By Glen Sparks
“Bumpus” Jones peaked early.
The 22-year-old right-hander made his big league debut on Oct. 15, 1892, in Cincinnati. It was the last day of the regular season, the last time the pitcher’s box would be just 50 feet from home plate. Bumpus started for the Reds against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Jones, undoubtedly nervous, walked the first two batters he faced. He got out of the inning, though, and wiggled his way out of another jam in the second. Pittsburgh scored an unearned run in the third on a walk, a stolen base and a Bumpus error. Then, Charles Leander “Bumpus” Jones started to cruise. He still had not given up a hit, and he didn’t give up one in the final six innings. The Reds beat the Pirates 7-1 on Bumpus Jones’ no-hitter in his first game in the majors. Bumpus walked four and struck out three.
The fans cheered for their hero, a product of nearby Xenia, and Reds owner Charles Comiskey scheduled his sensation for a nifty postseason tour. He wound up and fired in front of crowds of 1,000 and 2,000 fans.
Then, the Tale of Bumpus Jones took a tricky turn. The 1893 season began, the mound was moved back to its current 60 feet, six inches, and a local newspaper reported that Bumpus was suffering from those dreaded “kinks” in his arm. Bumpus Jones was never the same.
Bumpus only won more game in the major leagues, and it was quite an improbable win at that. He somehow got the “w” when he walked six and gave up 12 runs. Fortunately, the Reds scored 30 times and held the Louisville Colonels to a dozen (all charged to Bumpus). Cincinnati had taken a 14-0 third-inning lead, and Bumpus was summoned from the bullpen to give starter Elton Chamberlain a rest. Chamberlain still had not pitched the minimum five innings to qualify for a win. Bumpus held the lead, but, really, no lead was safe with this wild-armed, one-game sensation.
In 28.2 innings with the Reds in 1893, Bumpus Jones gave up 37 hits and 23 walks. He struck out just six batters. His ERA zoomed up to a mountainous 10.05. He pitched in six games, started five and, incredibly, finished two.
By the middle of July, Bumpus Jones was an ex-Red. The New York Giants took a chance on the still-young hurler. Could Jones re-gain some magic in the Big Apple? It was not to be. In his first game, versus the Cleveland Naps on July 14 against the great Cy Young, Bumpus walked 10 and gave up six runs. And, that was that. Bumpus Jones never pitched again in the major leagues.
Baseball still beckoned. Bumpus pitched in the minor leagues, often with great success, for the next several seasons. One year, he went 27-13. He pitched for teams such as the Sioux City (Iowa) Cornhuskers, the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Gold Bugs and the St. Paul (Minn.) Apostles.
Bumpus Jones died June 25, 1938, following a stroke. His headstone in Cederville, Ohio, is marked that he was a “no-hit” pitcher. And, so he was. On Oct. 15, 1892, Bumpus Jones had his day.