At an early age Jess began pitching in Class D and American Legion baseball. He threw hard and had a fine curve ball. At Central High School he lettered in three sports, but he excelled in baseball. As a 15 year old he joined the first Akron Orphan team that featured such players as current Hall of Famers Hal Schumacher, Bill Starkey and Eddie Vincent. He pitched a no-hitter against the Kenmore Taverns who had Hall of Famer Hal Naragon behind the plate. Jess played for the N.B.F. Champion Orphans team until he was drafted into the Army, where he continued to play on Army teams in Texas, England and Germany. He signed a Chicago Cub contract and played with their affiliate in the Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League. There he had a nine game winning streak. Chronic arm problems ended his playing days. He coached and managed Cuyahoga Falls Little League for many years.