Kid Elberfeld's Influence - Travis "Stonewall" Jackson

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Travis "Stonewall" Jackson

Combined great glove with lifetime .291 average.

Helped NY Giants to four pennants.

Rogers Hornsby, a man known to have been sparing with praise, said of Travis Jackson, "In all the years I watched him, playing with him and against him, I never saw him make a mistake."
Hall of Famer Jackson was nicknamed "Stonewall" for his stone wall defense at shortstop. He led the National League twice in fielding percentage and four times in assists, and Joe Cronin once said that Jackson was "as good a shortstop as ever lived." As a batter "Stoney" topped .300 six times, once hit game-winning homers in both halves of a doubleheader, and in 1930, a year when batting averages reached new heights, was part of the best-hitting infield in history.
Jackson began playing baseball with town teams around his native Waldo, Arkansas. In 1921 Norman "Kid" Elberfeld, who'd been watching Jackson since he was 14, said there was a place for him on the Southern Association's Little Rock Travelers, whose shortstop had just broken his leg. Jackson later said, "The first time I stepped on the field I was in awe. I never saw a park that big. And there I was holding my pants up with a cotton rope."
That year he hit .200 and made 21 errors in only 39 games. In 1922 he raised his batting average to .280 but still committed 73 errors. "A lot of those were double errors-two on the same play, a boot and then a wild throw. The people in the first base and right field bleachers knew me. When the ball was hit to me they scattered."
But Elberfeld had sung Jackson's praises to John McGraw: "You'd like him. He's skinny, but he'll get better as he goes along. Have somebody look at him." McGraw did, and Jackson almost made history in his first major league game. With runners on first and second, a Cincinnati batter hit a liner just to his left. Instead of catching it in the air, Jackson said, "I had to take it on the pickup and so we got a double play. If I had caught it, we would have had a triple play. Imagine, on the first ball hit to me in the majors!"
Jackson was a utility player in 1923, first filling in for Heinie Groh when the third baseman injured his knee and then for regular Dave "Beauty" Bancroft when the shortstop contracted pneumonia in June. The rookie was so impressive that McGraw traded Hall of Famer Bancroft to the Braves. Giants fans howled over the decision, but soon Jackson was just as good as Bancroft.
From 1925 to 1927, in fact, the Giants boasted a complete Hall of Fame infield: George Kelly at either first or second, Bill Terry at first, Frankie Frisch and Hornsby at second, Jackson at short, and Freddy Lindstrom at third. In 1927, 1928, and 1929 Jackson was named to The Sporting News Major League All-Star Team.
He was beset by problems with his right knee for a good part of his career. In 1932 he also injured his left knee, and that winter in Memphis he had operations on both. Although he went to 1933 spring training, it took him until late in the season to get back into the lineup. By the next season, however, he was named to the All-Star team.
Retiring as a player after the 1936 season, Jackson began a long career as a coach and a minor league manager, starting with Jersey City in 1937 and, after a seven-year bout with tuberculosis, finishing in the Class D Midwest League in 1960. In 1982 he was named to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.