joe's father said. "I said, 'Okay, you understand what that's all about?' But he loves baseball and he's fallen in love with The Citadel, and we're glad he's got this opportunity.'

Years of talking about Shoeless Joe have helped the younger Jackson become a more polished performer, on and off the field. He's been written about in the New York Times and New York Post, and was the subject of a documentary on mlb.com last fall.

"Joe's a little ahead of the game as far as his knowledge and polish," Jordan said. "But he's extremely hard on himself when he's unsuccessful on one pitch or one at-bat, or one defensive play. He'll have to grow out of that, but that will improve with time."

And with time, perhaps Joe Jackson can write his own small chapter in baseball history. "Even if I'm not a part of history, Shoeless Joe is a big part of baseball history," Joe said. "And maybe I can help restore the family name."