R.I.P. to Randy “Handsome Ransom” Jackson, an All-Star with the Cubs and the answer to a Brooklyn Dodgers trivia question. He died on March 20 at his home in Athens, Ga. He was 93 years old. Jackson played for the Chicago Cubs (1950-55, 1960), Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers (1956-58) and Cleveland Indians (1958-59).
Ransom Jackson was born on February 10, 1926 in Little Rock, Ark. He inherited his nickname from his father, Ransom Sr., a naval man who was stationed in Arkansas. Jackson attended Texas Christian University and then the University of Texas and was a pretty good halfback on their football teams. However, he was also one of the Southwest Conference’s leading hitters and attracted the attention of the Chicago Cubs. He was signed by them in October 1947. One of Jackson’s teammates on the baseball team, Bobby Layne, made the opposite choice. He gave up a pitching career to become a Hall of Fame quarterback in the NFL.
Jackson reported to Des Moines in 1948, and his debut season couldn’t have gone much better. He hit .322 and was named to the Western League’s All-Star Team. He kept hitting at or near a .300 clip in the minors and made his MLB debut in 1950. He got off to a hot start in May of that year, but cooled down quickly and was sent to the minors at the end of the month with a .150 batting average. He reported to the Springfield Cubs and manager Stan Hack, who was also his manager in Des Moines. The former Cubs star third baseman earned Jackson’s trust and worked with the youngster. When Jackson made it back to the majors as a September call-up, he hit well enough to bring his batting average up to .225.
From the next five seasons, Jackson was the Cubs starting third baseman. He was named to the NL All-Star Team in 1954 and 1955, when he hit .273 with 19 homers and .265 with 21 homers, respectively. In December 1955, the Dodgers traded for him and Don Elston, shipping Don Hoak, Russ Meyer and Walt “Moose” Moryn to Chicago. They hoped the acquisition would solve their hole at third base.
Jackson, who was going from a very bad Cubs team to the World Champs, predicted he’d hit 30 home runs in Ebbets Field and took a few parting shots at Chicago sportswriters who called him “lackadaisical.”
“I really think Brooklyn will repeat as champ next year,” he told the New York press. “They have a lot of good pitchers. I know I’ll do my best, and I think I can help the club. I hope to make a few Chicago sportswriters eat their words about me lacking fire and hustle.”
Jackson’s predictions for the 1956 season didn’t come true. He hit a solid .274 but hit just 8 home runs in 101 games, picking up 53 RBIs. He appeared in just 48 games in 1957 and hit .198 with 2 home runs. That second home run, a 3-run bomb off the Phillies’ Don Cardwell on Sept. 28, was the last home run ever hit by a Brooklyn Dodger. Jackson didn’t even know that he was the answer to a Brooklyn Dodgers trivia question until years later, when his son found out about the factoid while watching “Good Morning America.”
The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958, and Jackson got off to an ice-cold start, with a .185 average and just 1 home run in 35 games. His contract was acquired by the Indians, and he improved his average more than 50 points and homered 4 times in 29 games. Jackson was traded back to his original team, the Cubs, on May 4 1959 after playing in only a handful of games for the Tribe. He hit .243 with the Cubs as a backup infielder. At the end of the season, he announced that he was retiring from baseball. He was 33 years old by then, and since he was not playing much anymore, he decided to look for something with more security.
In Jackson’s 10-year career, he slashed .261/.341/.378, with 835 hits. He hit 103 home runs and drove in 415 runs. Following his career, he went into the life insurance business. He released his memoir, Handsome Ransom Jackson: Accidental Big Leaguer, in 2016.