Charles Wesley Jones
(Baby, Long Charley)
born Benjamin Wesley Rippay
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11½", Weight 202 lb.
- Debut May 4, 1875
- Final Game April 26, 1888
- Born April 30, 1852 in Alamance County, NC USA
- Died June 6, 1911 in New York, NY USA
Charley Jones was the best-known player for whom no death details were known. One could only assume he was dead, because otherwise he would have been over 150 years old. SABR researchers solved the mystery about his death in 2012 - 100 years after the event.
He was an offensive force in his career, with a career Adjusted OPS of 149.
Jones was an outfielder for 12 years (1875-1888) - one in the National Association (1875); five in the National League (1876-1880); and six in the American Association (1883-1888); losing two years (1881-1882) on the Blacklist when he played in an independent league. He was the first Major Leaguer from North Carolina. He began playing ball in 1875 at age 24 with the Keokuk Westerns of the National Association (1875); (when that club folded in midseason, he transferred to the Hartford Dark Blues.
Jones was 26 years old when the NA folded after the 1875 season and he moved on to the Cincinnati Reds to play right field in their inaugural contest on May 4, 1876. After two years with the Reds he caused a furor by signing a contract with the 1877 Chicago White Stockings when he believed that his Cincinnati team was about to fold, but after two games with Chicago, he returned to the still-struggling Reds and remained there through 1878. Jones was an outstanding but often controversial slugger during the 1870s and 1880s. With Cincinnati from 1876 to 1878, he became the Reds' most popular player but was sometimes criticized in the press for carousing.
He signed a three-year contract with the Boston Red Caps and played for them in 1879 and 1880. The year following the Louisville scandal, George Hall's home run record was eclipsed by Jones. Nearly doubling Hall's mark, Jones hit nine home runs in 1879. Charley's final circuit clout came on August 20, 1879, as Boston pummeled Troy by the score of 15-3. He led the National League in home runs (9) and RBI (62) in 1879 for Boston. It was his best year in MLB as he had 112 hits, 85 runs, 22 doubles, 10 triples, 9 home runs and 62 RBI and hit .315/.367/.510 for a 183 OPS+ in 83 Games. At that point the top two home run hitters of all-time were on the same team at the same time (Jones and Lip Pike). That feat has been replicated only twice: Harry Stovey (89) and Dan Brouthers (81) of the 1890 Players League Boston Reds and Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees in 1934. He became the first player to hit two homers in one inning (June 10, 1880). Both home runs came off the Buffalo Bisons' Tom Poorman in the eighth inning of a 19–3 rout.
After the 1880 season he was suspended by the club and blacklisted for refusing to play. He countered that he had not been paid and sued for his salary; he even had the local sheriff attach Boston's share of the gate at Cleveland on May 14, 1881. A jury sided with the club. Tit for tat, the team had him blacklisted for 1881 and 1882. On December 7, 1881 at the National League annual meeting the owners rejected the applications of Jones and Phil Baker for reinstatement. Subsequently he played for an outlaw team in Portsmouth, OH.
He signed with the Cincinnati Red Stockings of the new American Association in 1882 when the AA said they would ignore the NL's blacklist. They honored it that year, though, and Jones remained with Portsmouth, even as he had helped put together the Cincinnati team that would win the 1882 AA pennant. The NL and AA came to an agreement in 1883 under the pressure of Opie Caylor. Jones played with Cincinnati again from 1883-1887. In 1883, Charley blasted 10 home runs, but by that time the single season home run record had been upped to 14. On July 20, 1884, he became the third man to hit three triples in one game in a 17-4 rout of the Indianapolis Blues. He never played for a league champion. In 1885 Jones' common-law wife found him with another woman and threw cayenne pepper in his face. A year later he married Louisa Horton, who had been involved in a famous divorce a year earlier.
Through the first nine seasons of the major leagues' existence, Jones held the career record for home runs, despite missing two years. In 1887, he dropped to fourth place. By 1889, he was just tenth, and by 1890 he was no longer among the top ten. His best period for homers was from 1883-1885, when he hit 22 home runs, had 186 RBI and batted .310.
Jones was purchased by New York Metropolitans on July 11, 1887. He was released by New York in October 1887 and signed as a Free Agent with the Kansas City Cowboys before the 1888 season; he played his final MLB game on April 26, 1888 at age 37. He then umpired in the Players League (1890) and the American Association (1891), ending his baseball career at age 41. The last piece of information that was known about him was that a benefit was held in his honor on Staten Island, NY on August 31, 1909, after he had fallen ill. However, there was no obituary for him, and given his very common first and last names, retracing his death details proved to be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
In late 2011, researcher Greg Perkins, who was interested in the Ludlow team from northern Kentucky on which Jones had been the star player in the early 1870s, took an interest in Jones's case. Digging through the file on Jones held by the Hall of Fame, he found a letter addressed to National Commission chairman Garry Herrmann in 1913 from a reporter from the Cincinnati Enquirer that mentioned he had written an article about Jones. Perkins found the article, in which it stated that Jones had died at Bellevue Hospital in New York City in July of 1911. That lead allowed Perkins to narrow his search in the New York City death index and to uncover a listing for a Charles W. Jones, who died on June 6th that year. The death certificate in the city archive had names for Charles' parents matching those in earlier census records, confirming that this person was the ballplayer. It also rectified Jones's year of birth.
- AA On-Base Percentage Leader (1884)
- AA At Bats Leader (1885)
- NL Runs Scored Leader (1879)
- NL Home Runs Leader (1879)
- 2-time League RBI Leader (1879/NL & 1883/AA)
- NL Bases on Balls Leader (1879)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (1884 & 1885)
- Held record of most Home Runs in a season (9), 1879 until broken by Harry Stovey in 1883
- He was the career leader in home runs at the end of the 1877 season and he continued to be the career leader through 1884.
- Set record (since tied many times) for most Home Runs in an inning (2), June 10, 1880
- Tied record for most triples in a game (3), on July 20, 1884
- "Charley Jones Found", in Bill Carle, ed.: Biographical Research Committee Report, SABR, January/February 2012, p. 1.
- Marty Friedrich: The Iron Men of Baseball, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2006, pp. 30-32.
- Bob McConnell: "Whatever happened to Charley Jones? Colorful gamer just fades away", in The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, January, 2001.
Principal sources for Charley Jones include newspaper obituaries (OB), government records (VA,CM,CW), Sporting Life (SL), Baseball Digest, The Sporting News (TSN), The Sports Encyclopedia:Baseball 2006 by David Neft & Richard Cohen (N&C), old Who's Who in Baseballs (none) (WW), old Baseball Registers (none) (BR), TSN's Daguerreotypes (none) (DAG), The Historical Register, The Baseball Necrology by Bill Lee (BN), Pat Doyle's Professional Ballplayer DataBase(PD), The Baseball Library (BL); various Encyclopediae including The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball by Turkin & Thompson (T&T), MacMillan Baseball Encyclopedia (Mac), Total Baseball (TB), The Bill James Historical Abstract (BJ) and The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (LJ); Retrosheet (RS), The Baseball Chronology (BC), Baseball Page (BP), The Baseball Almanac (BA), Baseball Cube (B3), The Historical Register, compiled by Bob Hoie & Carlos Bauer, The Beer and Whisky League by David Nemec and The Biographical Encyclopedia: Baseball by the Editors of Total Baseball and obituaries at deadballera.com (DBE) as well as research by Reed Howard (RH), Pat Doyle (PD) and Frank Hamilton (FH).