John Francis Hayden was the youngest of five children born to Irish immigrant William Hayden and Mary Buckley Hayden, from Maryland. He’s listed in baseball records as being born on October 21, 1880, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, though census forms all say he was born in October 1877. His father may have died young; by the time of the 1900 census he was nowhere to be found, while Mary Hayden served as head of the family. Jack’s sisters were mostly schoolteachers. He’d gone to Villanova for college and then on to the school of dentistry and the University of Pennsylvania.
Jack played with the Chester, Pennsylvania, team in 1899 and 1900, playing both infield and outfield, and moved in May 1900 to the Reading Coal Heavers of the Atlantic League. “Hayden is a hard hitter and a good fielder,” said Sporting Life. Later in 1900, a busy year, he also played for Atlantic City. He was originally signed for 1901 by manager Bill Watkins of the American League’s Indianapolis Hoosiers but “after contracting with the latter wanted to sign with [Connie] Mack [of the Philadelphia Athletics], but the local manager advised him not to break his contract. Later Watkins released Hayden at the latter’s request. Hayden immediately came to Mack.” Hayden was one of five Indianapolis players who signed with Mack.
His first day in the major leagues began at 4:00 P.M. on April 26, 1901. It was the first game for the new franchise, a home game against the Washington Senators. Hayden was the leadoff hitter and played right field. The first batter in Athletics history, Hayden drew a base on balls to lead off the bottom of the first. He was 1-for-2 for the game, a single. Washington won, 5-1, in part thanks to seven Philadelphia errors. None of them were Hayden’s, nor did he record a putout.
Hayden stuck with the team throughout the season, driving in 17 runs and scoring 35. He hit at a .265 clip, and drew 18 walks. Though Hayden hit reasonably well, manager Mack later said he’d been far from pleased with his fielding – 14 errors in 50 games (and a percentage of .841). He was released by the Athletics on July 3 and signed with Washington on July 8. The July 10 Washington Post anticipated that he would begin playing that very day, observing that he “has the reputation of slugging the ball hard and often. His fielding is a trifle weak, but this drawback can be remedied by coaching, and provided he slams the leather for safe ones with commendable regularity, the local fans will not be strict censors regarding his fielding at first.” Apparently, manager Manning worried more about his fielding, and the Senators placed him with Atlantic City for the remainder of the year.
Hayden started the next season with Rochester of the Eastern League. A June 28, 1902, article in Sporting Life entitled “Another Simpleton” explained that Hayden, “the clever little left fielder of the Rochester team has played his last game with the Bronchos.” He apparently told manager Ed McKean on June 21 that he was quitting and going to play for San Francisco in the California League. He had attracted attention with his play – perhaps most impressively as the leadoff hitter on Opening Day, with a 4-for-4 game on May 2 against visiting Montreal, when he hit three singles and homered, scoring all four times, and played flawlessly in the field.
Hayden had apparently been offered more money by San Francisco, and a contract that ran to December 1 rather than just September 1, but would have run afoul of the National Association rules and faced a $1,000 penalty before he could re-enter. Two days later, having thought it over, he reconsidered and worked out something with Rochester allowing him to stay. Part of the consideration, Sporting Life suggested, was his plan to open a dental parlor in Rochester after the season was over, in partnership with a friend from Colgate. Hayden’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania was in dentistry. He was back in left field for Rochester by July 1 and scored both runs in a 2-1 home win against Jersey City. Each time he singled, took second on a sacrifice, and then scored on a single to right field. Hayden played out the season with Rochester, hitting eight homers in all (two in the May 14 game) and batting .326. He had been 4-for-4 in his first game, and ended the season with six hits in six at-bats in the last game of the year. The Bronchos finished seventh, though, in the eight-team Eastern League.
In each of the next three years, Hayden played for the Baltimore Orioles, another Eastern League team. He had started 1903 with Rochester, but that ballclub struggled financially and there were some serious disagreements among the ownership group. There was thought that the club would dissolve, but it managed to survive, in part by selling off some of its better players. By June 15 Rochester had sold Hayden’s contract to Baltimore. The Sporting Life correspondent reporting the news of the sale offered that Hayden, “while a good player and batter, played more for himself than for the Bronchos and did not always carry out instructions from his manager.” The sale was controversial (“in direct defiance of a mandate issued by the President of the Eastern League”); there had been a bidding war and Baltimore’s manager, Wilbert Robinson, put in the top bid. By the time Orioles owner Powers tried to stop payment on the check, it was too late, and both Hayden and second baseman Luis Castro went to the Orioles. It was a great pickup; Hayden hit .347 and Castro hit .328, though the team still finished fourth, 21 games behind Jersey City. Rochester finished last.
Hayden played another full season for Baltimore again in 1904, but hit only .282. He was included on Brooklyn’s draft list near the end of the year, but so were 10 other players – so many that other clubs demanded to see proof that each had been purchased. By the time the dust settled in the offices of the National Commission, Hayden was deemed to have been drafted and acquired by the Chicago Cubs, and he talked of leaving the game and taking up dentistry full time.
But he spent some of the winter in Havana playing ball and he was back in Baltimore again in 1905 – at least for 46 games (in which he hit a disappointing .237), and then both he and Hal Wiltse jumped the club to play with the York club in the Tri-State League. When the York team arrived in Harrisburg just before midnight, planning to play against the Harrisburg team, the two contract jumpers were served with temporary restraining orders issued by the Dauphin County court. A court hearing on July 2 elicited the information that York had given each player a $50 bonus and that Hayden was being paid $400 a month and Wiltse $540. During testimony, Hayden countered the assertion that he and Wiltse were such standout players that their leaving Baltimore caused economic harm to the Orioles. He said there were numerous players in the Tri-State League who were just as good as those in the Eastern League and that it was essentially unfair for it to be a violation for a Tri-State club to sign an Eastern League player, but considered acceptable for an Eastern League club to sign a Tri-State League man.
The attorney representing Baltimore said he wasn’t seeking to have the men sent back to Baltimore but just to enjoin them from playing for York, to prevent them from doing further wrong, and that the Baltimore club would face dissolution if all its players just left for seemingly greener pastures. On July 6 the judge vacated the injunction, leaving the men free to play for York. He hadn’t ruled on the validity of the contracts; he’d just lifted the restraint. A month later, Hayden asked Baltimore to release him to Buffalo but was informed there would be no release.
After the season Cleveland drafted Hayden from Baltimore (which still held his contract in the eyes of the National Commission) and he was looking forward to playing back in the big leagues in 1906 with the Naps, but his name was on the commission’s blacklist and that needed to be resolved first. In the meantime, Hayden did play ball before the Cleveland public in the late fall of 1905 – as quarterback on the Massillon Tigers football team. He had been an excellent football player while at Penn and each autumn had gone from baseball into playing football to raise a little extra cash. In December, Hayden talked about asking a court to rule whether the National Commission had the right to effectively ban them for life under the contract then in use.
Hayden returned to Cuba again in the winter, with a team of American players who spent time playing both in Cuba and in Mexico.
Hayden played for York at the beginning of 1906, too, but in the first part of June he made a third attempt at reinstatement, citing extenuating circumstances, and this time it was granted. The interest of the Boston Americans may have helped. The Sporting News reported that Hayden had been “deprived of the chance to advance in his profession for several years by the scheming of the Brooklyn and Baltimore clubs, through fictitious and illegal deals. He was ‘bought’ by Brooklyn each summer and ‘sold’ to Baltimore each spring.” Wiltse was a different case altogether, the National Commission ruled in November, denying his appeal.
York wasn’t pleased with this development – because Hayden then jumped his contract with them. He was promptly contacted by the Boston Americans, desperate for any help they could get during the worst season in franchise history. There were reports that the York team had hired private detectives to track him down and fixed it so he wouldn’t be able to travel by rail, but he turned up in Cleveland and met up with the Boston team on the road. A few days later, Baltimore had given permission and he was cleared to play.
Injuries to John Godwin and Jimmy Collins gave Hayden the opportunity to play, working in right field. He expressed appreciation of the opportunity to get back into Organized Ball and hit .248 in 322 at-bats. He had arrived in plenty of time to take part in the longest game in American League history, a 24-inning game on September 1 – in which he hit leadoff and collected two hits off Jack Coombs of the Athletics, going 2-for-9 in the game.
During a New York-Boston game on September 11, in which Hayden led off with the one and only home run of his major-league career, there later erupted a furious fight between teammate Hobe Ferris and Hayden. New York’s Frank LaPorte had hit a long drive which went for an inside-the-park home run, and Ferris got on Hayden’s case about it, saying he hadn’t hustled hard enough after the ball. After Ferris kept it up too long, Hayden said second baseman Ferris should have intercepted the ball as it went through the infield, and punched him in the face – and Ferris retaliated, breaking away from some teammates and – while Hayden was taking his seat on the bench – kicking him flush in the face. Both were ejected, and both were escorted away in the grips of police officers. The fight resumed in the clubhouse after the game, and both were taken to the New York stationhouse.
“The most disgraceful affair ever predicated of any players on the ball field. Both men will doubtless get all that is coming to them for their rashness. It will be very difficult for ‘Hobe’ Ferris ever to restore himself into the good graces of the sport-loving public here. What, indeed, could be worse than to kick a man in the face? Pretty raw is the general verdict. The odd part of it was that the club got a move on it so soon as the trouble occurred.”
On September 25, 1906, Ferris was suspended by the American League for the rest of the 1906 season because of the fight with Hayden. “It was the most cowardly attack I have ever witnessed upon the ball field,” said umpire Silk O’Loughlin. “I understand that even Ferris’ wife upbraided him for kicking Hayden in the face.” Hayden lost several teeth when Ferris, swinging his spikes from the top of the dugout, kicked him in the mouth. As we have seen, Hayden had earned his degree in dentistry from the University of Pennsylvania.
Hayden was not welcome back in Boston, however. Manager Chick Stahl – who played center field, next to Hayden – made that clear when he was in Boston late in the year. “He was weak in covering ground and in throwing. I was compelled repeatedly to wander into his territory to get balls. There was “no chance at all” that he would be welcome back, wrote sportswriter J.C. Morse. As late as Thanksgiving, Hayden was still sore where he’d been kicked – but then suffered such a bad injury to his left shoulder while playing football on Thanksgiving Day (for Massillon again) that it was thought he’d never play baseball again. This he denied, and by late December it was known that Rochester really wanted to bring him back there. Boston sold him to Rochester at the National Association meeting in January.
Hayden played a full season with Rochester, but despite one stretch in early June when he collected seven hits in seven consecutive at-bats, he hit only .236 for the year, his lowest average yet.
In 1908 Hayden played for the Indianapolis Indians, who won the American Association pennant under manager Charles Carr. Hayden led the league in hits with 186 (and led in doubles and triples) and in batting average, at .316. The Chicago Cubs were in a three-way battle for the National League pennant, which they ultimately won by just one game over the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Giants. Both the Reds and Cubs selected Hayden in the September 2 draft, and he wound up with Chicago, helping out after center fielder Jimmy Slagle injured his leg. Jack was ineligible to play in the World Series, having joined the club after the August 31 deadline – but he’d hit only .200 in 45 at-bats, scored three runs and driven in two. But he had apparently contributed – he “helped to win several games by his hitting on the last crucial Eastern trip,” wrote the correspondent for Sporting Life in the October 31 issue, also noting that Hayden had been “forgotten” when Series shares were allotted. Columnist W.A. Phelon, writing in January, said that “Coakley and Hayden did not do very much for the Cubs late fall, but what they did was done well, and the goods were delivered at just the proper time.”16
The Cubs placed Hayden on waivers and then sold him back to Indianapolis, where he played in 1909 and 1910, batting .273 and .278 respectively. After the 1909 season, the Colonels played a series of games in Cuba, Hayden’s third trip to the island nation. Louisville signed Hayden for 1911 and he improved, batting .288 and hitting six home runs, the most of his career since his first season back in 1902. In early June 1912, Hayden dislocated his shoulder (it was first thought to have been a broken shoulder blade) when he crashed into the outfield wall chasing after a home run. Unable to play, and while on the mend, he was asked to take over as manager after Jack Tighe resigned on June 8. Hayden appeared in 95 games – his last as a player – and hit .247. Though he was just 31 (or maybe 34), he’d begun a new phase of his baseball career.
The Colonels changed hands in the offseason and, somewhat unexpectedly, Hayden was kept on. He was critically ill with pneumonia during March 1913 but recovered in time to start the season and advance the team all the way from seventh place to a “very close” third-place finish. In August he applied for a marriage license to wed Herminnie Jadot, listing his profession as dentist. Mrs. Hayden was from Kentucky, of a Belgian family background. Hayden was the Colonels’ skipper in 1914 and was rehired on October 1 for 1915. In May, he was asked for his resignation. The 1915 team had gotten off to a slow start and some felt he wasn’t really getting all he could out of the club. He refused to resign, so was fired. On June 3 he took on the job of managing in Class D ball for Frankfort in the Ohio State League, but that was his final position in Organized Baseball.
After leaving the game, Hayden did not turn to dentistry but became a merchant running a meat and provision business in his adopted hometown of Bryn Mawr. He died after a coronary thrombosis, fighting to live for 10 days before finally succumbing on August 3, 1942, in Haverford. He was survived by his widow, Herminnie, a brother, and three sisters.
In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Hayden’s player file from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the online SABR Encyclopedia, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com. Some of this material was originally published in the author’s book Red Sox Threads.
 Sporting Life, February 24, March 31, and May 12, 1900.
 Sporting Life, April 6, 1901.
 Sporting Life, June 9, 1906.
 Washington Post, July 10, 2011.
 Sporting Life, October 25 and November 1, 1902.
 Sporting Life, June 20, 1903.
 Sporting Life, July 8, 1905.
 Sporting Life, July 15.
 The Sporting News, as reprinted in the June 30, 1906, issue of Sporting Life.
 Sporting Life, June 9, 1906.
 Sporting Life, September 22, 1906.
 Washington Post, September 26, 1906.
 Sporting Life, December 15, 1906.
 Boston Globe, December 6, 1906.
 Sporting Life, January 23, 1909.