In recent years, baseball historians have tried to reconstruct the life of the game's first slugger, Charley Jones, who entered the national spotlight — such as it was — as a member of a short-lived team from Keokuk, Iowa, in 1875, the last season in the existence of the National Association, the first professional baseball league, which gave way a year later to the National League.

One problem for historians is journalists in the 1870s were not concerned with accurate biographical or statistical data. It was relatively difficult to verify statements, and players themselves often embellished or told outright lies, or were reluctant to talk about their families or their upbringing. Perhaps most journalists never asked.

I was attracted to the guy because he was called "The Knight of the Limitless Linen." I don't know how frequently this phrase actually was used, but it's one of those wonderful nicknames — or titles — from the early days of baseball. Jones also was nicknamed "Baby," which has caused writers to speculate — incorrectly, I believe — on the reason.

LET'S START with the matter of Charley Jones' real name. In Bill James' "Historical Baseball Abstract," the book that introduced me to the ballplayer, the author says this:

"Born Benjamin Rippy in North Carolina in 1850, Jones was orphaned in the early 1860s, perhaps due to the Civil War, and moved to Indiana, where he was raised by a relative named Reuben Jones."

My edition of this book was published in 2001. A few years later, researcher Greg Perkins, whose interest was in an early 1870s team from Ludlow, Kentucky, found new information on Jones, who was considered the star of that team. He discovered Jones was born Benjamin Wesley Rippay on April 30, 1852 in Alamance County, about halfway between Greensboro and Durham, North Carolina.

There is still speculation over the reason Benjamin Rippay grew up on a farm in Princeton, Indiana, but it's reasonable to assume he was orphaned. Deaths of parents, particularly mothers, was unfortunately common in the 19th century, and it's possible Rippay's father was a Civil War casualty. Indiana farmer Reuben Jones may have been an uncle or his maternal grandfather. In any event, Benjamin Rippay changed his last name to Jones, kept his middle name, but replaced his first name with Charley.

This would add confusion to Jones' story, because while he was active in baseball, either as a player or later as an umpire, there were three men born Charles Jones who either made it to the major leagues or to the high minors. Mix-ups in newspapers were inevitable. The subject of this piece was almost always referred to as Charley Jones (note the spelling of Charley), while another one of the Jones boys — the last one to arrive on the scene — was called Charlie. Both players were outfielders.

Pitcher Charles Jones, who helped bridge the gap from one Jones to another, had a colorful nickname — "Bumpus." He created a sensation by throwing a no-hitter in his first major league game. That didn't prevent journalists from later referring to him as "Charley" Jones, without explaining he was not the guy known for hitting home runs. Nor did it prevent Eddie Mitchell, author of "Baseball Rowdies of the 19th Century" (2018) from misspelling the first name of Charley Jones and claiming he was nicknamed "Bumpus." (Apologies to Mr. Mitchell and anyone else if my tone seems snide. It's easy to make mistakes about Charley Jones, and I'll probably make my share before I finish this piece.)

WHICH GETS ME to the nickname "Baby." Bill James suggested it may have been pinned on Jones during the first of two major disputes that marked his stormy relationships with teams that employed him.

When the National League was launched in 1876, Jones turned down offers from the Boston and Chicago teams and signed with the Cincinnati Reds. One theory holds that Jones made his decision based on where he thought he would stand with the team, so he chose the one most likely to play him as often as possible. Cincinnati had a miserable team — winning only nine games, while losing 56, finishing in last place. Jones led the team in batting (.286) and hit all of Cincinnati's four home runs. That was the good news for Jones. The bad news was a team that won only nine games did not generate much support.

The Cincinnati Reds seemed headed for bankruptcy, and did, indeed, appear to go belly-up. At that point, Jones and a teammate, second baseman Jimmy Hallinan, signed with the Chicago White Stockings, a team that was struggling after winning the pennant the season before.

According to a story on baseballhistorydaily.com, "Both players had signed with Chicago believing there was no chance 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 organize 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."

Then a funny thing happened. J. M. Wayne Neff raised enough money to save the Cincinnati franchise and become the team's president. Neff wanted Jones returned to the Reds. Apparently Jones wanted the same thing. (The story says Neff made no effort to get Hallinan back into the fold, which, if true, seems surprising, since Hallinan was batting .370 at the time he departed Cincinnati for Chicago. Hallinan batted .281 for Chicago, but was released a year later because of problems caused by his drinking. That was his last season as a player. He was only 29, and would die in October, 1879, five months after his 30th birthday.)

Jones returned to Cincinnati after playing two games for Chicago. He had three hits in eight at bats, but the White Stockings lost both games. Apparently Jones had been reluctant to play those two games, prompting a Chicago newspaper, the Inter Ocean, to write: “If 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.”

There's an assumption the phrase " 'baby' whining," was the origin of Jones' nickname. The fact 'baby' was in quotes suggests something else, and I think I found it in the Chicago Daily Tribune of December 10, 1874, in a story that announced a team from Keokuk, Iowa, applied for admission into the National Association for the 1875 season. The newspaper said eleven players had signed contracts with Keokuk. Among those players was one identified as "Baby" Jones.

My guess — and it's only a guess  — is a few years earlier, Jones was the youngest player on that team in Ludlow, Kentucky, and came by his nickname pretty much the way George Herman Ruth got his — by being the "baby" on his first professional team. (It seems appropriate baseball's first slugger should have a nickname similar to its greatest slugger.)

Another possibility for the nickname is perhaps "Baby Jones" was a popular character in a book or other kind of publication. I found two references to "Baby Jones" in old newspapers. One was in the title of a poem, "Baby Jones Explains." Maybe this "Baby Jones" was the inspiration for the ball player's nickname. In any event, Jones was called "Baby" long before his Chicago controversy.

THE KEOKUK WESTERNS, as the team was called, disappeared after 13 games, 12 of which they lost. Jones led the team in hitting (.277), and drove in 10 runs, twice as many as anyone else on the team. The National Association wasn't exactly competitive. The Boston Red Stockings won the league's final pennant with a 71-8 record. The Hartford Dark Blues finished second, 18-1/2 games behind. (Somehow, Jones played one game for Hartford, going hitless in four at bats.)

Then Jones was off to Cincinnati and the new National League. In May, 1876, the Cincinnati Enquirer had this to say about about the man who quickly emerged as the star of the new team (which the newspaper identified under a previous nickname):

"If it wasn’t for Mill Creek, the Red Stocking management would move the center-field fence back a half mile or so for Charley Jones’ benefit. In the practice game yesterday, the little fellow, standing at home plate, actually batted a regulation ball clear over the center-field fence — the heaviest hit ever seen on a ballfield probably. It will be remembered that Barnes’ home run hit last Saturday didn’t even roll to the fence. Try it again today, Jonesie."

Two things: "Barnes" is probably a reference to baseball's best hitter in the 1870s, Ross Barnes, not known for extra base hits. He hit only one home run in 1876, when he played for Chicago and won the first National League batting title with a .429 average. His home run may have been hit in Cincinnati. Also, the reference to "the little fellow" was a joke. Jone was a big man for his era, almost six-feet tall, and weighing about 200 pounds at the time.

JONES CERTAINLY had an unusual 1877 season, wearing a Chicago uniform for two games, after 17 with Cincinnati, then returning to Cincinnati for his last 38 games. Jones batted .310, but hit only two home runs. Cincinnati's other four home runs were hit by outfielder "Lip" Pike, sometime identified as the first professional baseball player. Those four home runs made Pike the league leader. Pike had played for four teams during his five years in the National Association. He was the home run leader in three of those seasons, and was considered a big addition to the Cincinnati line-up, but the team finished in last place again, this time in a six-team league. (New York and Philadelphia had dropped out.)

The Reds moved up to second place in 1878, behind the Boston Red Stockings. Jones was probably pleased that Cincinnati was ahead of fourth place Chicago in what was a six-team league for the second year in a row. He batted .310, hit three of the team's five home runs, also led the team in triples (7) and runs batted in (39) in 60 games. Pike, at 33 years of age, batted .324, but had no home runs and was released after 31 games to make room for 19-year-old "Buttercup" Dickerson, who hit .309 over the last 29 games.

Why Jones, and not Pike, is considered baseball's first slugger became apparent in 1879 after Jones left Cincinnati to play for the Boston Red Stockings, who were hoping to win their third pennant in a row. The National League lost two more teams — Indianapolis and Milwaukee; each of them lasted only one year — but picked up four teams, in Buffalo, Cleveland, Syracuse and Troy, to again become an eight-team organization.

JONES LED the league with nine home runs, the most ever hit in a major league season to that point, also leading the league in runs scored (85), and runs batted in (62). Despite this, Jones found himself in the dog house with his team's owner, Arthur Soden, who, according to David Nemec, in his profile of Jones in "Major League Baseball Profiles, 1871-1900," somehow blamed the player for the Red Stockings slipping from first place to second, behind Providence.

However, those nine home runs set Jones apart from other players. Of the other seven National League teams, only one — first place Providence — hit more than eight home runs. On a much smaller scale and playing a much shorter schedule, what Charley Jones did in 1879 was a preview of Babe Ruth would accomplish several years later.

Boston collapsed in 1880, finishing in sixth place as the Chicago White Stockings ran away with the pennant. Jones led the Red Stockings in hitting with a .300 average, but future Hall of Famer "Orator Jim" O'Rourke out-homered him, six to five. (As a team, Boston had 20 home runs, more than twice as many as any other team. First place Chicago hit only four home runs.)

On June 10, Jones did something that hadn't previously been done in a major league game — he homered twice in the same inning. He hit both of them off pitcher Tom Poorman of Buffalo, who gave up 19 runs that game.

ON SEPTEMBER 2, 1880, Jones created a controversy that lingered for years. It is widely believed he did it because he wanted to leave the Boston team, though he may have had other reasons. Jones, still a bachelor, took a stand against a common practice accepted by other players, though it may have unnecessarily inconvenienced those who were married. At the time, teams paid its players at the end of every month, but if pay day occurred during a road trip, players received only a portion of their wages until the team returned home.

Some defended this practice because it kept the teams from taking a lot of cash with them on road trips, but doesn't explain why teams couldn't have paid the players the day before they went on the road, in case some had payments to make for rent or mortgages, or for their families to live on while they were traveling. (The simple explanation may be that teams in those days had a difficult time breaking even, and couldn't afford to pay in advance.)

Jones' timing was suspect, and the team owner's reaction was predictable. Jones wouldn't play, Arthur Soden wouldn't pay. He released his best hitter and had him banished from the game. Jones sued to get the money owed him, and would later appeal for reinstatement.

As a result, Jones, who was in his prime, did not play major league baseball in 1881 and 1882. He remained busy playing for a semi-professional team in Portsmouth, Ohio, and scouting for the Cincinnati team that joined the American Association in 1882. One of the players Jones signed for the team was future Hall of Fame second baseman Bid McPhee.

MEANWHILE, Jones won his lawsuit over his withheld wages. On December 24, 1881, several newspapers reported: "The judgment of $568.55 granted Charley Jones by a Cleveland court is producing no end of trouble. President Soden of Boston has begun a suit against the Forest Citys [the Cleveland National League team] for the recovery of the amount."

What Jones had done seven months earlier was ingenious — he secured a court order that garnisheed receipts from a Boston game in Cleveland as a way to recover the money owed him.

[This isn't particularly important, but it shows how research can resemble a multiple choice exam. Bill James, in his "Historical Baseball Abstract", says Jones used the 1881 settlement to open the laundry business; David Nemec, in his "Major League Baseball Profiles, 1871-1900," says the player started the laundry five years earlier. According to a column of baseball shorts published in several newspapers on February 14, 1881, Jones was running a laundry early in 1881 in partnership with a man named Lee West John.]

THE MENTION of laundry makes this a good place to speculate why Jones was called "The Knight of the Limitless Linen." I think it's logical to assume the reason concerned his laundry business. Off-season or alternate sources of income sometimes inspired nicknames, my favorite being "Piano Mover" Smith, a tag placed on pitcher Frank Smith in the early 1900s. Smith had a furniture business, and reportedly bragged that he could single-handedly carry a piano up several flights of stairs. So maybe, as owner of a laundry, Charley Jones was credited with having limitless linen.

On the other hand . . .

It has been suggested if Jones hadn't raised the issue of salary payment as a ploy to force his release from the team, he did it because he wanted more money to spend during Boston's road trip. Jones had a reputation as a ladies man . . . and a drinker . . . and someone who loved food. Word was he also had a large wardrobe, acquired, according to a story on redlegnation.com, as a professional model given outfits by clothiers to model them around town

I have no idea if there's any truth to that, or simply a theory to account for the "Limitless Linen" nickname. There seems no doubt Jones loved to party, and was often out until the wee hours of the morning. And he was putting on weight.

Still banished in 1882, Jones remained under the radar. I found only one 1882 news item about him. It appeared in the New York Clipper (September 30):

"Nearly ten thousand people were present Sunday, September 17, in Cincinnati, Ohio, at a game between the two leading amateur teams of that city. Charley Jones played with the Shamrocks and was credited with five safe hits, including a home run and two three-baggers. The score was Shamrocks 7, Muldoons 5."

In 1883, the Cincinnati Reds defied the edict issued by National League owners, and brought Jones in from the cold, albeit in the American Association, which began the year before, receiving major league status. This time Cincinnati had a good team; the Reds were the defending league champions.

DESPITE HIS two-year layoff, Jones played well. His .294 batting average was third best on the team, and he was the number one Red in home runs (10) and runs batted in (80). He played in 90 of the team's 98 games. Cincinnati had a fine record (61-37), but dropped to third place, five games behind the pennant-winning Philadelphia Athletics, whose first baseman, Harry Stovey, hit 14 home runs and broke Jones' single-season record. (However, despite his two-year suspension, Jones, at the end of the 1883 season, had hit more home runs — 33 — than anyone else in the majors.)

In 1884, Jones had another good season, batting .314 with seven home runs and 71 runs batted in. He also had 17 triples and scored 117 runs in 112 games. He no longer was the team's star; that honor went to first baseman John Reilly, who batted .339, with 11 home runs, 19 triples and 91 runs batted in. Pitcher Will White won 34 games, and, in Bid McPhee, Cincinnati had perhaps the best second baseman of the 19th century. The team finished in fifth place in a 13-team league, but only a game-and-a-half out of second place.

Throughout his career, Jones was regarded as a better-than-average outfielder, which surprised people because of his ever-increasing girth, and it was his size that, on September 27, 1884, prompted the National Police Gazette, a New York City publication, to poke fun at him while describing a remarkable catch he made in a late-season game against the New York Metropolitans:

"[Steve] Brady was shut off from making a clean home-run in the fourth inning through that gawky, big, slab-footed Charley Jones stumbling in its way and closing his enormous grippers on it just as it was giving promise of removing a panel from the left-field fence.”

CINCINNATI MADE IT to second place in 1885. Jones batted .322, far and away the highest batting average on the team, but hit just five home runs. That matched Reilly's total. The team's unexpected power source was 25-year-old shortstop Frank Fennelly, who'd joined the team late in the 1884 season. He hit 10 home runs, a figure he would not match for the rest of his career.

Manager Ollie Caylor, who later became a well-known sportswriter, must have juggled the line-up, batting Jones ahead of Reilly and Fennelly, because Jones scored 108 runs, 16 more than any other Cincinnati player.

Jones was 33 years old, and probably expected to have a few more good seasons, but his lifestyle was about to catch up with him. Despite the first line in the following stories, Jones was not married at the time.

National Police Gazette, January 2, 1886
The wife of Charley Jones, the well-known ballplayer, the other night took another long stride toward attaining national notoriety. A few days ago, the Cincinnati Enquirer published an account of a scene between herself and Mr. Jones at Fred Herrmann’s club house, in which she threatened to horsewhip him for being found in company of another woman.

Until some four weeks ago, they had been living together as man and wife at No. 481 Vine street. Mrs. Anna Jones, or, as he says it ought to be read, Miss C. E. Arnold, is a good-looking lady, aged thirty-one, stylish and spirited — in fact, awfully spirited. She reminds one of an A-1 conductor constantly surcharged with electricity.

As she from a dark corner of her cell in Bremen Station responded to the reporter’s inquiry as to her trouble with Charley, hers eyes glistened like an arc incandescent, and yet all the time she smiled and smiled. About three weeks ago, Mr. Jones abandoned her. He claims she is not his wife.

Since that time, she has dogged him about and threatened vengeance. Charley is tall and well proportioned as he is handsome and brave, but whenever Mrs. Jones swooped down upon him, he stood not upon the order of his going, but went d. q. [dead quiet].

The other evening, about 9 o’clock, Mrs. Jones again tackled him in front of Heuck’s theater. He says he handed her some money and tried to quietly shake her off. She followed him, and gave him several pieces of her mind in a subdued but energetic tone of voice. To avoid the crowd, he walked out Thirteenth street.

Officers Fred Lang and Reisinger noticed them, and knowing of the threats she had made, expected trouble and followed. When at the corner of Vine and Thirteenth, she made a profane exclamation, and, saying, “I will fix you!”, pulled out of the inside pocket of her cloak a handful of cayenne pepper, and threw it full and fair into Jones’ face. He got it square in the right eye, which was turned toward her side, but it missed the other.

Officer Lang, who was walking almost beside Jones, got the worst of the dose. It filled both eyes and covered his whole face. The intense smarting which this caused to the intended and the accidental victim made them both howl with pain. They were led to Goodman's drug store, and Dr. James B. King was summoned. He applied palliatives. It is not thought any permanent injury to the eyes will result.

Officer Reisinger placed Mrs. Jones under arrest. She was taken to Bremen Station in the patrol wagon. A reporter interrogated her through the iron bars of her cage, with a view to getting her side of the story.

In a saucy tone she said: “Well, I did it simply because I thought I would make him suffer a little for what he has made me suffer.”

“Fortunately, he is not hurt very much,” added the scribe in a sympathetic way.

“No, he didn’t get quite enough,” she spit out.

“But Charley says you are not his lawful wife. Is that so?”

“He does, does he? Well, you ask him; he ought to know.”

Later in the evening Mr. Jones called at the station house and bailed her out.”

HOW BADLY DAMAGED was Jones' eyesight? Several opinions have been offered over the years. Jones continued to play, and after he retired, he became an umpire, where good eyesight was required. What was immediately apparent was that Charley Jones, at 34, wasn't as good as he was before the cayenne pepper incident, although, in 1886, he did not have a bad year, despite his batting average dropping 52 points to .270. That was second best on the Cincinnati team, as were his six home runs (the same number hit by Reilly and Fennelly; McPhee led the team with eight).

On July 24, 1886, the National Police Gazette, its writer's tongue firmly in cheek, said this to its readers:

"From all accounts, Big Charley Jones must be the greatest Sunday player on the face of the globe. One Sunday we hear of him surpassing all previous records in professional baseball in capturing ten flies, three of them being remarkable running catches, and the very next Sunday the trumpets are again sounded in his praise when it is claimed that his one-handed catch is unsurpassed in the annals of baseball."

But Charley Jones' days in a Cincinnati uniform were numbered. Strangely, Jones, like Lip Pike in 1878, was let go in July, 1887, while enjoying what, statistically, seemed like a comeback season — a .314 batting average in 41 games, with 40 runs batted in. He wasn't unemployed long, because the New York Metropolitans wanted him.

On July 25, 1887, the New York Evening Telegram, in a column of short observations about the baseball scene, said, "Since 'Charley' Jones joined the 'Mets,' they have been in luck. Is Jones a 'Mascot'?"

OBVIOUSLY, the team didn't see it that way. Jones played 62 games for the Mets, and batted .255. According to statistics on baseball-reference.com, Jones played the outfield except for one game as a relief pitcher and another at first base. The team released him after the season. (One of his New York teammates was ill-fated outfielder Darby O'Brien, who a year later would figure in one of the most bizarre incidents in Jones' life.)

Jones momentarily postponed retirement by signing to play for the Kansas City Cowboys in their first season as a member of the American Association. He did not play well, participating in only six games, getting four hits in 25 at bats (.160). He didn't like Kansas City and was happy to leave.

The National Police Gazette, on June 30, 1888, announced, "Charley Jones, the veteran professional player, who is so widely known in baseball circles, has retired permanently from the arena, and has decided to make New York City his future home, where he will go into business for himself."

Somewhere along the line, Jones had gotten married for real. His wife, according to David Nemec, was an actress named Louisa Horton, who'd been involved in a scandalous divorce before her relationship with Jones. But it was her affection for a dog that disrupted her husband's retirement:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 24, 1888
After the baseball game at Washington Park on Saturday last, Darby O’Brien and John J. Burdock of the Brooklyn Base Ball Club, were arrested by Officer McGrath, of Justice Massey’s Court, on Butler street. The charge against O’Brien is made by Mrs. Louisa Jones, wife of Charles W. Jones, former left fielder for the Kansas City nine, and is that he stole her dog.

Burdock’s trouble is a serious one, the charge being made by Lillie Brown, a 16-year-old miss, living in South Brooklyn.

Since the arrests, the papers have published various statements regarding Darby’s affair made by Mrs. Jones, who is living at Tompkinsville, S. I. [Staten Island]. Her latest statement is, substantially, that a year ago Mr. O’Brien visited her and her husband at the Nautilus Hotel at Tompkinsville, bringing with him a handsome dog. She says she admired the pretty creature very much and that Darby left the animal in her charge while he was West. He afterward, she said, presented the dog to her. Mr. O’Brien subsequently took away the animal; hence the warrant for his arrest.

He was seen at the Washington Park Base Ball Grounds by an Eagle reporter, to whom he said:

“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 [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 from 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, she and Jones bolted and took the dog with them. I got Beauty back, however, and am satisfied. The most unfortunate thing in the whole transaction is that Beauty is dead. On Sunday morning she had a fit on Sixth avenue and died.”

Catcher Holbert, from whom Darby got the dog, bore out Mr. O’Brien’s statement in every particular.

All efforts to see Mr. Burdock were useless, as no one seemed to know his address.

BOTH CASES came to naught. The dog's death ended the Jones case, and the teenaged girl did not show up in court to press her case against the 36-year-old Burdock.

For the next several years, Jones was in the news mostly for his work as an umpire in the Players League (1890), American Association (1891), Eastern League (1892) and Atlantic League (1896). He received mixed reviews for his work.

On June 21, 1891. the New York Press commented that "Charley Jones is umpiring very poorly."

Apparently American Association officials agreed, and Jones was fired.

But a year later, on August 27, 1892, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said, "Charley Jones, one of the few good umpires that the Eastern League has had this season, will officiate today and tomorrow [when Providence plays at Rochester]."

And there was this comment in a column written by O. P. "Ollie" Caylor, who had managed Cincinnati for two years while Jones was one of his players:

Amsterdam (NY) Daily Democrat, May 2, 1893
A reminder comes along here that baseball has none of the heroes now it had in the past. Last week Charley Jones was appointed an Eastern League umpire. And if there be one man on earth who has more enemies than any other, that man is an umpire. But Jones is glad to accept the berth. For what it pays him, he agrees to “bear the proud man’s contumely” and take his chances of escaping with his life from the vengeance of the cranks.

Yet this is the same Jones whose popularity in the early eighties was sometimes annoying to him. I have seen him during those days take refuge from the worshipful throng of boys and men who followed him along the street until he became annoyed beyond the limit of his endurance.

TWO MONTHS later, on July 15, the New York Press reported: "Charley Jones, the ex-professional, is playing third base for the Twentieth Precinct policemen’s team, and has not forgotten how to play the game. He made a home run yesterday."

Other newspaper items I found reported that Jones was a New York City policeman, and that he was "occupying a political position in New York." He also may have been a hotel detective, and redlegnation.com says he was a New York City inspector of elections.

A reference to a Jones in a story headlined “Where Many Former Baseball Favorites Are Now Located” published by the New York Morning Telegraph of January 16, 1901, left me a bit puzzled:

"Charley Jones is employed in New York, and is a well known figure on Broadway. He played first base for the Mets in 1888. He later tried his hand at umpiring, but was unsuccessful because of his bad eyesight. The affliction was due to an altercation in Cincinnati in 1886, when a woman threw pepper in his eyes. It was only through the most heroic treatment at that time that Jones did not become totally blind."

While Jones wasn't the best umpire in the world, he managed to find work in one minor league or another for at least six years, so I don't think his eyesight was as much of a problem as his judgment (and perhaps his sobriety). However, there's no doubt his health worsened after 1900. He dropped out of sight, and almost all newspaper stories about "Charley Jones" that I found after that date were about the American League outfielder who preferred to spell his first name as "Charlie."

BUT THERE WAS this item in the Utica (NY) Herald-Dispatch of August 14. 1909:

"Friends of Charley Jones, who was famous as the left fielder of the old Bostons and Cincinnati Reds, and one of the greatest batsmen in his day, have arranged a benefit for him to be held at South Beach, Staten Island, on Tuesday, August 31. Jones is an invalid and in need of assistance. William Muldoon, the former wrestler, is chairman of the committee in charge of arrangements."

For many years Jones' fate was unknown. Then, when Greg Perkins began researching a 19th century baseball team from Ludlow, Kentucky, and traced its star player, he discovered Charley Jones died at Bellevue Hospital in New York City on June 6, 1910. Because his adopted name was so common, there apparently was no obituary for Jones in a New York City newspaper.

Playing relatively short schedules during his major league career, Charley Jones managed to accumulate 1,114 hits. His lifetime batting average was .298, and some of his home runs were tape measure jobs. Some people have suggested he belongs in the Hall of Fame, but that's highly unlikely . . . unless they open a wing for players with the most colorful nicknames. If "The Knight of the Limitless Linen" isn't Hall of Fame-worthy, nothing is.