Drake Jones started playing serious softball with the Mau Maus when he was eighteen years old and met Stanley Brown while working at the Post Office. They played in the Post Office League, at Washington Park, and in tournaments throughout
the city. During one of those
tournaments, they played against the
legendary Flamingos. Drake hit four
homeruns off their top pitcher, Percy
“Bobo” Coleman, and hunted down every ball they hit to him the outfield. Unfortunately, they lost that game but after the game, Percy Coleman asked him to join the Flamingos.
Coleman promised him that they would play the best teams in the best parks and would be the best-dressed team in any tournament. They played in Prescott, Arizona, Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Marshalltown, Iowa. Locally they played in the top parks in Chicago and the suburbs.
One of his favorite memories is playing in the first Black World Series at Comiskey Park.
The tournament featured over forty teams, was witnessed by 5,000 fans, and was reported by the Chicago Defender newspaper. Other memories include beating the hometown favorite in Marshalltown, Iowa and winning in South Dakota by hitting five back-to-back homeruns in the seventh inning to clinch the victory in front of hundreds of screaming fans.
During this period, Drake was working, raising a family and playing basketball, but softball was becoming
his passion. The Flamingos won so many local league championships that they were barred from the popular South Side Cocktail League.
Even though they were shutout in local competition, they gained a lot of attention in “major” softball and began playing more white teams. They started out against The Zolna Bobcats but were soon playing Coopers, the Dwarfs, the Sobies, Miller Taggers, and the Eastsiders. And white teams began playing more black teams, including the Unknown Wild Bunch, Outcasts, Safari Tigers,
and Mark Thompson’s Bobcats. In the late 1970s, Percy Coleman diversified the Flamingos when he recruited Tom Bonen (HOF), Wayne Jawerski, and Al Scroupa.
Drake played outfield, fist base, and catcher. He earned “super star” status because of his offensive and defensive talents. Drake consistently hit over .500 and could throw runners out at all bases from left field with his “rifle” arm. He was selected to ten major league all-star teams, received eight Golden Hands awards for his defense, and was named an MVP on ten teams. He was recognized
as the greatest Flamingo outfielder with no other player coming close to his talents. He often ate ice cream and drank pop while chasing balls down. Sometimes he even caught some behind his back.
For over fifteen years, Drake had a front row seat to sixteen-inch softball history. He witnessed super teams playing with great players and being managed by super managers. His memories go on-and-on, not just with the Flamingos, but also with the Mau Maus, Flashes, the Senators, L.A. Posse, the Gladiators, and Third Rail, his CTA team.
Drake and his wife, Bernice, live on Chicago’s South Side. They have seven children: Drake, Jr, Chernise, Joshua, Solomon, Jamal, Jemel, and Jessica.