Slim Jones: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Pitcher of 1934

ONE OF THE MOST TRAGIC figures in sports history is Stewart “Slim” Jones. For one magical season in 1934, the 20-year-old Jones was arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Besides winning 22 regular season games for the Philadelphia Stars, Jones led his team to the Negro League World Championship and dueled the great Satchel Paige to a 1-1 tie in what many say was the greatest Negro League game ever played. An arm injury the next year preceded his quick descent into alcoholism. He spent the winter of 1938 in his hometown of Baltimore where he ran short of funds. Jones asked the owner of the Philadelphia Stars for an advance on his salary. Denied the advance, the destitute ballplayer sold his overcoat to buy a bottle of whiskey. Pneumonia set in, and he died on November 19, 1938, at the age of 25. It’s as tragic a story as can be found in baseball history, told, and re-told in most books on Negro League history.

Anyone who is familiar with my work knows that I try to gather as much information possible so I can tell the story with as much detail and, hopefully, add something to an already familiar tale. Since one of the most memorable and important parts of Slim Jones’ story is his tragic death brought about by him selling his overcoat for a bottle of booze, I wanted to tell that part as accurately as I could. The problem was, once I scratched the surface of the time-worn tragic tale, it failed to hold up. But before we get to that, let’s look the short but meteoric trail Slim Jones blazed through baseball history.

BECAUSE HE WAS ONLY on this earth for a short time, not many details were known about Slim Jones’ life. And, like his death, those available were often wrong, including his given name. Until author Fred Bush obtained his death certificate, Jones’s first name was usually listed as “Stuart.” That the death certificate was filled out with information given by his father, we now know that he was born Stewart Jones on September 16, 1913. According to the 1920 census records, the Jones family lived in the Pigtown neighborhood (so called for the holding pens found in the vicinity) at 826 South Warner Street. His father, James Jones, worked as a miller at one of the many grain elevators located in the neighborhood while his mother, Ida, ran a restaurant. The Jones’s had an older daughter named Alena who, though only 10, worked as an operator in an overalls factory.

The Pigtown neighborhood where Stewart grew up has since become the epicenter for baseball in Baltimore. Across the street from where the Jones’s 826 South Warner Street house once stood now looms Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Go eight blocks or .02 miles north and you’ll arrive at 216 Emory Street, birthplace of Babe Ruth.

By the 1930 census, Ida had left the picture, and James and Stewart were living on Eislen Street, coincidently across the street from where the Camden Street entrance of Oriole Park now stands. Stewart grew up playing sandlot baseball and, according to some sources, softball. Box scores may be found in the pages of the Afro-American from when Jones pitched for the Baltimore Red Sox, a leading amateur team. By the time he was out of his teens, Stewart had grown into a lanky 6’-6” southpaw. He threw the ball with a peculiar windup and motion, described in most contemporary accounts as a “crossfire delivery.”

Word of the tall lefty from Pigtown soon reached the management of the Baltimore Black Sox, the local professional Negro League team. Throughout the 1920s, the Black Sox were a powerhouse, boasting Blackball stars such as Jud Wilson, John Beckwith, Rap Dixon, Frank Warfield, Oliver Marcell, and Pete Hill. However, by 1932 the team had fallen on hard times. Although the team had lost most of their big name stars, the Black Sox still attracted the best local talent and gave many players their start in professional baseball.

JONES MADE HIS PROFESSIONAL debut in the first game of a Sunday doubleheader on June 4, 1932. In four and a third innings, Jones held the Hilldale club to just a single hit. Though he whiffed four batters, he also walked three and hit one. Still, the Baltimore Afro-American reported that the rookie “made a lasting impression upon the fans by his performance. The game story also made mention of his distinctive pitching style: “His peculiar cross fire [sic] delivery so puzzled Umpire Brown that that official missed several perfect strikes.” The paper gave this as the reason for his being pulled in the fifth inning. Interestingly, despite him being a Baltimore city boy, the Afro-American called the newcomer “Country Jones.”

A month after his debut, the Afro-American had this to say about the hometown rookie, “Country Jones, the local youngster, appears to be earning his spurs as a pitcher. A trifle gawky, Jones allows no one to hurry him and with his size and control promises to be a first class flinger.”

Jones was used sparingly throughout the short 64 game season, recording a bland 0-3 record and 25 innings pitched. The next season, now more accurately known as “Slim,” Jones won five games and led the Black Sox in strikeouts.

Since the early 1920s, Baltimore hosted a popular post-season series pitting the Black Sox (often augmented by other Blackball stars) against an all-star team made up of local white major and minor league players. In the 1933 series, Jones pitched in two of the games, getting clobbered in the first one for five runs in four innings, but redeemed himself a week later by striking out six in 5 2/3 innings of shutout relief work.

Still, the portsider was uneasy on the mound, his self-consciousness stemming from a lack of faith in his unusual crossfire delivery. Unlike the white professional leagues, Negro League teams typically did not have any sort of coaching staff or minor league system in which young players gained confidence and learned the basics of the game. Black ballplayers often went from the sandlots directly to the Negro League, where they were forced to learn on the job. This sink or swim environment was doubly hard for a young player with an unusual pitching motion like Slim Jones. Had he been with a team other than the Black Sox, Jones might have foundered and sunk back to the sandlots. Fortunately, Baltimore’s starting catcher Fred “Tex” Burnett took a shine to the tall teen and encouraged him as best he could. Burnett personally convinced Jones’s father to allow his son to accompany him to Puerto Rico to play winter ball. This trip turned out to be the turning point in Slim Jones’s career.

DURING THE WINTER of 1933-34, the island of Puerto Rico played host to a unique 8-team league called the Serie Internacional de Base Ball. Like its neighbor Cuba, the Puerto Rican league attracted the best Black and Latin players of the time. Among the teams invited to compete were three local teams, Ponce, Aguadilla, and Guayama. They were joined by Almendares, a Cuban team; a traveling Black barnstorming team called the Brooklyn Cuban Giants; a mid-level white minor league all-star team playing under the name “Hazelton” because they bought the uniforms of the defunct Hazelton Mountaineers minor league team; a team called “Richmond,” about which nothing is known; and the White Stars, sponsored by the White Star Bus Line which connected all the major Puerto Rican cities. It is this later club on which Slim Jones and many other Negro Leaguers played on. Besides Slim Jones and Tex Burnett, the White Stars included Blackball stars Jud Wilson, Dick Lundy, and Bill Holland.

Not all that much has been documented in English about the 1933-34 Serie Internacional de Base Ball, but American newspapers did feature several small updates throughout the winter. On November 25, the Pittsburgh Courier reported that, “Down Puerto Rico way, the White Stars which includes Bill Holland, Dick Lundy, G. Carr, Slim Johnson, administered an 8-to-3 trimming to a Nordic team composed of major league players… Slim Jones twirled for the Stars and Tex Burnett served in the role of receiver…” The “nordic team” was probably Hazelton, though there were no major leaguers on the roster, just mid-level minor leaguers.

Another story, published in the Brooklyn Times Union after Slim Jones’s great 1934 season, describes the transformation the young lefty underwent during the winter season, “Unstable and green at first, Jones slowly began to rid himself of his faults. Tex gave him confidence, and overnight Slim changed from a boy to a man. He pitched amazingly well as the season wore on and fanned 210 players before the campaign ended.”

BACK IN THE STATES, the Baltimore Black Sox were falling apart. The team had applied to join the Negro National League for 1934 but were denied because most of the players from the previous year jumped the team and signed with other teams. Among them was Slim Jones.

In the book Josh and Satch, author John Holway credits ex-Detroit Tigers first baseman Johnny Nuen with tipping off the Philadelphia Stars about Jones. Nuen was a Baltimore native and had probably watched Slim Jones pitch that fall in the annual post-season Black Sox vs White All-Stars series. But, regardless of how the Stars found out about him, it turned out to be a perfect match.

The Philadelphia Stars were formed by Ed Bolden in 1933. Bolden had previously operated the Hilldale club which was among the best Blackball teams of the 1920s. Though the Stars were a new organization, they boasted some top-tier veteran talent such as slugging first baseman Jud Wilson – but what made the Stars the perfect fit for Slim Jones was the team’s catcher, Biz Mackey. Mackey had been a star with Hilldale throughout the 1920s and developed a reputation as one of the greatest catchers of his generation. Besides his slugging ability and expert catching, what made Mackey truly great was his ability to develop young players such as future Hall of Famers Monte Irvin, Larry Doby, and Roy Campanella. In 1934, Slim Jones became Mackey’s star pupil.

Right from the start of the season everyone that followed Negro League baseball knew that someone special was in their midst. Jones simply dominated not only the various semi-pro and town teams the Stars played against but the professional teams in the Negro National League as well. But the one victory that really put Slim Jones on the map was the Sunday, May 20 game against the Pittsburgh Crawfords at Greenlee Field. Owned by numbers king Gus Greenlee, the Crawfords attracted the best Negro League stars of the day including Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, Cool Papa Bell. These future Hall of Famers gave the Crawfords one of the greatest lineups in any league.

That Sunday pitted Slim Jones against the Crawfords ace and the biggest attraction in the Negro Leagues at the time: Satchel Paige. One of baseball’s greatest showmen, Paige was almost unbeatable at this point in his career and by far the greatest pitcher outside the major leagues. No one gave the Stars’ rookie much of a chance, but despite the pressure, Slim Jones held his own, giving up 5 runs fanning five through eight innings. Paige struck out 11 but fell apart in the ninth, allowing seven Stars to score and win the game, 10-5.

Three days later, the two teams and aces met again, this time at Eagle Park in York, Pennsylvania. Jones was much better this time, shutting out the powerful Crawford bats and striking out 11. Paige also struck out 11 but gave up eight hits and three runs in the surprising loss. These two victories over the game’s most potent club made Slim Jones an instant star.

By mid-season, Jones’s success and popularity with Black fans was such that he garnered enough votes for the annual East-West All-Star Game to eclipse Satchel Paige. Slim even started the game instead of Satch, a clear indication of his popularity and a nod to his talent so far that season.

Pitching against the best players the West had to throw at him, Jones kept them hitless in the first inning, but in the second he gave up a walk and a hit and had runners on second and third with no outs. Slim bore down and struck out the dangerous Sam Bankhead for the first out. Larry Brown of the Chicago American Giants was up next and hit a scorcher to third baseman Jud Wilson, who knocked it down and threw out Mule Suttles at the plate as he tried to score. Two out, two men on base. Nashville’s Sammy T. Hughes was up next. Hughes was one of the best clutch hitters in Blackball, but he too hit the ball to Wilson who made the long throw to first – inning over. Jones pitched the third inning without a problem. All told against the best Negro League players of 1934, Slim pitched 3 innings, gave up 1 hit, walked 1, and fanned 4. Not bad for a 20 year-old in his first year in professional ball.

NEGRO LEAGUE BASEBALL has always been known for its showmanship as well as talent, and in 1934 fans had the perfect storm. Everyone wanted another duel between the one and only Satchel Paige and the young upstart Slim Jones. On September 9th, the stars aligned at Yankee Stadium in New York City as the Paige’s Crawfords met Jones’s Philadelphia Stars. Paige drove all night from a freelance pitching assignment and slept in his car outside the stadium. Jones told his teammates before the game “get me 2 runs and I’ll win.”

From the start, everyone in the stadium knew they were watching something special. After a shaky first inning where Paige gave up a run on a walk, single, and fielder’s choice, the game turned into a pitcher’s duel. Paige and Jones fanned batter after batter, and double plays were turned as if it were a life or death battle. Through 6 innings both men were pitching 1-hit ball. Then, in the top of the 7th, Dewey Creacy got a hit off Paige and scored on a double by Slim’s catcher Biz Mackey. With 2 outs, Jake Dunn hit a long fly to right fielder Ted Trent, who made a spectacular shoe-string catch. The base umpire called it a trapped ball however, and Mackey scored from second. But then, the home plate umpire ruled it a legit catch. No run scored, inning over, and the score remained 1-0 Philadelphia.

For Slim’s half of the 7th, an error by second baseman Dick Seay and two singles tied the ballgame before he could extradite himself from the inning. In the 8th, both pitchers ran into trouble, but each time they pitched themselves out of it. Night was starting to descend on Yankee Stadium going into the 9th, and each pitcher bore down harder than before. Slim Jones retired the Crawfords in the top of the inning. Then Satch took the mound in the bottom of the ninth and set the Stars down one after another to end the inning. By now it was too dark to continue, and ecstatic fans ran onto the field. Slim Jones had struck out 9 and gave up 3 hits, Paige whiffed 12 and relinquished 6 hits. The greatest game ever played was frozen for all eternity in a 1-1 tie.

Press coverage was electrifying, and the fans clamored for more. One week later, the two teams met again at Yankee Stadium in front of 30,000 fans. Tap dancer and honorary Mayor of Harlem Bill “Bojangles” Robinson presented both pitchers with a set of leather luggage – a very thoughtful gift seeing how much traveling Negro League teams did at the time. Jones struck out 6 and spread 5 hits over 9 innings, but Paige and the Crawfords bested the Stars, winning by a score of 3-1. Paige struck out 18 that day, gave up but 2 hits and forever sealed his reputation as the best clutch pitcher in the Negro Leagues.

BY THE END of the 1934 season, Jones had racked up the wins, going 22-3 in league games and winning an additional 10 more games against semi-pros and lesser competition. In the hot pennant race of 1934, the Stars won the second half of the split season and now faced the first half winners, the venerable Chicago American Giants. In Game 1, Jones came on in the ninth inning of a tie 1-1 game. Dewey Creacy made a bad throw on an easy out, and Mule Suttles got a cheap hit through the infield, scoring the winning run.

Jones started Game 2 but lost to Chicago’s Ted Trent 3-0. Philly then evened the series forcing an eighth game after Game 7 ended in a tie due to darkness. In the deciding game, Slim Jones was at his best, spreading 5 hits over the course of 9 innings and even smashed a double in the seventh that scored a run as the Stars cruised to a 2-0 shutout for the championship.

What else could top off such a spectacular year for a 20 year-old? How about pitching against the best pitcher in the white major leagues? The great Dizzy Dean, fresh off his 30 win season and marvelous world series performance against Detroit, was barnstorming around the country with his brother Paul, also a star pitcher (19 wins), and a pick-up team of semi-pro players. Although the quality of Dean’s backing players may be suspect, Slim Jones still beat the Dizzy Dean All-Stars at Shibe Park, capping off what may be the single greatest season ever recorded by a pitcher in Negro League history.

So where do you go from here?

Unfortunately for Slim, it was all downhill, and fast. Feted as the greatest pitcher in generations, Jones made the rounds of the bars and taverns in the off-season, basking in the attention and indulging way too much. When he reported to the Stars at the start of the 1935 season, he was out of shape with an ego inflated to a monstrous proportion. He fought with the management demanding a higher salary, and at one point left the team in protest. His skills had eroded over the winter and, by the middle of the season, he had still not registered a win.

The fans still loved Slim, and he received the second highest number of ballots for a pitcher that year in the East-West Game voting. Slim performed magnificently, throwing 3 shut-out innings and had even 2 hits including a two-run homer. But while that one day in Chicago may have reminded everyone of Jones ‘s great promise, he finished 1935 with a 4-5 league record.

Winter of 1935-6 was spent back in Baltimore making the rounds of the clubs and bars, cashing in on his reputation. When he returned to Philadelphia in 1936, his drinking had spiraled out of control. He finished the year 2-4, was 1-0 in 1937 and then 0-2 in 1938. On November 19, 1938, it was reported that Slim Jones had died of pneumonia after having sold his overcoat for a bottle of booze.

IN TELLING SLIM’S STORY, many authors have written about the cold winter of 1938 that played such a large part in his death. Some have even gone so far as describing it as being “bitter cold,” and more than one source claims he froze to death. Having personally lived through many Baltimore winters, I immediately understood how the wet, cold air coming off the city’s Inner Harbor could quickly lead to serious illness and death to someone exposed to the elements.

Since Jones died on November 19, I went back to the first of the month to see just how “bitter cold” the weather was in the weeks leading up to his passing. This is where the famous Slim Jones overcoat story began to unravel. Using the weather reports recorded by the United States Weather Bureau Observers’ Office in the Baltimore Custom House, I went back and did an overview of the 18 days leading up to Slim’s death. Beginning on November 1st, I found that Baltimore was far from suffering through a bitter cold winter. In fact, one could even say Charm City was experiencing a balmy spell during the first two and a half weeks of November. Below is my chart of the weather temperatures and conditions from November 1 – 18:

As you can see, this was anything but a bitter cold winter. Not once did the lowest night temperature dip below freezing, and there were seven days where the high was in the 70s. Only five of the eighteen days recorded any kind of precipitation, and on those days the temperature never dipped below 44, so freezing rain can be ruled out.

By this time I was very confused, because as any student of the Negro Leagues knows, Slim Jones died after catching pneumonia when he sold his coat – right?

I DUG A LITTLE DEEPER into Slim Jones and came across Frederick C. Bush’s biography of Slim Jones posted on the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) website. This excellent biography was not around when I originally compiled my Slim Jones material, and in it I found that Bush had come across a completely different and heretofore unreported reason for Slim’s demise. The key to this new information was the death certificate, which Bush had obtained from the State of Maryland. In his SABR biography, Bush writes of Jones’s death, “He was admitted to Baltimore’s Bay View City Hospital on November 14, and was diagnosed with uremia, urinary extravasation, and gangrene of the prostate gland. In sum, his kidneys were failing, and he had numerous infections. Jones’s doctor performed a procedure to provide relief, which was likely also a precursor to further surgeries, but his condition was too advanced, and he died on November 19, 1938.”

I wanted to know more about what caused the condition that led to Jones’s death, so I contacted the author to ask if he would share the original death certificate with me. Bush graciously agreed and emailed me a copy.

The reason I wanted the death certificate was because I happened to know two practicing doctors. One is a urologist and the other is an OB/GYN and general practitioner, a perfect team who could pool their specific medical knowledge and get to the bottom of what caused Slim’s early demise. Both were very interested in lending their expertise to a forensic diagnosis, but first I had to give them the background on their “patient.”

After sharing my research on Slim’s life, my two doctor sources set about trying to understand how he died. Before I get into their explanations, let me be clear that this opinion is speculation based on my re-telling of the details of Slim Jones’s life and an eight decade old death certificate looked at from a 2023 medical standpoint. I also want to caution the reader that there will be some very graphic medical descriptions, and those who do not wish to read this can skip the next six paragraphs.

AS MY TWO DOCTORS studied the death certificate, it was immediately obvious to them that neither cold weather nor pneumonia had anything to do with Slim’s demise. Unfortunately for the young ballplayer, his actual cause of death was much more horrific than succumbing to the elements.

According to the death certificate, Slim was admitted to Baltimore’s Bay View Hospital on November 14, 1938, where he was diagnosed with “uremia, urinary extravasation, and gangrene of the prostate gland.” Since I am not a trained medical expert and do not trust myself to cobble together what that diagnosis meant from various WebMD and Wikipedia pages, having two doctors on hand to navigate the evidence really came in handy.

According to my two sources, Slim had likely been experiencing frequent urination coupled with a weak stream, along with increasing discomfort, possibly for months before he finally sought help at Bay View. Inside, Slim’s prostate had become enlarged and an infection set in. This could have been caused by some sort of trauma or injury to his perineum (the area between the scrotum and anus) causing a urethral stricture which blocked urine flow. Alternately, if the stories about Slim’s womanizing were accurate, the infection could have been caused by a sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea or chlamydia.

His swelling prostate gradually restricted the flow of urine until it finally backed up into his kidneys, causing renal failure, the complete shutdown of the kidneys. This is the uremia noted on the death certificate. To compound Slim’s plight, the backup of urine caused urinary extravasation, the rupture of the bladder.

According to my urologist source, the term “gangrene of prostate” noted on the certificate is not a medical term used today but may be an antiquated way to indicate infection inflammation and bleeding of the prostate. The shutdown of his kidneys would have led to platelet dysfunction and increased the risk of bleeding. If the stories of Slim’s alcohol abuse are correct, he could have also been suffering from alcoholic cirrhosis that caused a clotting disorder and therefore exacerbated any bleeding that was already occurring internally.

On November 19, six days after being admitted to Bay View, the ballplayer underwent a cystotomy, a procedure which attempts to drain the bladder through the abdominal wall. However, it was too late to save Slim, and he passed later that day.

SO WHERE DOES the overcoat for booze story come from? I’m not really sure, but I can say it began just days after his passing. Slim’s obituary in the November 27, 1938, Philadelphia Independent begins with, “Death in the form of double pneumonia went to bat last Saturday night and knocked Stewart “Slim” Jones, angular portsider of Ed Bolden’s Philadelphia Stars, from the pitching mound forever.” Besides the wrong cause of death, the same obit claims he passed away in his own home, not in the hospital. In the 1991 book Josh and Satch by John Holway, Buck Leonard is quoted as saying, “he was drinking one night, and he got wet and cold and contracted pneumonia.” In the same book, Holway writes, “In the winter of 1938-39, a bitterly cold winter, Monty Irvin said Jones asked owner Bolden for an advance so he could buy a coat. Bolden apparently wasn’t able to give it to him.” That women and booze were at the root of Slim’s demise appears to have been accepted by his fellow players. In Josh and Satch, Slim’s teammate Jake Stephens recalled, “Wasn’t nothing but a kid. Booze and women killed him.”

From these examples we can see that the pneumonia story came about right after his passing. Since Slim’s father James was present in the hospital to provide the information on his son’s death certificate, he must have known the true cause of death. Perhaps saying his son died from pneumonia was easier than trying to explain the painful and complicated death his boy suffered. We may never know.

WHAT WE DO KNOW is how beloved Slim Jones was, by both the players, management, and fans. Slim’s funeral brought scores of players to Baltimore to honor the fallen star, with teammates Jud Wilson, Webster McDonald, Will Casey, Gene Benson, Dewey Creacy, Pete Washington, and Edgar Miller acting as pallbearers, and Stars owner Ed Bolden delivered the eulogy. The importance of Slim’s passing was even marked by the team owners at their February meetings when a one-minute silent prayer was offered in his memory.

One of the most poignant eulogies to Slim was published in the Pittsburgh Courier. Sportswriter Randy Dixon concludes his December 3, 1938, column with:

Good-natured, agreeable, honest, nothing but a big kid at heart. And despite the fact that he showed in that one season of 1934 that he was one of the greatest pitchers, white or black, of all times, he was modesty personified. The mantle of death must drape us all. But it seems to us mortals who can’t fathom the workings of a power higher than us, that at 23 Slim was summoned HOME too soon. Goodbye Slim, I’ll see you tomorrow.

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So What Made Slim So Unbeatable in 1934?

For one thing, he was fast. According to an October 9, 1934 story in the Brooklyn Times Union, “Jones is called the fastest left-hander in the National Colored League.” And the October, 1934 issue of Colored Baseball & Sports Monthy declared, “He is the fastest throwing left handed pitcher in the game.”

A blazing speedball is great, but what made him different than Satchel Paige, who at this point in his career was often called the fastest in the game? Negro Leaguer Gene Benson told the Philadelphia Enquirer in 1981, “He had a good running fastball, and he had a good curveball. Ok, now we’re getting somewhere. Whereas Paige relied solely on his heater, Slim had a curve in his arsenal. Now we can see he could mix up pitches to keep a batter guessing – but there had to be something else that made Slim Jones so unhittable in 1934 – and there was.

Doing a deep dive into contemporary newspapers, I’ve come across numerous mentions of the left-hander’s “unique” or “baffling” delivery. Further investigation reveals that Jones served up the ball with a “crossfire” delivery. Crossfire? What the heck is that?

A crossfire delivery is where a pitcher (let’s use a left-hander) begins his wind up, but instead of pitching straight to the batter, the pitcher pivots his whole body towards first and then reels around and unleashes the ball. When it is done properly, it is indeed “baffling” to the batter because it appears as though the ball is coming from the direction of first base instead of the pitcher’s mound. Throw it ¾ or sidearm, and you have even more optical mystery coming at the batter. Then, on top of all that, imagine if you’re facing a 6’-6” beanpole with extraordinarily long whip-like arms and mile-long legs. It would be like coming to bat against a hard-throwing spider.

Although it is rare today, back in the first half of the 20th century, there were a few well known hurlers who employed this curious pitching style. The foremost practitioner was Hall of Famer Eddie Plank, who helped Connie Mack win five pennants with his trademark pitch. Two other well-known crossfirer’s were late 1940s Cincinnati Reds sidearmer Ewell Blackwell and 1950s Yankees junkball ace Eddie Lopat.

But in trying to figure out where Slim Jones would learn to throw in this baffling style, one needs to look no further than the Baltimore Black Sox. When Slim was a boy, the Black Sox were one of the best Blackball outfits around. From the mid 1920s through 1930 their ace was Laymon Yokely, a tremendously effective righty. Reading contemporary newspaper accounts of the time, it appears that Yokely employed a baffling windup that sounds remarkedly like a crossfire delivery. It’s not much of a stretch to envision a young Slim Jones emulating the pitching star of his hometown team when learning how to pitch…

* * *

I’d like to give a big thank you to Fred Bush for graciously sharing his copy of Slim Jones’s death certificate. It is generous scholars like Fred that help us all do better work. Besides his terrific and game-changing work on Slim Jones’ biography, Fred Bush (along with Richard Bogovich) more recently completely debunked the equally salacious story surrounding the supposed criminal life of Dave “Lefty” Brown. As with his Slim Jones bio, Bush‘s Lefty Brown piece can be found on SABR’s Biography Project website.

I must also thank Angel Colon for his help with Slim Jones’ 1933 season in Puerto Rico. A long-time friend to The Infinite Baseball Card Set, Angel is the foremost expert on Puerto Rican baseball history and was able to track down some very obscure newspapers that are readily accessible here in the United States.

Author Courtney Michelle Smith kindly shared a few newspaper clippings about Slim Jones that she used while researching her excellent book, Ed Bolden and Black Baseball in Philadelphia.

And finally, I’d like give my deep gratitude to the two doctors who shared their vast knowledge in their respective specialties to present a modern take on what caused the tragic demise of Slim Jones back in the winter of 1938.

* * *

This week’s story is Number 64 in a series of collectible booklets.

Each of the hand-numbered and signed 4 ¼” x 5 1/2″ booklets feature an 8 to 24 page story along with a colored art card attached to the inside back cover. These mini-books can be bought individually, thematically or collected as a never-ending set. In addition to the individual booklets, I envision there being themed sets, such as the series I did on Minor League Home Run Champions. You can order a Subscription to Season 5 as well. A year subscription includes a guaranteed regular 12 issues at a discounted price, plus at least one extra Subscriber Special Issue. Each subscription will begin with Booklet Number 054 and will be active through December of 2023. Booklets 1-53 can be purchased as a group, too.


4 thoughts on “Slim Jones: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Pitcher of 1934

  1. Thank you for this thorough examination of the short, spectacular career of Slim Jones. As I’ve learned about the Negro Leagues, Slim is one of my favorite players. I knew his career and life ended tragically, and the additional details you’ve provided only increase my empathy.

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