Tag Archives: Charley Jones

“O’Brien…Felt Like Dropping Dead”

8 Oct

Darby O’Brien was a rookie and Charley Jones was near the end of his 12-year career  when the two were teammates with the New York Metropolitans in 1887; his friendship with Jones gone sideways made O’Brien a brief sensation on the police blotter.

darby.jpg

O’Brien was playing for the Brooklyn Bridegrooms the following season when, on July 21 he was arrested along with teammate Jack Burdock were arrested when leaving Brooklyn’s Washington Park after a game.

The troubled Burdock, who battled alcoholism, was arrested for assault for attempting to kiss a 17-year-old stationary store employee the previous year, while, as The New York Sun said he “was under the influence of liquor,”  Burdock was acquitted later that year when the victim failed to appear to testify against him.

burdock

Jack Burdock

Burdock being in trouble was not news, but said The Sun:

“(O’Brien) is one of the steadiest men in the ball business and, consequently felt like dropping dead when (New York Detective)  McGrath told him he was wanted for larceny.”

O’Brien’s alleged crime?  The Brooklyn Eagle said:

“The charge against O’Brien is made by Mrs. Louisa Jones, wife of Charles W. Jones, formerly left fielder of the Kansas City nine, and is that he stole her dog.”

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Charley Jones

According to Mrs. Jones, O’Brien had given her the dog, “a small pug,” to take care of after the 1887 season and subsequently “presented the dog to her.”  Mrs. Jones said O’Brien later returned to the Staten Island hotel where the Jones’ lived and stole the dog.  The New York World said he “snatched the dog out of her lap,” at the hotel and ran to a train to escape.

After O’Brien was released on “the promise of (Brooklyn owner Charlie) Byrne” that O’Brien would appear in court on July 23, he spoke to a reporter from The Eagle:

“Mrs. Jones story is untrue.  I did not give her the dog nor did I snatch it from her lap, as was reported in a morning paper.  I was stopping at the Nautilus Hotel when she and Jones came there to live.  I got the dog from (catcher Bill) Holbert.  She was a beauty and is Beauty by name.  Mr. Holbert raised her from a pup and I was too fond of her to part with her.  Mrs. Jones admired her very much.  I declined to give her Beauty, but did promise her one the next litter.  That was only to keep her quiet.  She annoyed me very much.  She got square, however, for when I was preparing to go West (after the 1887 season) she and Jones bolted and took the dog with them.  I got Beauty back.”

O’Brien failed to say how he “got Beauty back.”  The Eagle said Holbert backed up his statement.

The World described the scene when O’Brien returned to face the charges:

“Justice Massey, of Brooklyn, was a half hour tardy in his arrival at the courtroom this morning and he found the chamber packed full of people  .

“There were baseball players, baseball enthusiasts and patrons of the national game.  There were a couple of hundred of the youth of the City of Churches, and there as many of the pretty girls for which Brooklyn is famous.”

Both O’Brien and Burdock were in court that morning, but the paper said:

“Darby received most attention, for he is one of the Brooklyn boys who doesn’t pose as a bridegroom.”

In addition to Byrne and Holbert, the New York papers said O’Brien’s Brooklyn teammates Al Mays and Bill McClellan were there for support.

The case was continued and the potential baseball/dog trial of the century was scheduled for September 5, 1888, but ended with a whimper.  The Evening World said:

“Not only is the Brooklyn baseball team in third place in the Association today, but it’s members are at last all out of court.

“Darby O’Brien’s dog case came before Justice Massey this morning and the popular left fielder was promptly on hand to show that he didn’t steal Mrs. Jones’ canine.  He was spared the pains, however, for a note came from the Staten Island complainant in which she declared that she would not press the complaint

“Darby was therefore discharged.”

Unfortunately, the dog did not make it to the trial, O’Brien told The Eagle that in July “(Beauty) had a fit on Sixth Avenue and died.”

O’Brien played with Brooklyn through 1892, became ill with tuberculosis and died in his hometown of Peoria, Illinois in 1893, he was 29.

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O’Brien

When word reached Byrne that O’Brien had died, he told The Eagle:

“Darby was a typical, humorous, quick witted young Irishman, handsome and clever.  He was like a good sailor.  He had a sweetheart in every city the team visited.  He was generous to a fault.  His purse was open to everyone and he never called for an accounting.  He was, without exception, in the full sense of the word, the most popular ballplayer in the country—not for his phenomenal ability or his brilliant work, but for his happy go lucky manner.”

“If Jones Refrains from any more ‘Baby’ Whining”

17 Sep

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.

Charley Jones

Charley Jones

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’.’’

The Tribune:

“There can be no doubt that Eggler will fully fill Jones’ place and the club will certainly lose nothing by the change.”

Dave Eggler

Dave Eggler

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.