Fielder Jones was an exceptionally talented ballplayer and manager. He played while professional baseball was still in its infancy, from 1896 to 1908 and briefly in 1914 and 1915. He won pennants with Brooklyn of the NL in 1899 and 1900 and with the Chicago White Sox in 1901 and 1906. As the White Sox manager, his charges easily defeated a powerful Chicago Cubs team to win the World Series in 1906. In his era, he was regarded as one of the most intelligent field generals in the game.
Fielder Allison Jones was born August 13, 1871, in Shinglehouse, Pennsylvania. Some records incorrectly list his birth in 1874. His parents were Benjamin Franklin Jones and Laura Ellen Parmenter Jones.
Jones’ descendants have traced the family ancestry on Fielder’s father side to Robert de Bruce, king of Scotland in the 1300s. His mother’s family was traced to the captain of the Mayflower. His parents named him after a great uncle, Fielder Jones, a Civil War general who became an attorney and newspaper publisher after his military service.
The ball-playing Fielder grew up in the small northwestern Pennsylvania township, in the area known as the Enchanted Mountains region, where timber was the primary business. Benjamin Jones owned a general store. Fielder was the second son in the family, having an older brother Willard.
At age 15 Jones attended the prep school at Alfred University. Some sources say he graduated from the university, but the school has no record of that.
Jones claimed that he learned to play baseball at Alfred: “Students at Alfred could play among themselves, but Alfred, with lofty scorn, declined to send a team against any other institution.” (Some of the material in this piece comes from unidentified clippings in the Jones family scrapbooks, provided by Sherian Groce.)
After his school days, he started working as a surveyor with his older brother Willard. Family records showed Fielder worked for the city of Rochester, Minnesota, as a “rodman” in 1890. He was making channel soundings in March of that year, when he was 18 years old. In October he was working in Fairhaven, Washington, laying stakes as an advance man for railroad construction.
Jones ventured north into British Columbia and was surveying western Canada in 1891, but funding for the project Jones was working on was withdrawn when a recession hit. Jones found himself without work, with little money and more than two thousand miles from home.
Willard Jones had come to the Pacific Northwest a couple years earlier and had settled in Portland, Oregon. Fielder headed south and worked with his brother. Being young and athletic, he landed a job playing baseball. He started his professional career as a catcher and outfielder in 1891 with Portland of the Oregon State League.
Eventually, Jones was able to save enough money to head back east to his family’s home. In Shinglehouse he joined various amateur and semi-pro teams.
Jones played for Corning, New York, in 1893. He was with the Binghamton team at the start of the 1894 season and totaled eleven hits in one doubleheader. In 1895 with Binghamton of the New York League, he got four hits against a higher-classification minor league team from Springfield, Massachusetts, in an exhibition game. The New York League folded in July. Springfield remembered Jones and signed the centerfielder.
Jones was a success with Springfield. Playing just 50 games, he helped the club move from fourth place to the league championship. Jones hit .399 in 223 at bats, scoring 57 runs with 29 stolen bases. He was hitting third by the end of the season, a sign that he was recognized as one of the best hitters on the team. After his strong performance, Brooklyn of the National League drafted the young outfielder.
Brooklyn was high on Jones’ talent, but had three outfielders ahead of him. John Anderson, Tommy McCarthy and Mike Griffin were the starters as the 1896 season opened. Jones’ first major league appearance came in the second game of the season. He replaced Anderson as the right fielder in a 6-2 loss and got a hit in first at bat. In his next game he was hit by a pitch and scored a run in a pinch-hitting appearance. Anderson’s strong early-season hitting limited Jones to two appearances in the first three weeks of the season. Brooklyn, looking to give Jones more work, loaned him to Hartford of the Atlantic League along with two other players. At Hartford he had just two hits in 13 at bats.
An injury to Anderson opened a spot for Jones. His third game with Brooklyn came on May 20. Playing right field, Jones went 4 for 5, scoring four runs in a 25-6 rout of Pittsburgh. He had seven hits in his first 13 at bats after returning from Hartford. John Anderson, who would hit .314 that season, was bumped from the starting lineup.
Jones hit .354, one of the highest averages of any major league rookie to that time. He also finished second on the team in runs scored and tied for the team lead in walks. His .427 on-base percentage paced the team. Jones stole 18 bases; only once in his 13 years as a player would he steal fewer. Jones had another big day on June 11. Batting leadoff, he went 4 for 4 with two doubles and his first home run as Brooklyn beat Cy Young 6-1.
Fielder was just starting to live up to his name. His .928 fielding percentage was slightly lower than the league average, the only time this would happen during his career, but he showed a strong arm, netting 10 assists, the fewest of his career.
Brooklyn finished ninth in the twelve-team league. Manager Dave Foutz would later become head of an early attempt at a players union. Foutz’s ideas on player rights would influence Jones.
Brooklyn improved to sixth place in 1897. Even though Jones’ batting average dropped 40 points, he showed improvement in other areas: He finished fourth in the NL in runs scored with 134 and stole 48 bases. His fielding percentage improved to .941 while the league average was .935. He more than doubled his assists, gunning down 22 base runners.
Eighteen ninety-eight was a frustrating year for Brooklyn. The team fell to tenth place under three different managers. In his first three years in the NL, Jones played for four managers. As the team struggled, his performance fell off, but he led the team in batting, on base percentage, runs, hits, triples, RBI, walks and stolen bases. He finished the year with a .304 average and 69 RBI, the most of his career, an impressive number for a player who usually hit first or second.
Breaking a leg in the off-season, Jones did not start the 1899 season with Brooklyn. He sat for two months recuperating before succumbing to pressure to return from new manager Ned Hanlon, who had led the Baltimore Orioles to three straight pennants in the nineties. Baltimore team owner Henry Von der Horst had combined his team with Brooklyn, forming another of baseball’s syndicate teams, and Hanlon took several of the Orioles’ stars to Brooklyn. Hanlon wanted Jones at the top of the order to pace the offense. He also knew Jones, when teamed with future Hall of Famers Joe Kelley and Willie Keeler, would give Brooklyn the most potent outfield in the NL. Jones’ injury reduced his effectiveness as he hit just .285. His foot speed was also diminished after the injury.
Brooklyn won the NL pennant in 1899, finishing seven games ahead of the competition. The club had improved from a tenth-place finish and a record of 54-91 to a league-best 101-47. Hanlon and players imported from Baltimore improved the team’s offense from one of the league’s worst to one of the best. Brooklyn’s base percentage went from league worst to league best, and the club stole twice as many bases as the year before. Jones would become a disciple of Hanlon’s offensive style.
The syndicate baseball of 1899 was a success for Brooklyn and St. Louis, but four teams were dropped from the NL. Many players who were released went to a minor league called the American League.
In 1898 Jones had married the former Mabel Schaney and ran a general store in his wife’s hometown of Bolivar, New York, in the off-season. The couple would have a son, Cecil, three years later.
Active in business, Jones showed a good head for money. He also had an understanding of the predicament the ballplayers. Jones was vocal in his disgust for the contracts of the day. The reserve clause bound a player to one team. In a 1906 article in the Saturday Evening Post, Jones would call the reserve clause the “yoke of tyranny.” The National League in 1899 limited the salaries of players to no more than $2,400 a season.
In 1899 Jones announced his intent to leave Brooklyn and baseball. Along with reserve outfielder Jimmy Sheckard and pitcher “Iron Man” Joe McGinnity, he prepared to retire to private interests. Jones had continued his studies on surveying practices and claimed he was prepared to join his brother. Willard had been running the business, F.A. Jones & Bro. Civil Engineers and Surveyors, in Portland. Fielder had bought a 25 percent interest in some oil wells in western New York. It appears likely that he could have afforded to walk away from the game, but the retirement threat was only that. He did keep playing, but he was not happy that he was bound to Brooklyn.
Healthy again in 1900, Jones hit .310 as Brooklyn won its second championship. He played every game, tied for the team lead in runs and was second in hits, walks and stolen bases. He also posted career highs in doubles and home runs. By this time Jones was one of the premier defensive players in the game.
The winter of 1900 changed baseball forever. The American League announced itself as a major league and declared war on the NL. Clark Griffith, who jumped the Chicago NL franchise for city’s AL team, acted as a recruiter for the new league. He set his sights on 40 NL stars. The AL announced it would not honor the NL’s reserve clause, which so many players abhorred.
Griffith was given a part interest in the Chicago AL franchise and recruited the best talent for the team he would manage. Griffith is said to have hiked three miles through the snow to reach Jones’ Bolivar home. Jones signed with the Chicago White Sox for 1901.
Jones hit .311 for the White Sox in 1901, as the team won the inaugural AL pennant. This was Jones’ third consecutive championship team. The outfielder led the Sox in runs scored, hits and batting average. His 120 runs scored was second-best in the league. He was fourth in the league in stolen bases, second in walks and on-base percentage. The STATS All-Time Baseball Sourcebook named him retroactively as one of the league’s all-star outfielders.
George Davis, the shortstop of the New York Giants, jumped to the Sox for the 1902 season. Davis was second-best shortstop in the NL to Honus Wagner and reportedly would be the highest paid player in baseball in 1902. Davis had former player-turned-attorney John Montgomery Ward create an ironclad contract which legally bound the player to the Sox for four years.
The Sox headed into 1902 looking to repeat as league champions. The club had also lured .300-hitting outfielder Danny Green from the cross-town Cubs. But the White Sox finished a disappointing fourth. Jones did his part, leading the team in batting (.321) and hits.
Baseball, however, was changing the rules to favor the pitchers. Batting averages were dropping from the high-scoring 1890s. The changes were decreasing the numbers of runners who reached base, increasing the value of a single run. The average team in 1896 scored six runs per game. In 1902 the AL averaged less than five runs a game and the NL dropped to an average just over four. With less offense, managers needed to adapt. Playing for one run at a time required different skills and strategy. The ability to bunt was becoming more valuable. Teams couldn’t afford to waste base runners.
Jones was becoming more dangerous in the field. He threw out 20 base runners in 1901. The AL didn’t learn any lessons as Jones gunned down 25 in 1902. He led the AL with 11 double plays from the outfield. Jones’ fielding percentage in ’02 was .972. As a comparison, the league fielding percentage was .944. As runs became scarce, the value of defense increased.
Bill James, in his book Win Shares, lists Jones as an “A+” outfielder. Total Baseball records defensive runs saved. They estimate Jones saved 13 runs above league average in 1902. This was second-best in the AL and Jones was the only outfielder among the league leaders. STATS lists Jones as one of their Gold Glove outfielders for the decade. Newspapers of the day called a nearly impossible, yet successful, fielding play, a “Jones Catch.”
John McGraw of the New York Giants was about to go into war with the AL. McGraw, who managed the Baltimore AL franchise at the start of 1902, became frustrated with Ban Johnson’s attempts to curb the rowdy element in baseball. McGraw jumped his Baltimore contract in mid-season and took his best players to the Giants. The rest of the AL was forced to supply players to Baltimore so the team could finish the season.
To give McGraw some competition, AL president Ban Johnson moved the Baltimore franchise to New York in 1903. Clark Griffith, unhappy managing under Comiskey, readily agreed to manage the AL franchise in New York. The AL was intent on putting a strong team in New York, getting Wee Willie Keeler, Jack Chesbro, and Jesse Tannehill from the NL to stock the club. Giants owner John T. Brush and McGraw would try to fight back.
First the Giants enticed George Davis to jump the White Sox. Davis was not happy with Comiskey and decided to try to break his contract with Chicago. The two leagues did not honor each other’s contracts at this time, but Davis had a unique deal. His attorney, Ward, would now try to break the supposedly unbreakable contract he had written.
Hard-hitting Ed Delahanty and others also agreed to jump from the AL to the Giants. But the first attempts at a peace agreement between the two leagues in winter of 1902 forced the Giants to relinquish some players, including Delahanty.
Fielder Jones was following these events with interest. He was dissatisfied in Chicago. He had growing business interests in western New York, where he lived there in the off-season. John McGraw coveted him to help rebuild the Giants’ poor outfield. Jones, following Davis’s example, hired an attorney to write his own contract with the Sox. His 1903 contract did not contain a reserve clause. Jones signed a three-year deal to play for the Giants starting in 1904, after his deal with the Sox expired. Without the reserve clause in his contract, he expected to be free to move to New York.
The AL was still attempting to move players to their newly created New York franchise to compete with the Giants. The Giants were intent on getting Delahanty. They gave him a signing bonus to jump from Washington but the two leagues disallowed the contract. According to some accounts, Delahanty was on his way to join the Giants when he fell to his death from a railroad track spanning the river leading to Niagara Falls. George Davis played just four games for the Giants in 1903 before a court blocked him from playing with that team. Davis would sit out the rest of the season before going back to Chicago.
The legal battles were too costly for the two leagues. Contract jumping was driving up salaries. Team owners knew they had to come to an agreement and did so after the 1903 season. The two leagues would honor all contracts, including the reserve clause.
The White Sox of 1903 were a bad team with little leadership. Chicago newspapers reported the team was close to mutiny against manager Jimmy Callahan. Fielder Jones had a solid year, hitting .287, third-best on the club, with the second-best on-base percentage. He led the AL in putouts with 324 and in fielding percentage at .985. John McGraw thought he was getting a superb, all around ball player in Jones for the 1904 season.
Fielder Jones had signed to play with the Giants in 1904. He told a New York newspaper he would not play again for Chicago. Jones was not legally bound to the Sox and expected to play for New York.
The National Commission had other ideas. Even without the reserve clause in his contract, the Commission prevented Jones from playing in the NL. AL president Ban Johnson, a member of the Commission, prevailed upon NL president Harry Pulliam to have New York relinquish their rights to Jones. Jones had been a true free agent but was not allowed to play for any team but the White Sox. The National Commission said that Jones and Davis were property of the White Sox “until such time as said players may be disposed by that club.” They added that the leagues would fight in court, no matter how costly, if either player fought the decision. The Sporting News, long a voice for the baseball owners, said that the Giants had no claim to Davis but felt a court of law would say they should have Jones. There was sentiment toward Jones for his integrity in playing out his Sox contract but not for Davis, who had jumped a contract.
Detroit contacted Comiskey about working a trade, offering outfielder Jimmy Barrett in exchange, but Comiskey did not want to lose a player of Jones’ worth. Jones was still determined to have New York honor the contract, defying the peace agreement. Comiskey told The Sporting News it was an “outrage upon the base ball public of the city to let such a player get away from the White Sox.” Fielder Jones did not report to training camp with the Sox in 1904. He reported to the Giants’ camp and later worked out with the Senators.
Yet Jones, if he wanted to play baseball in 1904, would have to stay with the White Sox or play for an outlaw league. He commented that he felt a “contract should be as good as his word.” Jones was forced to re-sign with the White Sox since his deal with the Giants was disallowed. Reportedly he only signed after a meeting with Ban Johnson.
Fielder Jones had again written his own contract with Chicago. Once again there was no reserve clause. Clearly, he was still planning to leave Chicago. He may have felt that the two leagues would not be able to keep the peace. Jones commented on his situation in the Saturday Evening Post: “I am practically a slave. The baseball slave accepts the restrictions placed upon him by the great magnates, and smiles .”
The contract is also of interest in that Jones had an injury clause. Players in this era usually did not get paid if they were hurt and unable to play. Teams were known to release players who were not physically able to perform. Jones would earn $4,250 for the season.
It’s also notable that while baseball would not let Jones play for the New York Giants, Sporting Life reported that the National League ended up paying part of Jones’ salary in 1904 and 1905. The league also paid part of George Davis’s salary. NL President Harry Pulliam said the NL was “sending Charles A. Comiskey $700 each month” as a way of “squaring” the contracts of Jones and Davis. Pulliam indicated that Jones would not have gone back to the Sox as he had a valid contract with the National League. Pulliam added, “Jones has acted perfectly honorable and there is no reason that he should suffer loss because of the peace agreement between the two leagues.”
Comiskey had Jones under contract for two years but knew the player was looking to leave. Comiskey needed a way to keep Jones in Chicago. Forty games into the season, he found the way. Ban Johnson had helped prevent Jones from going to New York. Both Comiskey and Johnson knew that Jones was capable of much more than that of an outfielder.
Jimmy Callahan had managed the Sox to the young franchise’s worst record in 1903, winning only 60 games. Callahan was a hard drinker and known brawler. He was lax on discipline, probably because it would have curtailed his own carousing. Comiskey was a stickler for conditioning. As a manager he believed that conditioning would win pennants.
Callahan’s Sox underachieved in 1903. Based on their runs scored and allowed, STATS estimates the Sox should have won 14 additional games. The team was in disarray during the 1904 spring training as several players held out. Eventually all players signed and after the season, Sporting Life noted, “Comiskey has the consolation that he has had a great season and made lots of money.” Just a few years into the history of the American League, Charles Comiskey was making money and his players were unhappy about their contracts. Comiskey, once a champion of player rights, was now being labeled a greedy owner.
The 1904 season opened with a Jones in center field for Chicago, but it was Claude “Charlie” Jones. Dubbed “Clawed” by the press for his poor fielding, Charlie was just 4 for 17 before Fielder returned in the Sox’ sixth game.
A Chicago newspaper reported that Comiskey suspended Callahan in mid-May. Fielder Jones was offered the manager’s job, but refused. On June 6, Comiskey did make a change. Callahan was “asked” to give up the managerial duties. Callahan told the newspapers, “I believe I have the best interests of the team at heart.” The papers said Callahan planned to concentrate on learning his new position, second base. He had pitched and played outfield and third base in previous years. Fielder Jones, who was not talking to Comiskey, finally agreed to take over the team. Ironically, Callahan would play left field the rest of the year as Jones installed Gus Dundon at second base. Dundon was a player Callahan tried to send to the minors in spring training.
Comiskey had a reputation for second-guessing his managers. He would stand behind home plate and make notes on the team’s play, then later go over the mistakes with the manager. Comiskey made the trades, scouted the minor leagues, and decided who was on the roster during the season. The Sox needed a strong-willed individual who could not only handle the players but who could also handle the team owner’s interference.
Fielder Jones was not happy or talking with Comiskey. But Comiskey evidently recognized Jones’ leadership abilities. Never one to back away from an opportunity, Jones took over the team and started working with the owner he had tried to escape.
Jones was the exact opposite of Callahan, a manager in the mold of Comiskey. Jones wanted his teams to practice, stay in shape and play intelligent baseball. The team improved under Jones. The Sox were 23-18 under Callahan and 67-47 under Jones. STATS estimates, that the Sox under Jones, won 11 more games than expected in 1904.
Jones would become known as a daring and innovative manager, one who understood the rule book and was unafraid of taking chances. One writer claimed that “Fielder introduced speed, psychology, and daring into the game.”
Under Jones, the Sox started playing as a team. The Callahan Sox were stuck in fourth place, while Jones’ Sox actually got to first place at one point before finishing third, just six games out. Injuries down the stretch, including one to pitching ace Frank Owen, ruined the team’s title chances. The pitching and fielding showed the most improvement. The team ERA dropped from 3.02 to 2.30. Doc White, a holdout at the start of the season, ran off a string of 45 consecutive scoreless innings, a record that stood until 1968. An improvement in fielding also helped the pitchers. The Sox reduced their errors by 59 from 1903 and improved from seventh to first in fielding percentage. Part of the improvement goes to Dundon who led the AL in fielding percentage, 51 points better than Callahan’s at second.
Offensively the team scored more runs than in 1903, an increase from 516 to 600, even though its batting average and on-base percentage dropped slightly. The Jones influence is shown in that the team started playing for one run at a time. The Sox had more sacrifices and stolen bases in 1904. Fielder Jones understood that to win games in the Deadball Era, teams needed good pitching, good defense and a one-run lead.
Jones did not take part in spring training in 1904, so he missed the arrival of the pitcher who would become the franchise’s all-time best and would become linked to Fielder Jones and the success of the team.
Ed Walsh grew up in Plains, Pennsylvania, a town as small as Shinglehouse, Jones’ hometown. Walsh worked in the coal mines, playing on mine teams until he signed to play minor league baseball. During spring training with the Sox in 1904, he met Elmer Stricklett, a journeyman pitcher who was trying to hang on by using a pitch he had recently learned, the spitball. Stricklett taught it to the young Walsh. It would be two years before Walsh mastered the pitch, but when he did, Jones and the Sox were in for a good run.
Some stories state that Jones told Walsh in spring training that he needed to learn the spitball to make the team. In fact, Jones was opposed to the spitball. A Sporting Life article after the 1904 season quotes Jones as saying, “If base ball legislators want to do any legislating this winter let them a pass a rule against the ‘spit ball.’” Jones felt that pitchers already had too much of an advantage over the hitters.
Contemporary writers said the stress of managing hurt Jones’ offensive performance; Sporting Life asked in 1906 if the stress of managing would affect Frank Chance of the Cubs as it did Jones. Baseball observers at the time judged a hitter almost entirely by his batting average. Jones’ average dropped from .287 in 1903 to a low of .230 in 1906. Through the 1903 season he was a lifetime .310 hitter. During his last five seasons with the White Sox he batted just .246, but that was two points better than the league average in those deadball years.
Modern measurements reveal that Jones actually continued to be a strong run producer as a player-manager. His on-base percentage plus slugging percentage was better than the AL average every year but 1904. He was second in the league in runs scored in 1905 and fourth in 1908, and finished second or third in walks each year from ’05-’08.
Jones’ defense also continued to shine. He led the AL in putouts in 1906. He set a major league record for fielding percentage by an outfielder that year with a mark of .988. (The league-average outfielder had a percentage of .963.) Jones also averaged almost 20 assists a season from 1905 through 1908.
The White Sox moved up to second place in 1905, just two games behind Philadelphia. The pitching staff was the best in the AL and the team was second in runs scored. The Sox weren’t eliminated from the race until they dropped two of three to the Athletics late in September. According to STATS, Jones’ squad won 10 more games than expected.
1906 would prove to be team’s finest hour. The White Sox had injury and personnel problems all season, but Jones held the team together. The only starter to play the entire season was first baseman Jiggs Donohue. Jones was hindered by ankle problems. Catcher Billy Sullivan broke the thumb on his throwing hand on September 1. Third baseman Lee Tannehill had ankle and knee injuries. Shortstop George Davis had shoulder, hip and back problems that limited his effectiveness. Frank Isbell had knee problems.
The pitching staff also had its share of difficulties. Ed Walsh, who came into his own that year, had a hand injury. Doc White missed the first six weeks of the season while coaching baseball at his alma mater, Georgetown. He also missed most of September with viral infections. Nick Altrock had a bad ankle.
Jones also had to deal with the defection of backup catcher Ed MacFarland and the loss of three outfielders from the 1905 team. Jimmy Callahan left the team before the season to start an outlaw semi-pro team in Chicago. Callahan was the subject of much discussion during the season as Comiskey negotiated to get him back. Callahan would end up suing baseball at the end of the season after the National Commission refused to allow him to rejoin the White Sox.
The White Sox didn’t click as a team until the lineup became set late in July. With a healthy team for the first time all year, Jones was able to put his best lineup on the field and the results showed. The Sox won a record 19 straight games, outscoring their opponents by over three runs per game during the stretch. The Sox leaped from fourth place to first. They started the streak by knocking off the league-leading Athletics five times. New York put together a 15-game win streak in September as the Sox were hindered by injuries to Sullivan and Tannehill. The Sox and Highlanders traded places three times before the Sox clinched the pennant.
The White Sox in 1906 were dubbed the Hitless Wonders because of their league-low .230 batting average. But they were third in runs scored, and it is runs, not hits, that win games. The Sox clearly knew how to play deadball. They excelled in the areas designed to score a single run at a time. Besides leading in sacrifices, they also led the league in walks and hit by pitches and were third in stolen bases. The White Sox scored 0.5 runs for every hit. The league’s best offensive team, Cleveland, scored 0.43 runs for every hit. While Jones was managing the White Sox, all his teams were among the league’s best in drawing walks, stealing bases and bunting. Jones personally averaged 28 sacrifices during his years as manager.
The White Sox were also able to take advantage of their home ball yard. South Side Park was described in The Hidden Game of Baseball as an “all-time scoring squelcher.” John McGraw, as reported in Wrigleyville, said of the Sox home field, “Their grounds prevent anyone from hitting heavily, as they played 77 games there, it made their averages look very small.” The Sox allowed just 2.28 runs per game when playing at home and only three home runs were hit in the park all season. It is unclear what the dimensions of park were, but the Sox had fast outfielders and ground-ball pitchers to keep balls from getting to the fences. They were 21 games over .500 at home and just four games over on the road, outscoring their opponents by 95 runs at home but by just 15 on the road.
The Hitless Wonders went into the World Series as a decided underdog to their cross-town rivals. Frank Chance’s Cubs had dominated the NL, winning a record 116 games, but the NL did not have the same competitive balance as the AL. Just three NL teams had winning records, while the AL had five. The sixth-place AL team had a better record than the fourth-place NL club. Jones had scouted the Cubs and knew they were susceptible to left-handed and spitball pitchers. Jones’ choice of pitchers during the series would reflect this. Chance, on the other hand, told the Chicago Tribune he might start his second-string pitchers against the Sox.
Looking at the batting averages, runs scored and pitching stats for the World Series shows two evenly matched teams. So how did the White Sox win the World Championship in six games? The venerable baseball writer Henry Chadwick stated the White Sox won on “generalship alone.” Fielder Jones knew how to beat the Cubs by taking the Cubs out of their game. The White Sox didn’t hit much against the great Cubs pitching staff but knew how to manufacture runs. The Cubs would prove to be frustrated by Sox pitching and failed to take advantage of opportunities.
W.M. Rankin wrote after the Series, “Jones knew his men like a book and knew what they could do and what to expect.” He felt Chance lacked proper judgment at critical times and had a lot to learn before he could be regarded as one of the best. Another writer claimed the Sox won due to “superior head work.”
In spite of his earlier opposition to the spitball, Jones commented in The Sporting News on Ed Walsh, “It is impossible to bunch hits on a spit ball pitcher who has full command of that delivery.” He added, “Not one moment did Walsh lose his head.” Walsh won two games in the Series.
Fielder Jones was now mentioned with Connie Mack and John McGraw as the best managers in baseball. A Cleveland sportswriter in 1908 wondered how many championships the Cleveland team would have won if they had had Jones as manager instead of Napoleon Lajoie. Jones was cheered when he played his first home game in 1904, after his holdout. In 1906 he was honored as Chicago’s favorite player. And yet Jones talked openly of retiring.
Charles Comiskey didn’t help the team’s title chances for 1907. After the World Series victory, Commy gave the players a check for $15,000 to share as bonus money. But as the players got their contracts for the ’07 season, they found the bonus was factored into their salaries. In February Walsh announced that he might hold out. Jones was only enticed back to the team with a contract worth $10,000, the most money paid to date by Comiskey for any player. The White Sox players were not happy going into 1907. Comiskey had done nothing to improve the team’s offense. The White Sox had the oldest lineup in the AL in 1906 and suffered from numerous injuries. They were only older and more injury-prone in 1907. The White Sox offense showed little improvement and the team was carried by the league’s best pitching staff. The Sox were in first place in early August, but their lack of depth ruined their chances. They again had the league’s best pitching and defense and finished third in runs scored. Jones felt that defense and pitching were more important than offense. He believed that if his team got a one-run lead, they would win the game. But the Tigers, who scored 106 more runs than Chicago, won the pennant. Detroit scored too many runs for the Sox pitching and defense to overcome. In November, Jones once again pondered retirement. But a blank contract from Comiskey, lured Jones back to the fold. Jones was able to name his price, $10,000.
The 1908 White Sox may have been Jones’ finest performance as a manager. Once again Comiskey had done little to improve his club. The only additions were shortstop Freddy Parent and outfielder John Anderson. The addition of Parent would move the aging George Davis to second base. Anderson was to add depth to the outfield and offense.
However, the Sox struggled. Jiggs Donahue was suffering from venereal disease, which destroyed his playing ability and would ultimately take his life at age 34. Davis hit .217, bettering his replacement Parent by ten points. The team hit just three homers all year, one by hurler Walsh. Frank Owen and Nick Altrock pitched little due to injuries. Comiskey offered as replacements four minor leaguers who went 3-4.
Comiskey didn’t help matters with his hard-line attitude toward hurler Frank Smith. Smith, a two-time 20-game winner but a perpetually unhappy player, jumped the team on July 12. He had jumped a minor league team and the Sox previously. This year he was unhappy with criticism by Jones and Comiskey. G.W. Axelson’s 1919 book Commy indicates Jones was urged to suspend Smith for wasting two pitches once he was had a 0-2 count on a batter. Jones supposedly had ordered Smith to get after the batter and Smith didn’t. This version of the story may be Comiskey’s attempt to save face about Smith’s desertion. The book also reports that the Sox owner paid Smith in full for the season.
Newspaper reports said Smith left the team in protest over early morning workouts. More likely he was upset with criticism of his drinking, carousing and missing practices. Smith went home to Pittsburgh to take up his off-season occupation of piano moving. His nickname at the time was “Piano Mover,” but his teammates started calling him “Deserter.” Jones, as reported in the Chicago Tribune, frequently called and wrote Smith, asking him to return to the team, which he finally did.
While Smith was gone, the Sox had only two healthy pitchers, Ed Walsh and Doc White. Walsh turned in one of the greatest seasons in history. Big Ed won 40 games with just 15 losses. He pitched 464 innings, the most by any pitcher since 1893, with a 1.42 ERA. White won 18 games and pitched nearly 300 innings. Smith, who missed more than a month, finished with a record of 17-16 and a 2.03 ERA. More important, he won 11 games down the stretch.
Even with the team’s worst offense of the Jones years, the Sox stayed in the race until the last day of the season, when they played the Tigers for the pennant. Jones decided to pitch lefthander White on one day’s rest as opposed to a rested Frank Smith. Many have speculated that the animosity between Jones and Smith led to the decision, but that overlooks Jones’ ability to evaluate his opponents. Jones knew the Cubs were susceptible to lefthanders and spitball pitchers in 1906. He also must have recognized that the Tigers were susceptible to lefthanders. Doc White was not a hard thrower and had pitched on limited rest before. Ty Cobb claimed that White was the toughest pitcher he ever faced; Cobb hit just .276 against the lefthander, 90 points below his lifetime average. The Tigers’ top four hitters were all left-handed.
Jones said of the decision, “I put him in because I figured him the best bet against the Tigers and because ‘Doc’ insisted. White had been a stumbling block for Detroit all season and he told me he never felt better.” But the Tigers tagged White often and early, aided by five Sox errors, en route to a 7-0 victory. Jones’ strategy had failed.
Even though the White Sox lost the pennant on the last day of the season, the season had been lost earlier. Chicago writer I. E. Sanborn claimed that the five weeks Frank Smith was gone cost the Sox the title. He claimed Smith deserted the team for a “fancied wrong” and that he “would have easily won six games that lesser pitchers lost.” It was also written that Smith had an “animosity to hard work.” Sanborn praised Jones for his “marvelous executive ability on the field” and said Jones was the premiere defensive outfielder in the country.
The Sporting News wrote that the Sox were called the “most dreaded foe” in the AL. The Sox got by once again on superior pitching and defense. The offense scored the fewest runs of any Jones team. The Sox still played little ball, drawing walks, bunting and stealing bases, but the team was too old to improve. Sanborn suggested that if Jones had the material of some of his opponents, the Sox might have won an “unbroken series of pennants”.
Fielder Jones quit the White Sox after the 1908 season. Some articles say that Jones lost his job over the handling of the Frank Smith-Doc White incident on the last day of the season. But those reports can be discounted.
Jones was tired of being caught between disgruntled players and Charles Comiskey. Comiskey, while a player, had been a part of an early players association, advocating player rights. That changed when he became an owner. He was already proving to be cheap and Jones may well have grown tired of Comiskey’s second-guessing his decisions and giving him limited input on player decisions.
By this time, Jones had moved his wife and son to Portland, where his brother ran the engineering business. Willard was also a member of the state legislature. Fielder invested in land. Growing up in the timber country of Pennsylvania taught him the value of land and lumber. Jones, along with teammate Billy Sullivan and Cubs’ shortstop Joe Tinker, invested in an apple orchard in Oregon called White Sox Orchards. The Jones family also owned the Groner Walnut Company. Jones’ Portland Company owned timber and oil rights in eastern Oregon and other states. Jones didn’t need baseball; he was financially sound and had plenty to occupy his time.
In addition, the stress of managing and playing had taken its toll. Charles Comiskey couldn’t imagine that any player could just walk away from the game, but Jones needed to get of out uniform. He had a secret known only to his family: Family records show he had heart problems. Jones needed to rest, away from the stress of the game.
Charles Comiskey would not give up trying to re-sign his manager. The Chicago Tribune reported Fielder Jones was still more popular in Chicago than Frank Chance, whose Cubs had just won their third straight pennant. Comiskey dispatched Harvey Woodruff, the sports editor of the Tribune, to Portland. Jones sent word back to Chicago of his terms to reunite with the Sox. He had dreamed of owning a major league team and knew that Clark Griffith had been given partial interest in the Sox for his efforts at recruiting NL players when he was managing the team. Jones also knew that Frank Chance had been given an interest in the Cubs.
Jones was, first and foremost, a businessman. He did not like the way baseball was being run. In The Sporting News in 1915 he said, “If baseball wasn’t such a good game, it would have died several years ago, because of the business methods of the magnates of Organized Ball. If men in other lines of business conducted their affairs as the baseball magnates have run things for the past 10 or 12 years, business would soon be on the bum.”
He still disliked the reserve clause. He felt that team owners were making too much money without compensating the players fairly. Historian Harold Seymour estimated that Comiskey netted $700,000 in his first decade in Chicago. He would be profiting $70,000 a year while, as Seymour wrote, team owners tried to impose a salary cap with a total payroll of around $35,000.
But Comiskey ran a family business. He had bought back Clark Griffith’s stock when Griffith went to New York and would not let the stock leave the family in his lifetime. Fielder Jones made a proposition to Comiskey: a part-interest his lumber and real estate holdings for a 50% interest in the White Sox.
After Woodruff failed with Jones, Charles Comiskey made a trip to Portland. Unfortunately, he started out on the wrong foot by making a power play on Jones’ home turf. Edwin Pope wrote that the two were to meet at Comiskey’s hotel for lunch, but when Jones arrived at the set time; he was informed that Commy had gone for a walk and that he should wait. Commy’s big mistake was failing to realize that Jones had the bargaining chip, his services. Jones left a message that if Comiskey still wanted to meet, he could come to Jones’ office.
Comiskey was forced now to go even further to woo Jones. He laid a blank check on Jones’ desk and said he could name his price. In classic Comiskey form, the price would have a limit of $15,000. Jones repeated his demands and Comiskey again said no.
With the 1909 baseball season just weeks away, Commy tried twice more to get Jones to return. The White Sox had already started spring training without a manager. Billy Sullivan sent a postcard from camp in Los Angeles, “Fielder, We are all pulling for you to come back so hurry, WJS.” AL president Ban Johnson sent a telegram to Jones on April 9, asking him to rejoin the White Sox “at least for another season.” Johnson said Jones’ absence caused “Mr. Comiskey much embarrassment.”
Two days before the season, Jones’ friend and business partner Billy Sullivan was named manager. Sullivan was a capable handler of a pitching staff, but he was poorly prepared to run a team. Giving the job to Sullivan may have been another attempt to lure Jones back. Comiskey may have believed that Sullivan, a first-time manager, would fail and Jones would come back to help out his friend.
Sullivan’s son, Billy Jr., who also played in the majors, said his father was too nice to handle the daily problems of a team. Many managers of this era, were physically tough to command respect. Branch Rickey said, “There are two ways of managing a ball club. One is by brute strength and domineering personality. The other is by superior knowledge of the game.” Billy Sullivan would fail on both counts with the Sox. Fielder Jones had won games by knowing the game better than his opponents.
But Charles Comiskey was right in one respect: It was hard for Jones to leave baseball. Early in 1909 Jones became treasurer of the Class D Northwestern League while running his businesses. He became vice-president of a new hotel in Portland.
Getting further back into the game in 1910, he was named baseball coach at Oregon Agricultural College, which would become Oregon State. Jones’ charges won their first conference title under his guidance that year with a record of 13-4-1.
Baseball rules of the day said a player was still under contract to his team until the team released him. Jones was still legally bound to the White Sox. So when he was enticed to play that year for Chehalis of the Class D Washington State League, the Sox had to give their permission. In fact, the White Sox did not officially release Jones as a player until 1913, when he was 42. But in 1910, the 39-year-old could still play. He led Chehalis to the league title, hitting .358 and leading the league in hits and average. Two years after he left, Jones was still popular in Chicago and was hired to cover the 1910 and 1911 World Series for a Chicago newspaper. Comiskey made another offer for Jones’ services as manager in September of 1910. Jones again turned down a “big salary” to stay in Portland.
In 1911, the Class D Northwestern League added a team in Portland. The Class A Pacific Coast League also had a franchise there. Fielder Jones would become a regular at the ballparks, evaluating talent. The Northwestern League, in an attempt to capitalize on Jones’ popularity, elected him president in 1912. In that era most teams’ profitability depended on the sale of players to the higher leagues. Jones’ contacts with the majors could help the league make those sales. Jones would be responsible for, among others, Harry Heilmann going to Detroit and Carl Mays going to Boston. Mays would not forget Jones’ help in sending him to the majors.
In 1913 the Boston Red Sox offered Jones a chance to manage for $25,000. Cincinnati, Detroit and Brooklyn of the Federal League made similar offers. He turned them down. He still wanted to be a team owner and considered purchasing a minor league team
Charles Comiskey even tried once more to get Jones back to the White Sox. After the 1913 season, Comiskey and John McGraw led a world tour. Two teams of all-stars representing the White Sox and Giants traveled around the globe playing exhibition games. Their return to the United States was a gala event. Jones was a featured guest of Comiskey at a grand dinner given in honor of the tour. Jones was given an engraved book commemorating the event even though he did not go on the trip. Jones again said no to Comiskey.
In 1914 the Federal League declared itself a major league. Philip Ball owned the St. Louis franchise, which struggled under the guidance of onetime pitching star Three-Finger Brown. The Terriers were the league’s worst team with a 62-89 record. The papers called them the “Shiftless Blunders.” Ball realized that Brown was not going to bring the team a championship. Even though one newspaper claimed Jones was an “avowed enemy of organized base ball,” Phil Ball wanted Jones. Jones also had a need to go back to baseball. He said in a 1917 article in Baseball Magazine that his businesses were crumbling: “they have been killed by the war and other causes.”
Fielder Jones came back to the major leagues with an ownership interest in Ball’s team. Grantland Rice reported in Colliers that Jones was to receive a guaranteed $50,000 for three years and a share of the team. Part of lure was the Federal League’s limited reserve clause. Jones commented on the Federal League contract in Sporting Life, “Ours is a straight businesslike document, with no loopholes and no jokers, which are not binding.” Jones became manager with 38 games left in the season, but failed to improve the team. He pinch-hit in five games, hitting .333 in three at bats.
When he took his club to Chicago late in the year, fans held a Fielder Jones Day. He was presented a silver plate and pitcher that were inscribed “to Fielder A. Jones by his Chicago friends, August 1914.”
Jones was serious about the future of the Federal League. He went to Kansas and attempted to lure Walter Johnson to St Louis. Johnson would eventually commit to Chicago of the Federal League before returning to the Senators. It was reported that Charles Comiskey gave Washington enough cash to keep Johnson just so he wouldn’t have Johnson pitching across town. Jones said that Clark Griffith used “improper methods” to prevent Johnson from jumping leagues. Jones was able to lure veteran lefthander Eddie Plank to St Louis. He tried to get an agreement with the Northwestern League and others in the Pacific Northwest to have them function as a farm system for the Federal League.
The Terriers made an amazing turnaround in 1915. With few major changes to the roster, the team improved from the fewest wins in the league to the most, with a record of 87-67. But the Chicago Whales, who played two fewer games than St. Louis, were declared the league champions with a .566 won-loss percentage (86-66), one point better than the Terriers. Jones played the last professional games of his career, getting six at bats without a hit in seven games.
The Terriers played classic Jones baseball in 1915. Before the season he was quoted in The Sporting News, “My club is going to be one which plays errorless ball, if it lies within the realm of possibility to possess such a club. I have always had a team whose fielding was close to the airtight variety, and I am trying to mold the Terriers into such an aggregation.” From 1914 to 1915, St Louis improved from eighth in batting average to third, from seventh in on base percentage to first, from eighth in runs scored to third, from eighth in ERA to third, and from sixth in fielding percentage to second. The Terriers improved in areas that were important to playing for one run: sacrifices, walks and stolen bases. The team’s offensive improvement also came in a year when scoring declined in the league as a whole. STATS estimates that Jones’ team won 17 more games than expected.
Nineteen-fifteen also saw Jones’ fiery nature at work in the Federal League. As the manager of the White Sox, he had regularly battled umpires. Writers commented about Jones racing in from center field so often that a path was worn in the grass. Few managers or even umpires knew the rulebook as well as Jones. As a true student of the game, he would use any rule to his advantage. He was more than willing to complain about on-field decisions. In 1908, as a response to a complaint by Jones, AL president Ban Johnson overruled a decision by noted umpire Silk O’Loughlin. Jones was upset over a play when a Sox runner was trying to steal home. The catcher stepped in front of the plate and the batter to receive the pitch and tag the runner. Jones argued this was catcher’s interference. The umpires’ ruling was that runner was out since the pitcher had started his windup. Jones argued the call had to be either a balk or interference. Jones was correct; the umpire’s ruling would prevent the use of a squeeze play.
The umpires in the Federal League were not the best. In July Jones turned in his resignation over poor umpiring. After his players talked him into returning, the league dismissed the umpires in question. Later in the season, Jones was suspended for three games and fined $50 for arguing with umpires.
Ball was so thrilled with Jones’ success that he offered him the team presidency. But before Jones could accept, the Federal League reached agreement with the AL and NL to fold. As part of the agreement, Phil Ball was allowed to buy the St. Louis Browns and merge the players from both teams into one. Ball took his manager and business partner, Fielder Jones, back into the American League as manager of the Browns, displacing Branch Rickey to the front office. Jones was named second vice president. His stock in the Terriers was transferred to the Browns. Jones finally owned part of a major league team.
Rickey, who had been the field manager and responsible for player acquisitions, was given a figurehead position. Ball distrusted the non-drinking, religious Rickey, yet the non-drinker Jones was his confidant. The new Browns manager would be responsible for trimming a roster that totaled 57 players. Those who were not team players were moved. Tilly Walker, one of the leading hitters on the Browns in 1915, was sold to Boston for playing at “half speed.” Five of the principal players from the sixth-place Browns were gone by opening day. Others would be moved early in the season. Competition for roster spots was fierce. Returning Browns shortstop Doc Lavan, a practicing physician, prescribed six months of rest for Ernie Johnson after he sprained an ankle. Johnson had been Jones’ shortstop in the FL.
Fans in St Louis were eagerly anticipating the upcoming Browns season. Jones was presented a silver bat for good luck by a local boys club. He recognized the talents of one of Rickey’s acquisitions. He felt that George Sisler was the best young player he had ever seen. Sisler had played 37 games at first, 29 in the outfield, and had pitched 15 games in 1915. Jones wanted to put Sisler in the outfield where his speed would be an asset but decided to put him permanently at first base. The Sporting News gave the impression that Rickey preferred Sisler as a pitcher.
Even though 10,000 people were turned away from the season opener, 1916 did not start well for the Browns. Jones had 13 of his former Fed players on the roster. His loyalty to them hurt the team, as they clearly were not up to handling the tougher AL. The Browns soon dropped to seventh place. In June the team started to jell as Jones benched his former Terriers. For the next three months they won more games than any other team. A 21-9 August moved them into fourth place, just five games out of first. Jones even commented that the Browns were “better than the ’06 White Sox.” But the Browns didn’t have the depth, even though they started the year with double the roster of most teams. The team’s winning record coincided with the insertion of Hank Severeid at catcher. The Brownies faltered in September and October, when Severeid was hurt, winning just ten of 27 games. They dropped into fifth place at the end of the season. The club jumped just one spot in the standings from 1915 to 1916, but they improved from a .409 won-loss percentage to .513, the Browns’ best finish since 1908. Sabermetric analysis shows the team won 12 more games than expected.
Still, Jones was criticized in The Sporting News as “too hard a loser for the good of his team’s spirit.” Some players struggled playing the inside game that Jones championed. One St. Louis writer said Burt Shotton and Del Pratt “have not been mentally tuned up to the sharp baseball played by their present manager.” Yet the team kept playing hard to the season’s end. George Sisler complimented Jones, saying he instilled a “never-say-die spirit that wins games and makes for perfect defense”.
Jones was able to improve the team’s offense, partly because Sisler became a full-time player and hit .300 for the first time. But the rest of the team showed the Jones touch. The batting average improved from eighth to fourth in the league. The Browns improved from sixth in bases on balls to first, raising their on-base percentage from fifth to second. They also improved from worst in the league to fourth in runs scored and from third to first in stolen bases. The additions of Eddie Plank, Dave Davenport and Bob Groom from the Terriers helped the pitching staff improve from fifth best to third. But the Browns finished seventh in fielding percentage for the second straight year, allowing 131 unearned runs, the second most in the league.
The Browns had been a spirited, feisty team in Jones’ mold in 1916. The team added a few players and expected bigger things from 24-year-old George Sisler. The young first baseman would improve from a .305 average in 1916 to .353. But few others contributed.
In 1917 The Sporting News reported during spring training that Dave Foutz, Jones’ first major league manager, was trying to orchestrate a player strike. Cardinal players hinted of a strike against manager Miller Huggins. One Browns player openly attempted to recruit players to jump to an independent league.
Jones ran a tough spring training that was compared to a military boot camp. The Browns started slowly, dropping six of the first 10 games, then won five of their next six to rise to third place. But the season started falling apart. The Sporting News correspondent accused the Browns of forgetting Jones’ system. By mid-July, the team had dropped to last place.
Earlier in July, Jones severely disciplined several players for a crap game, creating hard feelings. Plank had not wanted to return to the AL when the Terriers and Browns merged. He also regularly threatened retirement. Lavan and Shotton struggled with the fiery Jones as manager; both players were given jobs under Rickey and may have resented the way Rickey was treated by Phil Ball. Rickey had left the Browns in the off-season for the Cardinals. Jones was not one to handle his players gently. He was brutally honest with the players, much to their dislike. Baseball Magazine said Jones was “cool, calm, calculated, mercilessly sarcastic.”
In August, rumors started to surface that the Browns had been dumping games. In later years, Fielder Jones told his family that he had been approached by players about dumping games but never named names. Doc Lavan was openly questioned about several suspicious errors. A Sporting News headline on a story about third baseman Jimmy Austin read, “Here Is One Player Who Never Quits.” Trade rumors quickly started. Team owner Phil Ball publicly accused his double-play combination, Lavan and Del Pratt, of throwing a game against the White Sox. The players sued Ball for $50,000 for slander. The Sporting News wrote that Fielder Jones was said to be “the one man in the whole community to go to the front for the players.” So while Jones defended his players in the press, many became “disaffected.”
The Browns had a brief upswing, playing hard for a couple weeks after Ball’s accusation, but it was too late. They finished in seventh place with a .370 won-loss percentage. In 1916 Jones’ team won 12 more games than expected but one year later, the Browns underachieved by 19 games, according to STATS. There was no Jones magic touch in 1917. The Browns finished with the worst offense and defense in the league and were next to last in ERA. Ironically, the one success the team had on the field during the season came from Jones’ militaristic handling. With a world war raging in Europe, baseball was eager to show its support. The Browns won an AL competition in military drills, with bats substituting for rifles. Ban Johnson gave Fielder Jones a $500 personal check for the winning squad.
Jones’ three-year contract with Phil Ball was up. The Browns had hired Bob Quinn to handle personnel decisions. Jones recommended Quinn look at a player from Grants Pass, Oregon. Quinn did sign the player, Ken Williams, who, after a military commitment, would become a power-hitting star.
Fielder Jones reluctantly came back to St Louis in 1918. His wife stayed in Portland, not joining her husband for the first time while he was with a team. Jones instructed Quinn to rid the team of all players who wouldn’t play the “Jones Way.” Lavan, Pratt, Shotton and others were traded. Military service also took several players. The Browns started slowly but had a winning record at the end of June. Jones, however, had had enough. After a game when the Browns blew a five-run lead in the ninth, Jones walked away. George Sisler says Jones left without saying a word to the players. The Browns had a 22-24 record at the time.
Some speculated that Jones told Phil Ball he felt like quitting and was fired for being a quitter. Jones did inform both Quinn and Ball that he was leaving. Quitting must have been tough for Jones, but the stress of the game was affecting his heart. His wife didn’t come to St Louis to protest Jones’ desire to stay in the game. Jones had been seeing a doctor in Portland for his heart problems. The Sporting News reported in July 1917 that the doctor advised him to have surgery. He may not have wanted to leave the game, but he needed to leave. Phil Ball would send him a letter thanking him for his services and wishing him the best.
Back in Portland, Jones led a quiet life. He and his wife took over raising their granddaughter. He scouted for the Tigers and was a regular fixture at the local ballpark. He belonged to the Elks Club, where he played cards and billiards. He also played golf and was always a competitor. Jones’ competitive nature is highlighted in a spring training story. His players had found out there was a state checker champion in the area. Knowing Jones would not pass up a challenge, the players arranged a match, as a joke on Jones, not telling him the other player was a ringer. The last laugh came at the champion’s expense as Jones won two of three games.
Jones was known as a dapper dresser. He once joked that he had a box of handkerchiefs like most people have tissues. He enjoyed a good cigar and played the harmonica for the team on road trips. Called “Fee” by his friends, he was also known as a soft touch. Many players received “loans” from him that were never repaid.
After his death from heart disease on March 13, 1934, more than 300 people attended his funeral. His death was reported on the front page of the Portland Oregonian. Only two major leaguers attended the service: former teammate and business partner Billy Sullivan, and Carl Mays.
Jones had the respect of his peers. Connie Mack said, “He was a fiery competitor and imparted his tremendous enthusiasm to his men. He was the highly-strung type but as cool as a lime rickey in a tight spot.” Alfred Spink, editor of The Sporting News, called Jones the “greatest exponent of ‘inside’ baseball that ever played.”
George Stovall said of Jones, “He ranks right with McGraw and Connie Mack. He had an inspiring personality and his teams played flashing, dashing, smart baseball.” An article in the St. Louis Republic in 1908 said, “Few men, in fact not any, save himself and, perhaps, McGraw, are given the art of winning championship with dub players as Fielder Jones is. Other managers must have champions to win championships for them.” The New York Times, in Jones’ obituary, had him ranked with McGraw and Mack as “one of the three greatest baseball managers.”
His ability to play the “inside game” made him a valuable player and manager in the dead ball era, which also allowed him to write his own contracts. He was prepared to take on organized baseball for free agency. He was able to leave the game while he was considered one of the best. He came back on his terms and, after some initial success, struggled with the changing nature of the game and players.
Some quotes are from unidentified and undated articles in the Jones family scrapbook. Courtesy of Sherian Groce.
Jones clipping files, Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, New York, and The Sporting News, St. Louis.
Oregon State University website.
Newspapers and magazines
Chicago Tribune, Daily News
Dayton Daily News
New York Times
The (Portland) Oregonian
The Sporting News
St. Louis Republic
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