Grave Story: Jim Green (1854-1912)

Here lies Jim Green, whose only professional baseball experience came as a member of the Union Association in 1884. He is, I believe, in the unmarked grave in the picture here. The UA itself barely qualifies as a major league, and a good portion of the players from that league never even sniffed the majors again. Green played briefly for the UA’s Washington Nationals.

The Union Association, to keep it brief, was essentially started so that Henry Lucas could get a team in the National League. He was the president of the League and the owner of the St. Louis Maroons, and he stocked it with the best players he could buy. The Maroons were so ridiculously superior to the rest of the league that there was no pennant race. Every other team tried their best to fill their rosters with contract jumpers from the National League and American Association, and when that failed, they grabbed whoever was left. The NL agreed to add the Maroons for the 1885 season, so Lucas bailed on the Union Association, causing it to crumble after a season.

Consider the case of the Washington Nationals. They finished the UA’s one season with a 47-65 record; of the 12 teams that were a part of the league, they were one of five that played more than 100 games. The Nats’ best hitter was outfielder Henry Moore, who never played ball again and pretty much faded into history after that season. The date of his death, June 3, 1902, was only discovered by MLB historian John Thorn within the last couple of years, and nobody knows where he’s buried. Their best pitcher, Bill Wise, won 23 games in 1884 but only appeared in 4 other major-league games outside of that one year.

Then there’s the matter of third base. The Nationals, according to Baseball Reference, tried 19 different players at the position over 112 games. Jerry McCormick saw the most action there with 38 games, and he spent most of the season with the UA’s Philadelphia franchise, the Keystones. He hit .217 for the Nats. Patrick Larkins hit .243 in 17 games, and Alex Voss, who was primarily a pitcher, played in 16 games. Those were the only players who logged more than 10 games at third base. Of those 19 third basemen, 13 never played in the majors outside of the Union Association in 1884. And that includes the hero of this particular story, Jim Green.

James F. Green was born on May 22, 1854 in Windham County, Conn., the son of Michael Green and Mary (Moran) Green, who were Irish immigrants. Baseball Reference (see link in first paragraph) does not specify what the “F.” stands for, but one family tree lists him as “James Francis Greene” – with the extra “e” in “Greene” to make it more complicated.

As you can imagine, a man with a common first and last name and a short and unsuccessful major-league playing career is difficult to track down. Michael Greene died in Cleveland on September 30, 1869, so one would presume that the family moved there sometime before then. The earliest instance of Jim playing ball was a mention that he was with the “gilt-edged” Akrons of 1880 and ’81. He played for a team in Dayton in 1883, along with future teammate Voss. Maybe Voss recommended him when the team needed a third baseman. The fact that he was a 30-year-old rookie at the time of his signing tells you how the addition of a third major league to the AA and the NL had made some teams desperate to find capable ballplayers.

Green started the season with the Portsmouth Riversides of the Ohio State League before joining the Nationals. As far as his brief stay with Washington goes, Green made his major-league debut on July 19, 1884, and played his last game on August 4. In between, he played in 10 games, 9 as a third baseman and 1 as an outfielder. He had 5 hits in 36 at-bats for a .139/.139/.167 slash line. His one double came on July 30 in a 3-0 shutout of the Philadelphia Keystones by Wise. It was the only extra-base hit managed by either team that day. “For the home team [first baseman Pop] Joy’s one-hand catch of Green’s high throw was the feature of the game,” reported The Cincinnati Enquirer. In his time at third base, Green made 4 errors in 22 chances for a .818 fielding percentage, which was still better then the UA average of .777. He also made 2 catches in his only game in the outfield.

Green played in minor leagues until 1890, bouncing around quite a bit. There are very few statistics available on him. Chattanooga signed him as a catcher in 1885 after he’d been working as an umpire in Columbus. He made the rounds in the Southern League and played for Chattanooga and Macon, batting a combined .149. Some of that could have been due to off-field habits. He and several of his teammates in Chattanooga were fined $10 apiece by the manager after staying out late drinking beer with “some objectionable party.” A blurb in The Chattanooga Daily Commercial from July 8 noted, “Jim Green has taken a temperance pledge and is going to lay himself out on batting. He did good work yesterday and held third [base] for all it was worth.”

After spending a year out of professional baseball, Green returned to Ohio in 1887 and played for Mansfield and Columbus, both of the Ohio State League. At the age of 33, he was one of the older players in the league. He hit a combined .333, with 117 hits in 78 games. In early August, while with the Mansfields, he scored the winning run of a game against Sandusky, but he banged his head on home plate and knocked himself out. “He was driven to the hotel still unconscious and physicians pronounced his injury serious,” reported the Summit County Beacon.

Green returned to Mansfield in 1888, three teams in the Tri-State League in 1889 and two teams in the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1890. In March of 1890 there was a gathering of Ohio baseball dignitaries. “Among the camp followers who sat around the corridors and re-fought their green sward battles were Jim Green, who ran down from Cleveland… looking not a day older than when he used to handle the leather in the Summit City in the 70ties, with Sam Wise and Tony Mullone (possibly Tony Mullane?)…” There’s nothing to definitively say that this is our Jim Green, but the timeline fits. If so, then he played with some heady company, because Wise and Mullane were pretty excellent ballplayers in the 1880s.

After Green left professional baseball, his trail gets more difficult to track. There are numerous James F. Greens throughout the country, but the one that was born in Connecticut in 1854 lived in Cleveland in the 8th Ward, according to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. He lived with his wife, the former Anna Eugert (or Engert), who was four years his junior. They were married on May 31, 1889, in Cleveland. She came to the United States from Germany, presumably with her parents when she was young. They had five children, all of whom were born in Ohio: Anna (born 1891), Frank (1893), Alfred (1895), James (1898) and Kathrine (1902). In the 1900 census, he was working as a tailor, and they lived at 501 Hamilton Street. The family is mis-named as “Goren” in the 1910 census. Green worked in shipping for Cleveland Paste Co., where he was joined by his eldest sons. Alfred worked as a messenger for the company, and Frank was a laborer.

Jim Green died on December 12, 1912, at his home on 1954 W. 20th St., at approximately 2:30 in the afternoon. He was 58 years old. The cause of death was chronic myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), with cirrhosis of the liver being a contributing factor. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, in Section 46, Row 12, Grave 658. Those are the same numbers as Joseph Grendzinski, whose grave is in the center-left of the photo. I believe that puts Jim Green in the unmarked grade in the center.

I believe Jim Green lies in the unmarked grave in the center-right of the photo. If I’m wrong and someone finds a different resting place in Calvary, let me know!

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