In June of 1877 the struggling– financially and on the field–Cincinnati Reds disbanded. The defending champion Chicago White Stockings, mired in fifth place in the six-team league, signed Reds second baseman Jimmy Hallinan and outfielder Charley Jones.
Both players had signed with Chicago believing there was no chance that the Cincinnati franchise would be saved. Some stories claim Lewis E. Meacham of The Chicago Tribune, who worked with White Stockings President William Hulbert to organized the National League, got Hallinan drunk and convinced him to sign. There were also non-specific, unsubstantiated rumors of “coercion” being used to secure Jones.
Within days enough money was raised by the Reds new president J.M. Wayne Neff to continue the operation of the club, and Jones made it clear he wasn’t happy to be in Chicago; the Chicago press wasn’t particularly happy with Jones either.
When the White Stockings new outfielder failed to join the team before two straight losses in Hartford to the Dark Blues, The Chicago Inter Ocean said:
“(I)f Jones refrains from any more ‘baby’ whining, and shows up like a man and a reputable ball-player there should be no reason why the nine should not win.”
Jones officially became a White Stocking on June 26, an 11-0 win over the St. Louis Brown Stockings; Jones had a single in four at bats. Two days later they beat St.. Louis again 6 to 2, Jones was 2 for 4 with two RBIs.
During those three days the Reds were petitioning the National League to return Jones to Cincinnati (they made no effort to reacquire Hallinan), Hulbert refused and the league refused to force the issue. A prominent Cincinnati attorney, Edgar M. Johnson sent a letter to the White Stockings requesting that Jones be released, the letter read in part:
“We, as you probably know, have succeeded in reorganizing the base-ball club here. The task has been a hard one, and even now we find that it will be almost impossible for us to get along without Jones…I ask you, as a favor that our club will always appreciate, that you will honorably release Jones and permit him to rejoin us.”
On June 30 Charley Jones’ two-game career with Chicago came to an end.
The Cincinnati Enquirer announced that an agreement had been reached, Hulbert had agreed to release Jones and “recognized the fact that (Jones’ contract) had been obtained in an unfair manner.”
The Chicago Tribune saw the situation differently; Hulbert made a “graceful concession to the evident feeling in Cincinnati,” and by releasing Jones carried out “the idea of doing what he could for the new (Reds) club.”
Chicago papers were quick to point out to their readers that the release of Jones, and the signing of former Philadelphia Athletics outfielder Dave Eggler to take his place, would not hurt the White Stockings:
The Inter Ocean:
“Eggler is generally considered a fine ballplayer, and there are many who think a much better fielder, runner and batter than Jones. Last year his record in all of these important points was far in advance of Jones’.’’
“There can be no doubt that Eggler will fully fill Jones’ place and the club will certainly lose nothing by the change.”
Eggler hit .265 in 33 games in Chicago. Jones hit .313 for the Reds.
The White Stockings finished in fifth place with a 26-33 record, the Reds were sixth with a 15-42 record.
Speaking of Charley Jones
Jones (born Benjamin Wesley Rippay) was once, for a short period in the 1880s, baseball’s all-time home run leader. He hit 56 in a 12-year career from 1875 to 1888. He missed 1881-82 after being blacklisted from the National League because of a dispute over money owed to him by Boston Red Stockings owner Arthur Soden, despite his claim being upheld in court. He returned to major league baseball with the Cincinnati Red Stockings in the American Association in 1883.
Colorful was a word often used in regard to Jones; and probably his most colorful mention in the press came between the 1885 and ’86 seasons. The Cincinnati Star-Times reported on some unrest in the Jones household:
“Charles W. Jones, the well-known base ball player, was accosted by his wife Monday night, while he was making himself agreeable to another woman. Mrs. Jones threw cayenne pepper in her spouse’s eyes causing such intense suffering that he had to be taken to the hospital.”
While there was no report of any lasting effects, Jones’ batting average did drop 52 points; from .322 in 1885 to .270 in 1886.