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Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday …Cleon Jones

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When I first became a Met fan he was my favorite Met and always wanted to play for the Mets and wear number 21 (Cleon Jones number)

He played in Major League Baseball as a left fielder. and played most of his career for the New York Mets and in 1969 caught the final out of the “Miracle Mets” World Series Championship over the Baltimore Orioles.

Jones earned a reputation as an outfielder with one of the strongest arms in the National League. For his career, he had 64 outfield assists, including ten in 1966 and 1970.

Jones was awarded the starting center fielder job in 1966, and batted .275 with eight home runs, 57 runs batted in and sixteen stolen bases to finish tied for fourth in National League Rookie of the Year balloting. His batting average dipped to .246 in 1967, and he ended up sharing playing time in center field with Larry Stahl. Following the season, the Mets acquired Jones’ childhood friend Tommie Agee from the Chicago White Sox. Jones was moved to left field with the former Gold Glove-winner Agee playing center field.

Jones began the 1968 season platooning with Art Shamsky in left. He was batting .205 on May 18, when he went three for four with a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored to lift the Mets to a 5–2 victory over the Atlanta Braves.[5] From there, Jones began to hit; perhaps the finest game of his career occurred on July 16 at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia, when Jones went four for six with three RBIs and a run scored, and played all three outfield positions.[6] He ended the season with a .297 batting average, which was sixth best in the National League.

Jones was batting .341 with ten home runs and 56 RBIs in the first half of 1969 earning the starting left field job for the All-Star Game. He went two for four with two runs scored in the NL’s 9–3 victory. He hit a home run in the first game after the break,and emerged as the hitting star of the surprising Mets, with a team-leading batting average well above .330. The Amazins found themselves in second place, five games back of the Chicago Cubs in the newly aligned National League East when the Houston Astros came to Shea Stadium for a July 30 double header.

Early in the 1970 season, Jones suffered through the worst slump in his career that saw his batting average reach .167 on May 26. His average improved to .251 by the time he began a then-club record 23-game hitting streak on August 25. For the season, he wound up hitting .277. In 1971, Jones was again a .300 hitter, as he was seventh in the league with a .319 batting average.

In 1972, Jones platooned with John Milner in left field. He played twenty games at first base, but not very well, and endured one of his worst seasons. The following season, Milner was shifted to first with Jones once again in left field.

In the 1973 season opener, Jones had his first career two home run game against the Philadelphia Phillies. He had his second on September 19, against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first game of a crucial three game series at Shea for first place. The following day, Jones started one of the most memorable plays in Mets history, what has become known as the “Ball on the Wall Play”. In the top of the thirteenth inning, with Richie Zisk on first, Dave Augustine hit what appeared to be a home run over the left field wall. Jones turned to play the ball off the wall and the ball hit the top of the wall and went right into Jones’ glove on the fly. He turned and threw to relay man Wayne Garrett, who threw home to catcher Ron Hodges to nail Zisk at the plate. Following this miracle play, the Mets won the game in the bottom half of the inning to move within half a game of the first place Pirates. Jones caught fire at the end of the season, hitting six homers in the last ten games of the season to lead the Mets to the pennant. The Mets won the Eastern Division title on the last day of the season with a record of 82-79 but went on to demonstrate that it was no fluke when they upset the “Big Red Machine” in the National League Championship Series. Jones went three for five with two RBIs and a run scored in the series clincher.

The Mets lost in seven games to the Oakland Athletics in the 1973 World Series. For his part, Jones batted .286 with a home run in game two, and scored one of the four runs the Mets scored in the twelfth inning of their game two victor.

Smallthoughts:Old School Tuesday spotlights…Cleon Jones.


MLB debut
September 14, 1963, for the New York Mets
Last MLB appearance
May 1, 1976, for the Chicago White Sox
MLB statistics
Batting average .281
Home runs 93
Runs batted in 524
Career highlights and awards

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