Chicago bartender heading south to fill shoes at Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum
Dan Wallach is turning in his bar towel, packing his stuff and moving to South Carolina to live out a dream.
Anyone who’s seen Dan Wallach’s right foot wouldn’t be surprised by his decision to pack his life up and move to South Carolina.
There resides a tattoo of a signature. It reads: Joe Jackson.
It’s a nod to controversial Chicago White Sox legend “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, whose other-worldly batting skill is often overshadowed by his alleged participation in throwing the 1919 World Series for money.
Go ahead, point out to Wallach the signature doesn’t match memorabilia bearing Jackson’s autograph.
Then stand back and appreciate the sort of baseball nerdery leading Wallach, 32, to abandon his life in Chicago to take over a museum dedicated to the man on his foot.
Those “other” autographs were actually signed by Jackson’s wife, Katie, who helped out with signing autographs.
Jackson, for the sake of continuity, kept a note in his wallet inked with his name by her hand in order to copy, as close as possible, when he did signan autograph.
The natural swerves and marks of Jackson’s real signature are on only a few rare documents.
The one on Wallach’s foot matches the one on Jackson’s final will and testament.
In the coming months, Wallach will sell his home in Skokie, quit his job as a bartender at Yakzies — a pub across from Wrigley Field — and move to Greenville, South Carolina, to head up operations at the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum.
And, yes, Wallach is a White Sox fan.
The museum he’ll run resides in Jackson’s old brick home.
Wallach first visited the museum 11 years ago while bopping around town with his mom and dad, who’d just retired to the area after raising a family in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.
Most people peruse for 30 or 40 minutes. The Wallach family, all self-described sports geeks and history lovers, stayed for two hours.
The Wallach family quickly became supporters. And in the last year, Wallach’s father, Michael Wallach, began volunteering at the museum — giving tours, working the merchandise counter, tidying up, fundraising — whatever needed to be done.
In May, when the head of the museum, a 77-year-old Greenville native, stepped down, the museum’s board, which included Wallach’s dad at that point, agreed on who should be tapped to fill the role and made the job offer.
“It was definitely a hard decision to just pick up my life and move away. All myfriends, my social capital, is here in Chicago,” Wallach said. “But it’s a once-in-a-lifetimeopportunity and it’s a dream job. I can’t imagine doing something cooler.”
Wallach plans to make the move in January and pour all his time and energy into the museum, located outside a minor league ballpark (Fluor Field, home to the Greenville Drive, Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox).
The museum is being picked up and moved this winter a few hundred feet to accommodate a luxury apartment complex.
The move will mean the museum, a non-profit, will be closed for a few months. It’s slated to reopen in May.
Wallach, who will be the museum’s only paid employee, plans to focus on a few key challenges.
For years, the museum has been open one day a week: Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“I plan on being open seven days a week,” he said.
Spreading the word will be another key task, said Wallach, who’s already taken over the museum’s social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter (@shoelessmuseum).
“Some people who live in Greenville don’t even know about the museum,” he said.
Without knowing it, Wallach has been training to run a museum since he was little. The kid who collected everything from pencils to baseball cards became the man with a house full of sports memorabilia — including a room dedicated to Shoeless Joe.
Jackson occupies a unique place in baseball history that, to this day, is still being sorted out.
Despite his exceptional play during the 1919 World Series that he allegedly — along with seven teammates — took part in throwing, baseball officials banned Jackson from the game months later. The ban that still stands and, for now, precludes any chance of Jackson being named to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Jackson died in 1951, in Greenville, at the age of 64.
Some Shoeless Joe fans have made it their mission to restore his good name. Wallach said his goal is a little different.
“My goal is to keep his name alive. Keep people thinking about Joe, and learning,” he said.