Prophetically named, Jones became an outstanding centerfielder (first AL outfielder
to execute an unassisted double play) as well as a top-notch slap-hitter who six
times batted over .300. However, he's most remembered as the manager of the 1906
White Sox, the "Hitless Wonders." Jones led this group of powder-puff hitters to
a surprise AL pennant and then won the only all-Chicago World Series from the favored
Cubs. When he threatened to quit, he drew a $10,000 contract from miserly White Sox
owner Charles Comiskey. The sullen-faced Jones brought the Sox to within a few games
of the pennant in each of his other four years as their manager.
A stern taskmaster,
Jones routinely suspended players for drinking, being out of shape, or making bonehead
plays, but he was also an early champion of players' rights and often argued with
Comiskey on their behalf. He would charge in from his centerfield position to berate
umpires and was often banished from games for kicking and swearing. An innovative
tactician, he is credited with inventing the "motion infield" and was one of the
first to position his outfielders according to the hitter.
He quit the White Sox
after a controversy. He lost the final game of the 1908 season and the pennant
when he started a weary Doc White in place of a rested Frank Smith. Personal motives
may have been involved: Jones and Smith despised each other. Coaxed back to baseball
by a fat Federal League contract in 1914, he guided a last-place St. Louis team to
within a percentage point of the pennant the next year. Named manager of the Browns,
he had three also-ran finishes with them. (DB)
FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY
»May 22, 1898: A 9th-inning scratch single by Brooklyn batter Fielder Jones breaks up a no-hit effort by Chick Fraser of Louisville, who wins 3–0.
»January 4, 1916: The St. Louis Browns are the first of two ML franchises awarded to Federal League owners. Philip de Catesby Ball, ice-manufacturing tycoon and principal stockholder of the Feds' St. Louis Terriers, pays a reported $525,000 for the Browns and replaces manager Branch Rickey with his own Fielder Jones.
»September 8, 1917: Following yesterday's loss to Chicago, Browns owner Phil Ball accuses his players of laying down on the job because they dislike manager Fielder Jones. SS Doc Lavan and 2B Del Pratt sue him for $50,000 damages for alleged slanderous statements in St. Louis newspapers. Both are in the lineup, however, when Detroit beats the Browns, 1–0 in 12 innings. Ty Cobb triples off the RF fence in the 12th and scores on a sac fly.