For a player who appeared in only 19 games during part of a nineteenth-century season, Daniel Albion Jones Jr. received an inordinate amount of notoriety. Among the many cameo players who flitted briefly across the major-league scene, Jones was perhaps the most unique. He was a Yale man who sang in the college’s glee club. He later graduated from both medical and dental school and maintained a dentistry practice for many years after his brief baseball career.
There were other Yale graduates and other future dentists who played major-league baseball, many of whom were more talented than Jones. What made D.A. Jones famous was his bizarre pitching motion, during which he leapt high in the air, with both feet well off the ground, like a mechanical jumping jack. What made his situation even more exceptional was that the young pitcher and his crazy jumping delivery were thrust into one of the most exciting pennant races of the nineteenth century. During the frantic month of September 1883, virtually every baseball crank in America knew about Jumping Jack Jones.
Daniel Jones was born on October 23, 1860, in Litchfield County, Connecticut to Daniel Jones Sr. and Emeline Jones. The Jones family had come to America in 1660, in the person of William Jones, a London attorney. William became a leading figure in the New Haven colony, serving as a magistrate from 1662 through 1692 and as deputy governor until 1706.1
By the time Daniel Jr. was born, dentistry had replaced government as the Jones family business. Daniel Sr. had his own practice and Emeline took a great interest in what her husband was doing. Being a woman, she had to pursue her interest in secret, but eventually Emeline convinced Daniel that she had sufficient knowledge and skill to work with him, and became America’s first known female dentist. After Daniel Sr. died in 1864, Emeline established her own practice in order to support her two young children. For a few years she traveled through Connecticut and Rhode Island with a portable dentist chair before opening a permanent office on Chapel Street in New Haven, Connecticut.2
Daniel Jones Jr. attended New Haven’s prestigious Hopkins Grammar School, playing for its baseball team in 1878, and then matriculated at nearby Yale College (now Yale University), where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon, one of the oldest and most prominent social fraternities in the United States.
The Yale College nine played its first game in 1865 and over the next two decades the school, along with Harvard, fielded strong clubs, often playing exhibitions against major-league and other professional teams. One of Jones’s Yale teammates was Walter Camp, better known for another sport and often referred to as the “Father of American Football.”
Jones played baseball during each of his four years at Yale, leading the Bulldogs to Intercollegiate Baseball Association championships in 1882 and 1883. The 1882 team had a record of 14-11 against all teams and 9-3 against college teams. The following year Yale was 21-12 overall and 11-1 against college nines, losing only to Princeton in 10 innings.
During the summer Jones pitched for the Westfield Firemen in Westfield, Massachusetts. Eligibility for intercollegiate athletics was a hazy subject in the nineteenth century. The common use of aliases (or administrators simply looking the other way) allowed college players to play professionally without compromising their amateur status. Graduate students also played on the varsity nine and there were frequent disputes as to whether star athletes were actually students in good standing. Controversy and scandal in college sports are not twenty-first-century phenomena.
By the spring of 1883, Jones was one of the best college pitchers in America. En route to the IBA championship, he pitched a three-hit shutout against Harvard and yielded just a single run to Amherst in a 3-1 victory.
Meanwhile, near the shores of Lake Huron, the National League’s Detroit Wolverines were having pitching problems. During the first part of the season, George “Stump” Weidman was their only reliable hurler, and they used him far too often. During May he started 14 of Detroit’s 20 games, including five games in a row at one point and four in a row at another. Since backup pitcher Dick Burns was 2-12, manager Jack Chapman used Weidman whenever the latter was capable of dragging himself to the box. As Weidman predictably wore down, the Wolverines faded. After an 11-5 start, they lost 17 of their next 22 games and from June 6 through July 4 they lost 19 of 21.
As the Wolverines searched for a backup for Weidman, perhaps they recalled that in an 1881 exhibition, Jones had pitched effectively against them, although Yale lost by a respectable 4-2 score. As soon as Jones’s 1883 Yale season was over, Detroit signed him for a rather lofty salary of $625 per month.
Apparently the munificent salary enabled the handsome, mustachioed Jones to dress in a style commensurate with his Ivy League background, for Sporting Life noted that the youngster was “said to be the best-dressed man in the league. He probably does not follow the practices of some of his colleagues, a number of whom have found it utterly impossible to support a saloon and buy anything more than jean clothes.“3
Jones made his first start for Detroit on July 9; it was inauspicious, as he was driven from the pitcher’s box after four innings, trailing 5-0. He bounced back and beat Boston in his second game, and after two more losses, reeled off four wins in a row. After a tie with Cleveland on July 28, Jones had a record of 6-5 in 12 starts, with a respectable 3.50 ERA. But Detroit President William Thompson didn’t think that was a sufficient return for $625 a month. The Wolverines were far out of contention and when they acquired talented left-hander Fred “Dupee” Shaw, Thompson decided Jones was an expensive luxury and gave him his release.
While Detroit was staggering to a seventh-place finish and looking to cut expenses, there was a red-hot race in the American Association and one of the teams fighting for the pennant had serious pitching problems. The Philadelphia Athletics were neck-and-neck with the St. Louis Browns, and at the end of August led the Browns by four percentage points. Their top pitcher was 31-year-old veteran Bobby Mathews, who’d been pitching in the major leagues since 1871. Mathews would finish the season with an excellent 30-13 record, but when August ended, he was suffering from a sore arm, a bad back, and a badly injured ankle.
The Athletics’ other pitcher was George Bradley, who’d been one of the best in the National League at one time but was nearing the end of his career. In 1883 most of his time was spent playing third base, but when Mathews was injured, Bradley found himself doing more of the pitching. The Athletics desperately needed another pitcher and offered Jones $500 for the final month of the season.4
Jones jumped right into the fire, starting the second game of a four-game series with the Browns on September 4 before a crowd estimated at 10,000. The Athletics were a half-game behind and a win would put them in first place.
When Jones went to the box to face the Browns, it was the first time Philadelphia fans had seen him pitch5 and they were astonished by his famous jump. The first batter Jones faced was St. Louis shortstop Bill Gleason. The first three pitches were balls. Then Jones started jumping. He jumped three straight times, Gleason took three strikes and trudged back to the bench.
The Browns had never seen anything like it. As he released the ball, Jones leapt into the air and the pitch sailed toward the batter through a mass of arms and legs. “You don’t know whether Jones or the ball is coming at you,” said one of the Browns.6 Jones didn’t jump on every pitch; he did it three or four times an inning, generally when he had two strikes on a batter.
Sporting Life described Jones’s unusual style as follows. “He has a great variety of deliveries, hardly ever standing in the same position or manner twice. He delivers the ball without any unnecessary delay, from the centre or any corner of the box, just where he happens to stand when the ball is returned to him. Another act, which is confusing to the batsman, is a peculiar jump of about a foot in height, in delivering the ball.”7 “He has a half dozen different styles of delivery,” added the Philadelphia Times. “His jumping act astonishes the batsmen and they forget to aim at the ball.”8
Jumping in the air wouldn’t seem to be the best way to get leverage behind a pitch, but at first it was so distracting to the batters that it didn’t matter. The Browns couldn’t hit Jones, and the Athletics pounded St. Louis pitcher Tony Mullane en route to an 11-1 win. If not for an error, the Athletics’ new pitcher would have had a shutout.
Jones not only excelled in the box; he also contributed at the plate, collecting a single in a fourth-inning rally and running wild on the bases in the sixth. He singled in the latter inning and set out for a steal of second. On a sloppy play that included a passed ball and two wild throws, Jones came all the way around to score.
After pitching his new club into first place, Jones was carried off the field in triumph. “He … won his way into the good graces of the audience,” reported Sporting Life, “and when the game was over was the most popular player who ever occupied the box.”9
Mathews was still ailing and Bradley was needed in the infield so the Athletics started Jones again the following day, before another crowd of 10,000. Jones wasn’t as good as he’d been in his debut, but the Athletics survived a ninth-inning Browns rally to win 5-4. Their lead was now 1½ games.
Browns owner Chris Von der Ahe was not a man who took defeat lightly. He was also a man who spoke English with a heavy German accent, and reporters loved to quote him phonetically, and often apocryphally. After the second defeat, the Philadelphia Times claimed that Von der Ahe exclaimed, “Oh, it was that tam ‘Jumping Jack’ pitcher, that settles it. Dot was all right, but by tam, Von der Ahe will have two ‘Jumping Jack’ pitchers ven he gets back mit Cent Lewis.”10
Bradley won the final game of the series, and the Athletics then swept four games from Columbus, giving them a seven-game winning streak and a 3½-game lead over the Browns. Jones won two of the victories in Columbus, giving him a record of 4-0. Then the magic seemed to disappear, as Cincinnati pummeled him in an 11-0 loss. In that game, Jones’s catcher was his former Yale batterymate Al Hubbard, who had been signed by the Athletics to give Jones a familiar face and hands to pitch to. Apparently it didn’t work.
With Mathews healthy enough to play, it was a full week before Jones pitched again, taking the box for the second game of another critical series against the Browns. Although he suffered his second straight loss, the Athletics took two of the three games to maintain the 3½-game lead. Strangely, Jones didn’t jump at all during his loss to the Browns.
Jones’s next start, his last in the major leagues, was on the 28th against fifth-place Louisville. The Athletics had a 1½-game lead with two to play, and a win would clinch the title. Mathews and Bradley had lost the two previous games, and it was up to Jones to bring the Athletics home. The fall semester at Yale had started, but senior Daniel Albion Jones Jr. was not in New Haven. He had another engagement.
Jones, who was relatively fresh, was opposed by Louisville’s Guy Hecker, who by the end of the season had logged 469 innings. The Athletics pounced on the weary hurler and took a 5-2 lead. But Jones, who was jumping again, couldn’t hold it, giving up four runs in the seventh, which put Louisville in front, 6-5. The Athletics tied the game in the eighth and it went to extra innings.
Jones retired the Eclipse in the top of the 10th and the Athletics scored in the bottom half of the inning, bringing Philadelphia its first championship since the old Athletics sat atop the National Association standings at the end of the 1871 season. The improbable hero was a rookie pitcher from Yale with a very strange delivery.11 Jones finished his one-month stint with the Athletics with a record of 5-2 and a 2.63 ERA.
Jones rode in the gala victory parade, and many along the route waved toy jumping jacks. The jumping jack is little remembered today other than as a nickname, but it was a very popular nineteenth-century toy, defined in the World Encyclopedia of Puppetry Arts as follows: “The jumping jack is an articulated, flat or sometimes three-dimensional puppet. Its limbs are manipulated using strings. These are grouped and attached to a single string, situated below the figure and the basic movement of the jumping jack is produced by pulling on this string which causes the arms and legs to move up and down. It is also possible to have jumping jacks operated by one or more strings located above or to the side.”12 A human jumping jack named Jones had made the toy one of the most popular in Philadelphia.
Jones returned to Yale to complete the fall semester, and during the winter there was a great deal of speculation as to where he might pitch the following season. First, despite the fact that he had played professionally, he said he wanted to pitch for Yale. Jones said that if his eligibility was questioned, he would expose other college athletes who had played professionally.
During the winter, while Jones was deciding where to play in 1884, he sang second tenor for the Yale glee club, and was also one of their champion whistlers. In January, while the club was touring a number of Midwestern cities, the train on which they were traveling was involved in a horrific crash. Jones was not injured, but a couple of his fellow students were, one so seriously that his leg had to be amputated. The remainder of the tour was canceled.
There were rumors that Jones would play with the Minneapolis club, but finally he decided to play for a professional team in Meriden, Connecticut, which was only about 20 miles from New Haven. Jones played with Meriden for only about three weeks, but made the acquaintance of the team’s catcher, a tall, skinny youngster from East Brookfield, Massachusetts, who played under the name of Connie Mack. Jones stayed in touch with Mack for many years thereafter.
In 1885 Jones made the final four appearances of his professional baseball career, posting a 1-3 record for Waterbury of the Southern New England League. He earned a degree in dentistry from Harvard (1889) and a medical degree from Yale (1892) and opened a dental practice in East Haven, Connecticut, in 1889, the same year he married Emma Aurelia Beadle, a 32-year-old New Jersey woman. Jones served as secretary and treasurer of the State Dental Society and continued to practice until his health failed in 1935. (Emma died in 1908.) He moved to the Masonic Home in Wallingford, Connecticut, where he died on October 19, 1936, just four days short of his 76th birthday. He is buried in East Lawn Cemetery in East Haven, while his wife is buried in Quinnipiac Cemetery in Southington, Connecticut.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted:
Achorn, Edward. The Summer of Beer and Whiskey: How Brewers, Barkeeps, Rowdies, Immigrants and a Wild Pennant Fight Made Baseball America’s Game (New York: Public Affairs, 2013).
New York Clipper
1 Biography of Daniel A. Jones, from “A History of the Class of Eighty-Four, Yale College, 1890-1914,” edited by Leonard M. Daggett, class secretary, published for the Class of 1884 by the Tuttle, Morehouse and Taylor Company. Thanks to Sam Rubin of Yale for providing the information.
2 A good summary of the career of Dr. Emeline Jones can be found on the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame website cwhf.org/inductees/science-health/emeline-roberts-jones#.XTTQtfJKiUk and at dailynutmeg.com/2018/03/20/emeline-roberts-jones-oral-history/.
3 Sporting Life, August 27, 1883: 3.
4 Jones’s salary was reported at $650 a month or greater in some sources, including the Boston Globe, September 6, 1883.
5 Jones had pitched for Detroit against Philadelphia’s National League club, but the game was in Detroit.
6 “Won by the New Pitcher,” Philadelphia Times, September 5, 1883: 4.
7 “Games Played, Tuesday, September 4,” Sporting Life, September 10, 1883: 5.
8 “Won by the New Pitcher.”
9 Sporting Life, September 10, 1883: 5.
10 “St. Louis Beaten Again,” Philadelphia Times, September 6, 1883: 4.
11 Jones was also a decent hitter for a pitcher, stroking six hits in 25 at-bats for the Athletics and batting .209 for the season, including his time with Detroit