On July 1, 1907, the Washington Times ran a photo of .300-hitting Washington center fielder Charlie Jones. The caption read: “One of the Most Valuable Outfielders in the World.” For Jones, it was the pinnacle of a checkered career: streaks and brilliant fielding balanced by vast slumps. Jones shared endless batting theories with anyone who’d listen but, in the end, the theories were benched.
Known as Theory Jones, he had an excuse for everything. His most famous theory was that he would not swing at a first pitch, so every pitcher he faced threw it in nice and easy for strike one.1 He used a short and heavy bat, into which he pounded nearly a hundred tacks. The tacks added weight to the bat and, he lectured, were proof against cracking.2 Not that he swung at the ball … he flat-footed stabbed at it after posing gorgeously with the bat.3 He beat out bunts and squibbers for at least half his safeties. Jones looked like the worst-hitting pitcher in the league, often taking three straight seemingly easy pitches before heading to the bench without a murmur.4
Born on June 2, 1876, and raised in Butler, Pennsylvania, about 35 miles north of Pittsburgh, Charles Claude Jones was the youngest of at least 17 children born to John L. and Margaret Jones. John Jones worked as a farmer and a house painter.5 In 1897 Charlie enrolled in nearby Grove City College, where the baseball team featured as many as 11 future major leaguers.6 Jones was the fastest and his teammates once placed him on a track to run against a rabbit. Another time, after beating the larger Washington & Jefferson College, the celebrating players slipped into the armory at Sharon and fired off a few rounds. Rhody Wallace, Terry Turner, Frank Smith, Spike Shannon, Mal Eason, Doc Marshall, and the Hemphill brothers were all on the roster.
The only Grove City player not to make the majors was Charlie’s good friend Teddy Radcliffe, and the Browns had a string on him in 1902 before he became chronically ill. Jones, Radcliffe, and another buddy, Rube Waddell, played ball together, schooled together, and joined the Knights of the Golden Eagle, a strong semipro team in Butler.7 Jones and many of the Grove City players also appeared on the team. When Pat Donovan’s Pittsburgh Pirates stopped for an exhibition game that summer, Jones ran to get Waddell off farm chores, and introduced him to the Pirates manager.
Early in 1898 Jones signed with the London, Ontario, team in the International League, a loop comprising teams in Ontario and Michigan. He batted .262 with poor fielding marks in a handful of games and was released to George Sleeman’s independent Chatham team. Waddell jumped Detroit and joined Jones for several early summer weeks. The International League folded on July 7 and Sleeman, a millionaire Guelph brewer, hustled his charges into a patched-up four-team Canadian League that was born on July 11. Chatham finished dead last. Jones batted .238 and fielded .883, poor marks even for that company. Sporting Life called Chatham “a mediocre class of amateurs … laughingstock to the entire community,”8 and Jones “liable to strike out daily with the bases loaded.”
Chatham dumped Jones in favor of 18-year-old Sam Crawford the next season, and Jones was back with London. There he enjoyed two straight seasons of .290 or higher and London finished first twice. Schoolmates Radcliffe and Frank Hemphill also played and Jones was labeled “a fast man with a good arm” who “will command the attention of minor managers.”9 Jones and Hemphill were tied for the league lead in homers with five. When the league folded on July 5, London remained intact and played one month as an independent. On August 6 the team, along with a boatload of Canadian fans, traveled to Detroit for a Simcoe Day doubleheader. George Stallings, manager of the team in the fledgling American League, picked up Jones and Hemphill on a handshake.10
Jones sat on the bench for a few days before replacing injured right fielder Ducky Holmes in midgame on August 12. Jones hit a double off Frank Foreman in an easy win that brought Detroit third place. His first high-level minor-league home run came off left-hander Harvey Bailey against Minneapolis in the team’s small, alternate Sunday park in the Detroit suburb of Stillwells. But his value as a fielder became immediately clear and Jones regularly started in place of each of Detroit’s three slow ex-major-league outfielders. Arthur Irwin, a scout who was looking for players for a possible American Association team in Boston (a stillborn venture propped up by National League interests), traveled to Detroit to see Jones and came away impressed, saying , “Detroiters believe they’ve landed a capital fielding prize.”11
Stallings approached Jones and a few other players before the final pay envelope with a 1900 Detroit contract. Stallings called it a formality, but Jones noticed that the contract was for 1901 and the players “started a small riot.” Stallings insisted that was a typo and the contracts were amended.12 Jones remained in Detroit the offseason, plying his necessary non-baseball trade: interior painting and wallpapering.13 On January 28, 1901, American League president Ban Johnson announced that the league was “major” and the baseball war with the National League was on. Jones and hundreds of other players suddenly became the jealously-guarded property of their respective leagues. In mid-March, Jones was handed to the Cleveland team. Charles Somers, at the moment a principal stockholder of both Boston and Cleveland, switched Jones to the Boston Americans on March 21.14
Spring training for new manager Jimmy Collins in the new AL was three weeks of fungoes and exercise on the Charlottesville campus of the University of Virginia. Jones showed off his loping stride, fly-ball-tracking ability, and powerful arm. Beat writer Jacob Morse quickly sized him up: “Certainly one of the most graceful players I ever saw.”15 But Jones caught the measles and was bedridden when the season opened.16 Grove City alumnus Charlie Hemphill became Boston’s inaugural right fielder. When Nap Lajoie spiked Hemphill and Chick Stahl bruised his ribs, Collins used Jones for nine starts. But Jones, 30 pounds underweight, played weakly and opened his major-league career 1-for-21.17 On May 20 Collins posted a list of 14 players for a three-week Western road trip. Jones, having been given fair consideration, was not on the list.18 He was likely headed for assignment in the New England League.
Scouting in the East, Denver player-manager Tom Brown induced Jones to jump to the 1900 Western League champs.19 On June 12, 1901, Jones made his first appearance in Denver, where the deep outfield grass could be four feet high, and where a young grizzly bear sat chained near the ticket office. Jones whacked an inside-the-park home run to the flagpole in deep center field. Jones and Denver were a good fit. Teddy Radcliffe was the team’s shortstop. The friends were a good-looking duo and women went to Broadway Park in droves to fawn on them. Jones married Lucille P. Bugge after the season, and within a year had two daughters, Margaret and Katherine. Radcliffe didn’t marry in his Denver years and, it was reported, about 30 women sat near third base to cheer him on every game.
Still weak from the measles, Jones started slow and then exploded. In last place on July 21, Denver played .920 ball for a month and finished over .500. Jones’s fielding was “the daily sensation.”20 It seemed every week he made a catch described as “the greatest catch ever seen.” On September 8 he gunned out five runners from left field. “Jones is fast becoming a favorite with the local public,” the Denver Post wrote. “[H]e hits well, fields great, and runs the bases like a deer.”21 In September Oakland of the California League offered to borrow Jones, Kid Mohler, and Henry Schmidt for play into November. Denver owner D.C. Packard OK’d the loan of Mohler and Schmidt, but denied the loan of Jones. When Jones found out, he went AWOL on Labor Day and sulked in a tavern. 22
In the offseason Jones contracted to work in Golden, Colorado, as an interior painter. On January 16, 1902, perhaps still bitter about being denied a chance to play on the coast, Jones jumped to the Milwaukee American Association franchise, an embarrassment for the Western League, which also had a Milwaukee team. Jones’s letter to new manager Billy Clingman was published by the Milwaukee Daily Journal: “I am with the American Association, first and last.” Jones insisted he couldn’t be scared into honoring his Denver reserve claim. Two months later he did just that, sheepishly signing back with Denver as Packard reimbursed a $100 advance.
Back to his normal playing weight of 165, Jones had a spectacular 1902. He did miss most of spring training when his father died, but again hit over .360 through July, including a 34-for-73 tear in which Denver played .800 ball.23 At one point he hit four home runs in five games during a 15-game hitting streak. Weeks could go by with the intense Jones quietly filling his position, never even murmuring to umpires on called third strikes. From time to time he ran in from the outfield with rallying cries – a memorable one: “Are we playing ‘One Old Cat’?” The 1902 Western League saw the entire first division within 1½ games of one another with days to go: “A blanket might cover the four teams,” the Denver Post wrote.24 The Grizzlies bolstered their great home winning percentage with a 22-2 spurt and speared first place on September 11. They kept it until the final weekend, only to be eliminated on the final day.
The first draft of a new and updated major- and minor-league National Agreement would not be finalized until mid-1903. In the confusion Jones was advised to remain with Grizzlies a third season and he did. It was a disappointing year. He started in a slump and struggled in August as the entire team saw a 50-point batting decline. Oddest of all, he batted .120 against known left-handed pitchers while his average against right-handers remained normal. Jones was known to experiment with left-handed batting throughout his career. June 20 he was moved to the leadoff position and did have a resurgence, but Denver was 15 games back in early July and under .500 for good at the end of the month. On September 5 his mother died. While Jones was in Pennsylvania for the funeral, White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, backed by a new National Commission ruling, demanded immediate possession of Jones and Gus Dundon as per a November signing.25 The boys still ignored the ruling and finished the year out West, but were corralled by Commie in the cold months.
Fielder Jones, star White Sox center fielder, held out all of spring 1904 and Charlie Jones was used as center-field insurance. He played the first five games of the year for the White Sox, batting seventh, throwing out baserunners, and generally impressing. Fielder signed during that fifth game. It was suggested that Charlie’s good play forced Fielder to come back sooner for less, and Comiskey spoke well of Charlie after the stint. Nevertheless Chicago shipped him, strings attached, to the St. Paul Saints. Jones insisted that the reserve clause be stricken and it was. The St. Paul press called Jones “taciturn” and said he was “an unobtrusive stealthy sort of player, in the game all the time.”26 But when Jim Jackson hit a game-winning home run right after Jones joined the team, the St. Paul Globe observed, “(C)ool, calm, undemonstrative Jones shot through the crowd and hugged and kissed the chunky little right fielder like a long lost brother.”27
For the first time Jones played center field regularly, batted leadoff and more than re-earned his throwing reputation with 42 assists; nearly half were obtained during one July homestand. Now a bona fide terror on the basepaths, Jones amazed fans by squirreling out of rundowns. He stole bases on catcher return throws, after being picked off, and sometimes while the pitchers simply stood in the set position. On July 14 against Toledo, he stole second and third on pickoff throws to first and second bases. St. Paul’s pennant hinged on a brawl-filled three-game sweep of Columbus at Columbus, concluding August 15. From there the team soared but Jones batted .199 in 40 games, pulling a .322 average down to its final .287. He visited the Minneapolis State fair during this stretch and fans there recognized him and demanded he act as a steer judge making Jones late to that day’s game. A costume “farce” played September 15 was touted as a “good-bye for fans.” Each player dressed up: Kelley as an Oriental, Jackson as a vaudeville hobo, and catcher John Sullivan as a Zulu. Jones was a “Coy Country Maiden” and he played the whole game holding his skirt down. A gleeful press noted that he threw just like a girl.
Jones’s defensive emergence was noted by Milwaukee manager Joe Cantillon. He made a tremendous catch at St. Paul’s Lennon Field on June 30, off the bat of Milwaukee’s George Stone. Playing shallow, Jones rocketed to the flagpole and crashed into the fence to make the grab. A catch on September 9 against Kansas City was touted as “the greatest catch in history.”28 Playing big Bill Massey in right center field, Jones cut across the outfield and caught the drive while bouncing off the left-center-field scoreboard. A number of Jones’s catches were labeled as “the greatest ever” yet seem to have been forgotten within a few years. Was Jones simply the first great outfielder to disdain the two-handed catch? A simulated action photo used in 1909 has Jones leaping up with one gloved hand. In any case, Cantillon told Ban Johnson that Jones “was the best all around player in the AA.” Ban Johnson, with a financial interest in the Washington team, wanted Charlie Jones.
Jones’s interior painting and papering business boomed in Denver amid a flurry of offseason machinations to sign him for 1905. Jones, adamant that he would never play for Washington, belonged at various moments to St. Paul, Milwaukee, Toledo, and Denver. After the National Commission awarded him to Washington on January 9, Jones’s stance softened on reporting. “I would be a fool to do otherwise. I am in baseball to make a living.” He took his family to Washington and rented Gene Demontreville’s house.
Washington offered less pay than St. Paul. The reluctant major leaguer joined the team at the same Charlottesville, Virginia, campus where he had trained with Boston in 1901. On his first day he ran into the concrete wall at Lambeth Field, but his spring sparkled after that. On Opening Day, playing shallow, Jones made a sprint to the wall and nabbed a Willie Keeler liner with a Willie Mays effort: one hand, full sprint, his back to home plate. He made three more amazing catches in the early going and by mid-May owned 55 tough errorless chances and a .156 batting average. In Philadelphia on May 1, Rube Waddell burst into Jones’s hotel room, pulled him out of bed at sunrise, and introduced him to each of his Washington teammates. Jones already knew his teammates, but Waddell insisted on doing it properly.29 He was sub-.200 most of the summer but was never benched, although he did drop from leadoff to second slot in the lineup on June 3. Two weeks after that, on June 17, Jones managed the club for a day when Jake Stahl was sick.
On the field: intense and laconic; off the field: overly talkative and even intellectually loquacious. He could pigeonhole anyone with his explanation on just about anything. As the team gathered to leave on its first Western trip, Mal Kitteridge noticed that pitcher Case Patten was wearing orange socks. Immediately Jones was sent for. Jones studied Patten’s socks and rendered a glum verdict for the club: “It is the Indian sign of crimson-beaded moccasins. The trip will be crabbed.” Patten and Jones became friends, Jones providing taut retorts to Patten’s eccentric musings. Once, eating steaks, Patten asked “I wonder why they call this a porterhouse?” Jones replied “So they can charge a dollar for it.”
Surprisingly, the 1905 Washingtons were contenders in the early going. Rookie manager Jake Stahl, the born leader, trained the team with football calisthenics and a vegetarian diet. Six players traveled with small dogs that would eat any meat unavoidably served at any restaurants.
They held first place nine days before losing it for good on May 12. The tying run in that loss came in the sixth inning at Cleveland when Washington pitcher Beany Jacobson promised his team that his low curve couldn’t miss. Charlie Carr hit a triple off the boards behind Jones that reportedly caromed back and hit Jones on the forehead. In the dugout, Jones told Jacobson “I’d hate to be playing center if you pitched one in his groove.”30
On May 26 Jones caught a George Stone liner “off the top board of the fence with one hand,” a possible first occurrence of an outfielder stealing a home run.31 And then came quite possibly the greatest fielding play of Jones’s career, on June 15. In a close game, hosting Cleveland, with one out in the top of the sixth inning, Jones sprinted for an Elmer Flick drive against the right-center-field wall. He made the catch, whirled, and fired a strike to third base to catch Harry Bay trying to tag up from second base. Sporting Life wrote “Had Jones been throwing at a pin he would have hit it on the head.”32 Rookie umpire Tommy Kelly called Bay safe admitting later that he didn’t think such a play was possible. A booing shower followed and police had to escort the umpire off the field. Nap Lajoie called this the greatest play he had ever seen.33 Abysmal hitting by Jones finally led to a three-game benching in late July, but that didn’t help. Jones entered Labor Day 6-for-71.
A real debate began on the value of Jones. Some thought he took away so many hits that it didn’t matter how he batted. Others detested his automatic-out-making and seemed to hate him on a personal level. Jones became famous for looking at third strikes and yet still told sportswriters that he was working out a batting theory. Although batter strikeouts weren’t reported until 1913, Jones remains a good bet to be one of the earliest to whiff 100 times a season. The Washington Post wrote that Jones “exhibits fear at the bat,” adding, “It’s an act of charity on the part of the pitcher when Jones gets a hit.” Jones finished at .208 and would likely have been released to the minors after the season but for one thing: He batted .320 after Labor Day. In October Jimmy McAleer, considered at the time by most to be the best fielding outfielder in history, said: “Charlie Jones is the greatest outfielder playing today, and is as good as any of past days. The Washington Post concurred: “Jones is the greatest outfielder in the world. … The ground he covers!”
At the age of 29, Jones entered his second year with Washington at a career-high 178 pounds. He batted near .500 in a spring training shortened by bad weather and the sudden death and services for Joe Cassidy, the team’s 23-year-old shortstop. Theory listened to his critics and updated his hypothesis: He would now take only one strike. He started slow, enjoyed a month-long .300 stretch, but saw it end on July 12, when a small spike wound incurred in mid-June became infected. He missed 20 games, and when he came back he lost his stroke. The Washington Times wrote that Jones “could not hit a river if he jumped off a bridge.”34 Called out on strikes in the top of the ninth inning by Jack Sheridan on June 18, Jones unveiled his intensity. He came back out of the dugout and threw a water glass at the ump. It missed, but shattered with a bang along the boards inches from the wife of Lloyd Rickert, the secretary of the St. Louis Browns. It should have been cause for a suspension but, because Jones had such a quiet reputation, it wasn’t. When Jones hit a first-pitch triple on April 17, he “discarded his theory”; when he hit a game-tying three-run home run on August 6, he “demonstrated the theory sound.” “VALUE OF THEORY” headlined the Washington Times, followed by the subhead: “Charlie Jones, Thinker, Applies It for Homer That Won Game.”35
Jake Stahl was relieved of leadership duties after 1906 and Joe Cantillon was hired. Cantillon, no longer a Jones adherent, assigned him to the second-class yannigan squad. When the season opened, infielder Dave Altizer was Washington’s center fielder. The Washington Times elaborated on Jones: “He is today a substitute, although one of the most brilliant fielders in the country, because he does not hit. For some unknown reason Jones will allow perfect strikes to go over the plate, when any kind of a tap would score a run, with never a swing at the ball. This maddens the rooters, who would rather see him try and fail than stand there like a statue.”36
In the third game of the season, Charlie Hickman turned his ankle and Jones entered the game as the left fielder. With the score tied, New York pitcher Arthur Clarkson intentionally walked Lave Cross to face Jones with one out in the bottom of the seventh. Jones took two strikes and ripped a game-breaking two-run double into left-center field. Cantillon reluctantly penciled Jones in more and more, moving him back to center and making him a full-time regular by May 9. Jones shortened his tap swing even more and had a busy first half. He made national headlines after scoring from second base on a fly ball without the benefit of an error on May 18, and three days later got two of the team’s three hits off Addie Joss to raise his average to .300. On May 29 he made yet another “greatest catch ever,” a sixth-inning backhanded grab of Wid Conroy’s liner near the wall in right-center. “Charles,” it was reported, “tore after it like he had caught sight of a man willing to listen to his theories, and the ball stuck like Federal money in the hand of a Pennsylvania contractor.”37
Through June Jones continued putting up one thrilling article of ball. Had there been an All-Star Game in 1907 he likely would have made the squad. On June 4 he made seven putouts including three brilliant catches. Three days later he acrobatically grabbed a bad-hop single in the left-field gap and gunned out Roy Hartzell at third base in a 2–1 win. In a 2–1 win over Cleveland, he threw out Elmer Flick going for an inside-the-park home run. He scored from second base on a groundball to third in a 1-0 win on June 19. (There were two outs in the bottom of the ninth and a throwing error was made on the play.] On July 1 he pushed his average back over .300 with a three-hit game off Al Orth. Jones was first-pitch swinging. That day he also set a personal major-league-best nine-game hitting streak, and enjoyed the aforementioned “World’s Greatest” headline on the cover of the Washington Times sports section. “A most agreeable surprise.” the Washington Post concurred. 38
Jones went 0-for-4 the next day, and then injured his back sliding into Boston’s Jack Knight at third base on the Fourth of July. It was a terrible time to suffer his first serious injury. He missed 18 games and when he returned he batted .183 over seven weeks highlighted by pathetic attempts to bat left-handed. During that time Walter Johnson and Clyde Milan were signed up and wowed Washington fans. After Milan’s first start, Jones lamented: “I have nothing on him.”39 He did play well in September, pinch-hitting for Milan when a left-handed pitcher entered the game. He hit a key double in that role off Waddell in a Labor Day win. After September 17 Jones started only against left-handed pitchers, unusual for the time, until rookie Billy Kay sprained his ankle with four days remaining. Cantillon announced that Jones would start versus left-handers in 1908, to which Jones’s final theory was an unspecified critique of Cantillon’s managerial skills. Cantillon told the press: “Jones lacks class,” and Jones left Washington in a huff, announcing he would launch the Jones Paint and Paper Company in Denver on New Year’s Day.40
Jones ended the season with a .265 batting average. While Cantillon was critical of him as 1907 wound down, St. Louis Browns manager Jimmy McAleer reiterated praise, saying, “He’s one of the ‘old boys’ like Welch, Fogarty, Johnston, and myself.” 41 On December 12, at the American League meeting in Chicago, McAleer offered Ollie Pickering for Jones and Cantillon accepted. McAleer promptly announced the Browns outfield the best in baseball.
In the Browns’ 1908 season opener in Cleveland, Jones made yet another incredible catch. With one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, and with Nap Lajoie the potential winning run on second base, Jones grabbed a line drive by Terry Turner near the ropes in dead center while a fan jumped on his back and put him in a headlock. In the next inning Jones singled, advanced on Addie Joss’s wild pitch, and scored the winning run. A second extra-inning game followed and Jones got the game winning RBI with a hit in the tenth frame. Standard practice at the time was for game-winning batters not to run to first base. Jones stood at home plate and kissed his bat. The St. Louis Post Dispatch wrote that Jones is “beginning to prove he is all the candy as touted.”
Once again Jones had a terrific first half, although his average only peeked over .250 on occasion. He advanced from first to third on bunts and taps, threw out Ty Cobb trying to score from second base on a roller up the middle, and was even intentionally walked the only time of his career. That came April 27 at the hand of old college teammate Frank Smith. Then came disaster. For the second year in a row, Jones suffered a serious injury sliding into third base at Boston. This time a Rhody Wallace grounder cracked him on the knee. Al Schweitzer, a gimpy rookie with no range, replaced Jones for seven games and jumped into the forefront of the American League in batting. He became “The Cheese.” When Jones returned to the lineup, the Browns won 15 of 18 to grab sole possession of first place on June 25 in what turned out to be one of the greatest four-team pennant races in history. With Schweitzer – dubbed the “second Ty Cobb” – on the bench, Jones went 0-for-15 while the team was winning. On June 27, against Bill Donovan, Jones popped up on a bunt attempt, struck out with a runner on third base, and struck out with runners on second and third to end the game. St. Louis lost 1–0 and its lead was reduced to a half-game. For McAleer, the fans, and the press, this game became the symbol of Jones’s shortcomings.
Jones was summarily benched. Still, he worked in a few starts when Schweitzer had a lame leg and Danny Hoffman got sick, and continued to make key day-to-day contributions despite not hitting .300. In 15 games with Jones the Browns won 11 and were driving hard toward first-place Detroit. On August 4 Hoffman returned and Jones sat. From the bench he watched Hobe Ferris’s grand slam on the 9th, the highlight of St. Louis’s year. On August 14 Jones started in Philadelphia against Eddie Plank. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. McAleer never used Jones again, not even to pinch-run. McAleer begged stiff Emmet Heidrick to come out of retirement and replace Jones. Heidrick, having played four years of Sunday pickup games in his hometown of Clarion, Pennsylvania, gamely met St. Louis in Washington. Where Jones should have returned the conquering hero, Heidrick debuted and hit a home run. McAleer rejoiced: “Moses” had returned. Jones was immediately shipped home. He finished the season at .232. “Next year,” McAleer said, “all I want is a hard hitting outfielder.”42
The St. Louis press, too, saw no value in Jones. “He could not make a hit if he was the only man at a summer resort,” grumbled one.43 Schweitzer and Heidrick turned out to be dead weight but they had McAleer’s favor. In the final 56 games of 1908 the team floundered with a 26-30 record – a far cry from the 57-39 record it had when Jones was benched. Jones was spoken of as a backup outfielder to Heidrick in 1909. But on March 13 Jones was offered and accepted his dream job: as player-manager of the Denver Grizzlies, his old Western League team. He led the team on a snowy spring trip and opened the season with a 9-3 homestand that included his only 5-for-5 game, on May 4. Fans were abuzz. At different points Jones had six straight games with multiple hits, and seven straight games with extra-base hits. By July 12 Jones was batting .344. But the team’s pitching was atrocious. To help, Jones himself threw a complete game (a loss) on May 26, and worked hard to keep the team over .500 until a late-August swoon dropped the Grizzlies into the second division. His repeated telegrams to ownership for a new pitcher went unheeded. Jones even put a classified ad in the Denver Post for a pitcher.44
In late December of 1909 Jones was sold to St. Paul of the American Association for $1,000. Mike Kelley had returned to manage the Saints and remembered the pep Jones added in ‘04. Jones added it again. He alternated with Dave Altizer for the league lead in stolen bases, performed outfield heroics, and kept his average in the .270s while St. Paul visited first place as late as July 8. Jones even managed the team in late August when Kelley went on a scouting trip. A 9-for-79 September slump at the end of the 168-game schedule brought Jones’s batting average for 1910 down to a tired .247. He handled 357 outfield chances with only one muff and 12 throwing errors. St. Paul did not contend in 1911. Jones sat out 42 early-season games with an unspecified illness, then rocked in July with an extended streak of .464 batting, the last week of which he was player-manager again. First-pitch-swinging, Jones tagged Kansas City’s Chick Brandom with a game-winning 11th-inning home run on July 11. A few weeks later, Kelley sold ace pitcher Marty O’Toole to Pittsburgh for $22,000. It was a signal Kelley was giving up on the year. Highlights were scarce as Jones finished the season at .262. Ginger Beaumont had been spelling Jones in center much of the second half, and he closed out the year batting .161 in his last 20 games. St. Paul beat writer J.J. Corey wrote: “Few, if any, of the old-timers will be retained … exhibiting too much of that ‘tired feeling’.”45
Still, Jones helped the team finish in the first division. A loss on the final day, October 1, could have meant a drop from fourth to seventh place. In the top of the fourth inning, with darkness approaching, Jones got into a heated 10-minute argument over strikes and balls with the umpire. Then Milwaukee’s Ray Schalk told Jones to bat, Jones gave the little catcher a theory and Cracker gave Jones a shove. The game was canceled on account of darkness.
Unwanted, Jones hrld out in the spring of 1912, but no offers came. He reportedly sued for his release, and went to work as a traveling salesman for a St. Paul haberdashery. Peace of sorts came after a year. On March 1, 1913, Henry Conrad, a successful billiard-parlor owner and a wannabe baseball magnate, hired Jones to manage the new St. Paul Little Saints in the new Northern League. The quietest manager in the league, Jones was known to “seethe and hiss” while other managers just yelled.46 The Little Saints were no-hit in their second game, but opened the season 6-3. From there it was all downhill: players jumping, a 3-16 road trip, seventh place, and Jones playing second base with a sore arm. A shadow of his old self, Rube Waddell joined the mix, being assigned to last-place Virginia in late April. Cy Young was assigned to Minneapolis but did the honorable thing and hung up his spikes. Conrad canned Jones after a June 5 loss that dropped the team to 11-27.
Sixth-place Winnipeg scooped up Jones on June 20, to be the player-manager. Jones led Winnipeg on a .714 clip for three weeks to reach the coveted .500. That gave him just enough national recognition for Kelley’s St. Paul’s to claim his services once again. Jones was sidelined as ineligible on July 8, as Kelley shook down Winnipeg ownership for a prospect named Jack Clothier. When Winnipeg didn’t budge, Kelley ordered Jones to report to the Double-A Saints. Jones did and sat on the bench in uniform, bringing out lineup cards at the start of games. Winnipeg refused a $500 payment for Jones. Around that time, the Northern League Little Saints were considered a drain on St. Paul big Saints’ enthusiasm and attendance. Kelley wanted to move the franchise to LaCrosse, Wisconsin, but Northern League owners, upset at the treatment of Jones, voted no on July 15.
The National Commission gave Jones the only ruling he won during his career, awarding him to Winnipeg on August 4. Jones debuted with Winnipeg on August 13 and led the team to a 9-6 finish over the short season’s final days, and a satisfying third place. When asked if Jones would manage Winnipeg in 1914, team president A.H. Pulford said, “No. Fans will soon forget the former big leaguer.”47 Jones got his long-sought-after unconditional release on April 5, 1914, when he was no longer a baseball commodity. The Washington Times lamented that Jones’s career as a player was never the same after someone cracked him over the head with a billiard cue.48
Jones’s wife, Lucille, had died by the time of 1920 Census, in which Jones listed himself as “widow,” living in St. Paul where he had moved his daughters, his mother-in-law, and brother-in-law. Jones, an avid fisherman, continued his work as a painter and wallpaperer. In the 1920s he moved to Lutsen, in northeastern Minnesota, where he married and divorced a second wife, the much younger Jesse Bally. He earned a reputation as an excellent sign painter in Cook County and worked as a tax collector for the Internal Revenue Service. In March 1947 he was admitted with liver trouble to what is now Lakeview Memorial Hospital in Two Harbors, Minnesota. He died on April 2 at the age of 70.
This biography can be found in “New Century, New Team: The 1901 Boston Americans” (SABR, 2013), edited by Bill Nowlin. To order the book, click here.
1 Washington Times, April 16, 1907
2 Washington Post, May 30, 1907
3 Washington Times and Denver Post, both of May 9, 1903
4 Washington Times, April 16, 1907
5 Pennsylvania census, 1880. Thanks to Pat Collins, director of the Butler County Historical Society.
6 “Mack Says He is a Live Wire,” Duluth (Minnesota) News-Tribune, February 16, 1908, 4-4.
7 “Luck with Nationals,” Washington Post, May 2, 1905, 8. Radcliffe may not have actually joined the Knights, but there is every reason to believe he did.
8 Sporting Life, September 3, 1898
9 Sporting Life, November 4, 1899
10 Sporting Life, September 29, 1900
11 Sporting Life, April 13, 1901 and October 6, 1900
12 Sporting Life, September 29, 1900
14 St. Louis Republican, March 22, 1901
15 Sporting Life, May 18, 1901
16 Sporting Life, May 11, 1901
17 Sporting Life, July 22, 1905
18 Boston Globe, May 21, 1901
19 Denver Post, May 22, 1901
20 St. Paul Globe, July 12, 1904
21 Denver Post, August 2, 1901
22 Denver Post, September 3, 1901
23 The death of his father is mentioned in the April 3 Denver Post.
24 Denver Post, September 18, 1902
25 Sporting Life, August 8, 1903
26 St. Paul Globe, May 21, 1904
27 St. Paul Globe, May 31, 1904
28 St. Paul Globe, September 10, 1904
29 Washington Post, May 2, 1905
30 Chicago Eagle, December 4, 1915
31 Washington Post, May 27, 1905
32 Sporting Life, June 17, 1905
33 Washington Post, August 6, 1905. Lajoie’s opinion of the play was one expressed at the time.
34 Washington Times, April 17, 1906
35 Washington Times, August 7, 1906
36 Washington Times, April 17, 1907
37 Washington Times, May 30, 1907
38 Washington Post, June 2, 1907
39 Washington Post, August 29, 1907
40 Washington Herald, May 7, 1908, and Washington Post, October 13, 1907
41 Marion Daily Mirror, May 7, 1908
42 St. Louis Post Dispatch, August 13, 1908
43 Washington Times, August 17, 1908 quoting from an unnamed St. Louis newspaper
44 Denver Post, May 30, 1909, p. 1, classified section
45 Sporting Life, September 20, 1911
46 Winona Republican Herald, March 24, 1913
47 Winona Republican Herald, January 12, 1914
48 Washington Times, April 11, 1914