McDaniel: The mysterious origins of Bumpus Jones

From Rachael McDaniel at Baseball Prospectus on January 28, 2019:

Little is known of the origins of Bumpus Jones. We know that he was born Charles Leander Jones, son of Roseanna Jones and an unknown father, at some point during 1870, in Cedarville, Ohio. We know that his birth certificate listed his race as “mulatto,” though on his death certificate his race was listed as “white,” and other research suggests that he may have had Native American roots. We know that, in the late 1880s, he was already working as an “arm for hire” for baseball teams in the Midwest.

These facts aside, though, there is little in the way of an informational breadcrumb trail leading from Bumpus’ birth to the day he made history. That day, of course, was October 15, 1892—the final day of the Reds’ season, the day when Jones, in his first major-league game, no-hit Pittsburgh. And after that fateful day, there is little taking us to the end of Bumpus’ career in baseball, and, in 1938, the end of his life. He remains a notational curiosity of a baseball player.

I was interested in Bumpus Jones for this very reason. His feat remains almost untouched to this day, but outside of that one remarkable incident, his life as a baseball player is defined more by what we don’t know about him than what we do. The only significant biography of him was done as part of the SABR Biographies Project, and even that meticulous undertaking left a gap of 19 years where Bumpus was unaccounted for: from 1901, when he was released by the team he was playing for in St. Paul, to 1920, when he was in a Dayton infirmary.

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Originally published: January 28, 2019. Last Updated: January 28, 2019.