This is a story about a young man who was born in Cedarville.
Charles Leander Jones was a young man with a not-very-bright future. Having finished the fourth grade, he got a job working at the Cedarville Lime Kiln. One of the benefits of the job was that he was able to play baseball with the Lime Kiln team in the mid 1880s where he developed a great pitching arm.
Soon his ability was noticed by other teams in the area and as time would permit, he would pitch for several other teams as well. He played for the Sabina team and now and again would pitch for the Cedarville College team.
A friend suggested that he could play ball and get a good education at the same time if he would enroll at Monmouth College in Illinois. His record was outstanding and soon a Rhode Island team invited him to play for a salary for the first time. He moved around to a few different minor league clubs.
In 1892 Charles Comiskey was the manager for the Cincinnati Reds when he heard about the remarkable young man. Comiskey went to the lime kiln to talk Jones into joining the club. “Bumpus” was asked to go home and change clothes to go with Comiskey on a train trip to Cincinnati. He had little money for extra clothing, so he just brushed the lime from his clothes and boarded the train.
The first game he pitched for Cincinnati was against Pittsburgh, the last game of the season. He didn’t allow a hit.
The Xenia Daily Gazette gave the following report on Oct. 17, 1892. “Greene County has another celebrity in the person of Bumpus Jones, who surpassed all records on the baseball field, while pitching a trial game for the Cincinnati Reds in that city last Saturday. He had shown his metal to the Reds by pitching against them in the game with the Wilmington’s on Wednesday and manager Comiskey invited him to the city to try his hand with them and put him in in the box against Pittsburgh.”
Following his auspicious appearance he was given two $50 bills, a new set of clothes and told to come back to Cincinnati for the next season
He went back to his job at the Lime Kiln until spring when he journeyed once again to Cincinnati to play another season with the Reds. The team was anticipating a record-breaking year with their new star pitcher however fate intervened.
It was spring 1893 when Bumpus was playing a practice game prior to the season opening when a pitched ball caught him on the side of his head and he fell unconscious at the plate. Perhaps with today’s medicine the outcome might have been considerably changed, but this was 1893. A specialist was consulted. The doctor determined that the young man was suffering from a blood clot. After that event, sometimes he was able to perform in the usual manner but sometimes he had severe headaches and his sight was often affected as well.
He continued to play that season and was sold to the New York Giants. For a while, everything was fine but then the headaches and dizziness became more frequent. By 1898, he was playing for Columbus and his pitching skills were very good so he was still achieving success on the diamond.
The Xenia Daily Gazette posted in November 1901: “Charley Jones, better known as “Bumpus” who got his nickname by getting his bumps so regularly when he first went into the baseball business and who winters at Springfield, will be seen with one of the American teams next year. Bumpus was rather unfortunate this year by his eyesight going back on him. He started out fine for the Milwaukee club and was their winning pitcher up to the middle of the season when his failing eyesight forced him to give up for the balance of the season.”
Finally, he could no longer cope with daily living and succumbed to drinking. He had to live in the Montgomery County Infirmary where he repaired shoes.
Fred Marshal, also a native of Cedarville, remembered Bumpus from when he was a boy and decided to find out what had happened to his boyhood idol. He found Bumpus in dire circumstances and took it upon himself to contact the Reds management. The Reds staged a benefit in Jones’ honor where he was treated as a special guest and showered with gifts. He was given a plaque which commemorated his no-hitter of 1892. He was also given a sum of money which was adequate for him to go back to the family home in Cedarville and live the remainder of his life though he was nearly blind.
He died in 1938 and is buried in North Cemetery in Cedarville.
And so, the story ends, happily. That young man from Cedarville, I believe, is still the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter in his first big league game.
Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and resident.