James Vincent McDonough was born in Chicago in 1888, his father and younger brother were both Chicago police officers. Primarily a catcher, the 5’ 10” 180 pound right-handed hitter first made a name for himself in the Chicago City League with the Auburn Parks and the Rogers Parks.
In 1911 he joined the Grand Rapids Furniture Makers in the Central League; in July The Sporting Life said he was traded to the Terre Haute Miners. He finished the season with the Traverse City Reporters in the Michigan State League, and then returned to Chicago.
In 1912 and ’13 McDonough was one of the more popular members of Chicago’s entries in the United States and Federal Leagues. He also started the 1914 season as a member of Joe Tinker’s Whales in the Federal league, although The Chicago Tribune said he was “handicapped this spring with a sore arm,” he played in the club’s final exhibition game in Covington, Kentucky, collecting two hits but never appeared in a game during the regular season, and was released in May.
That same month McDonough returned to semi-pro ball in Chicago and married the Marion Delores Jordan.
He remained a popular enough figure in Chicago baseball circles that his wedding and the brief marital scandal that followed in 1916 was reported in the local press. The Tribune said:
“A ‘poisoned phone’ almost brought about the complete separation of Jim McDonough, the former backstop of the Federal baseball team, and his wife a few days ago. For the last two weeks girls called up Mrs. McDonough every night and told her that her beloved hubby was not the saint she thought him.
“’These naughty girls,’ said the young Mrs. McDonough, ‘said Jim was out drinking champagne with them. It almost drove me to nervous prostration. Jim always denied the stories, but by that time I had grown to suspect him.
“’Then I went home to mother’s. Three days later I saw a lawyer and filed a bill for a divorce. Then the most wonderful thing in the world happened. Jim came to me and told me he had done nothing wrong and that he loved me more than ever.”
The couple reconciled.
On April 22, 1918 McDonough made the papers for the final time. The Chicago Examiner said:
“James McDonough, well-known as a catcher in the Chicago Federal League baseball team the first year of that organization’s existence, shot and killed his wife last night. Then he killed himself with a bullet through his temple…Mrs. McDonough left the former ballplayer several months ago, charging that he failed to support her and their two children…McDonough was 29-years-old and subject to the draft. At the time of the separation Mrs. McDonough refused to sign exemption papers for him. Several times since, it is said, he begged her to return to him or sign the exemption papers.”
The two had an altercation outside a drug store on Chicago’s South side.
“Noticing that they were attracting attention, the couple walked away. At 4250 Vincennes Ave., McDonough pushed his wife into a hallway. A moment later he shot her twice, once in the temple and once just below the heart. Then he sent a bullet into his own head.”
Both were taken to a nearby residence. McDonough died after 10 minutes, his wife died 30 minutes later.
Although it appears he never played organized baseball after 1914, his Cook County, Illinois death certificate listed his profession as “Ballplayer.”