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Jerome Willis “Red” Downs

Not only did Jerome Willis “Red” Downs (1883-1939) of Neola, Iowa play three seasons in Major League baseball, he also played three seasons on the prison baseball team in San Quentin. By his own admission, a promising career in baseball as both a player and a manager was derailed by demon rum, along with contributing to his conviction for armed robbery in 1932. Downs was mainly a second baseman on the pennant winning Detroit Tigers in 1907 and '08. After a stint in the minors, he had a second brief appearance in the Majors with Brooklyn and the Chicago Cubs in 1912. His hitting never lived up to expectations, and he wasn’t a strong glove man either. After being released by the Cubs, Downs spent the next five years with the San Francisco Seals as both a player and then the manager. The Seals won the 1917 PCL pennant under his leadership. In the 1920s he helped organize the Professional Ball Players of America, which assisted ill and needy former ballplayers. His connections with organized baseball ended with his jewelry store heist. He was paroled in the mid-1930s and died in 1939 in Council Bluffs of cirrhosis of the liver.

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