One of the greatest defensive third basemen of all-time, Puddin’ Head Willie Jones was the hot corner custodian for the 1950 Philadelphia Whiz Kids. Jones, whose leather sparkled like a diamond in the Mojave Desert, held his own with the stick too. A two-time All-Star, Jones racked up a couple of seasons with 20+ long balls and three 80+ RBI campaigns. But it was with the glove that Jones shined the brightest. He led third basemen in putouts seven seasons and currently ranks tenth all-time in career putouts.
Originally signed by the Phillies in 1947, Puddin’ Head made his debut with the parent club that season. He spent most of the 1947 and ’48 seasons on the farm but when he hit .333 in his late season trial in ’48, he was named the Phillies regular third baseman in 1949. That year Willie banged out 35 doubles and 19 homeruns, but was even better on the field. Close to a finished product with the leather as a rookie, Jones led third basemen in putouts and assists.
The 1950 Phillies, nicknamed the Whiz Kids for their youthful, running club, won the NL flag in 1950 as Willie made his first All-Star team that season. Puddin’ Head led the NL in games played and topped his position peers in homeruns and runs scored. His 163 hits and 88 RBI were career highs, and just like he did as a rookie, Jones also topped third basemen in putouts and assists. The Phillies suffered a severe loss before the World Series when their star left-handed pitcher, Curt Simmons, was called up by Uncle Sam for the Korean War. The Yankees made short work of the Whiz Kids in the World Series.
An All-Star again in 1951, Puddin’ Head was clearly the top third baseman in the National League. He led his NL position peers in runs, hits, homeruns and RBI. His .285 batting average was a personal high as was his .470 slugging average. His batting averages fell drastically in 1952 and ’53 but his peripheral stats were decent. In ’53, Willie posted a terrific 85 walks to 45 strikeouts. When his batting average climbed back up in 1954, his power numbers went south. However, Puddin’ Head led NL third basemen in fielding percentage.
As a third baseman in the 1950s, Jones was overshadowed by Braves slugger Eddie Mathews. Although Puddin’ Head was clearly superior with the leather, he didn’t have the thunderous lumber of Mathews. In 1955, Willie finished as Mathews’ runner-up in RBI among NL third basemen as Willie drove in 81 runs while Mathews eclipsed 100 RBI.
One of Willie’s better years was 1956. That season he led NL third basemen in walks, finished second in fielding percentage and had a career high .383 on-base percentage. But Jones didn’t build off that solid campaign and he struggled through his worst season in 1957. He got back on track in 1958 when his batting average rose to .271 after languishing at .218 the year before. The next year he was traded mid-season to the Indians for Jim Bolger who sold his contract to the Reds. Jones played briefly with the Reds in the early 1960s.
G 1,691/R 786/H 1,502/2B 252/3B 33/HR 190/RBI 812/SB 40/BB 755/SO 541/BA .258/SA .410/OBP .343