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.