GARY -- When your name is Joe Jackson and you play baseball, the question is inevitable.
Are you related to "Shoeless" Joe?
In the case of the Kansas City T-Bones' Joe Jackson, the answer is yes.
The left fielder is the great, great, great nephew of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, the White Sox great best known for being banned from baseball for his alleged involvement in the 'Black Sox' scandal of the 1919 World Series.
"It comes in waves. It doesn't happen for a while, then I'll get two or three (interview requests)," Jackson said before Wednesday's game at U.S. Steel Yard. "Playing baseball, it will always be a part of me. I don't mind. It goes with the territory. A lot of people have something they're tied to. It's a cool piece of history to be a part of."
Jackson started hearing about his famous relative when he was 4 or 5. The family remains in the Greenville, North Carolina, area where "Shoeless" resided. Jackson went by Joseph until he was in fourth or fifth grade and when he started going by Joe, inquiring minds began wanting to know.
"People are going to find out, especially if you’re playing pro ball," he said. "It's going to get out in the open."
A fan of the Braves and Chipper Jones growing up in the South, Jackson starred at Mauldin (South Carolina) High School and was drafted by the Royals in 2010 in the 50th round. He chose instead to play nearby for The Citadel and was drafted again after his junior year, this time in the fifth round by the Rangers. He signed with Texas and was in the system for three years, playing at Double A last season, before being unexpectedly let go toward the end of spring training. He was promptly contacted by T-Bones manager Joe Calfapietra, who piloted the RailCats in 2002, and signed with the American Association club.
With each change in teams comes a new set of curious people, including his latest stop.
"It's usually a mix, half and half, who know (the background) or don't know," Jackson said. "They'll joke around. I don't go out of my way to bring it up, but if somebody does, I'll talk about it."
Jackson hears a lot of fan chatter behind home plate, especially at games that are modestly attended, but has never heard anything negative.
"Somebody once said, 'Oh, why are you wearing shoes?'" he said.
The most exciting moment related to Jackson's lineage came when he was about 14 and met Roger Clemens at minor league game in Greenville. Clemens was there to watch his son play and the family showed him their relative's 1917 World Series ring.
"It's an awesome piece of memoribilia to have," he said. "Being young, I was star struck."
Jackson has never delved too deeply into the history of the accused conspiracy to throw games. Most people don't know "Shoeless" hit .375 with six RBIs and no errors in the series. Jackson has seen "Field of Dreams" numerous times but has never watched "Eight Men Out" in its entirety.
"I probably need to sit and watch all of it some time," he said. "I've heard a lot from the family, but it's not something we talk about day to day. It was 100 years ago. There are things we probably haven't heard and may never hear. I'll get the question, do you think he should be in the hall of fame? I think he was just in the wrong spot at the wrong time. How it would have played out, nobody knows. We may not know what happened."
As far as carrying on the name, Jackson, 25, said he and his wife have already dicussed what they would name a boy if they had a son.
"My dad is Joseph Raymond and my granddad is Joseph Ray," Jackson said. "('Shoeless') name was Joseph Jefferson. We talked about naming him Joseph Jefferson and calling him Jefferson."