Ya Gotta Believe 40th Anniversary Player Profile: Cleon Jones

By Rich Sparago

As we continue our tribute to the 1973 New York Mets, this week we’ll focus on the team’s left fielder, Cleon Joseph Jones. Jones first appeared in a game for the Mets in 1963, and played his last game in blue and orange in 1975. In between those years, Jones put up some fine numbers. But Jones is probably most etched in Mets’ lore for what happened at the 6 minute mark of the video below.

In addition to catching the last out of the 1969 World Series, Jones was a fine left fielder, and a solid offensive player. In 1,213 games in the major leagues (1201 with the Mets), Jones hit .281, with 93 home runs and 524 RBI. Jones also stole 91 bases, while being caught 48 times. Jones’s best statistical year was, not surprisingly, 1969. In the championship season, Jones hit .340, with 12 home runs and 75 RBI. In the 1973 season, Jones hit .260 with 11 home runs and 48 RBI. Jones also contributed nicely in the 1973 post season, hitting .300 in the NLCS against Cincinnati, and .286 in the WS against Oakland.

May 10, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General view of bats in the Los Angeles Dodgers dugout before the game against the Miami Marlins at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jones was also involved in some controversy in his career. On July 30th 1969, Jones was pulled by manager Gil Hodges while the Mets were on the field. Hodges walked out, past the mound, and out to left field, and brought Jones back with him. The Mets were in the process of being swept in a double-header by Houston. The story goes that Hodges was displeased with Jones’s hustle, and told Cleon that evidently he was hurt, and needed to come out. Imagine that happening today? Jones later said that he was removed due to his sore ankle. In another unfortunate event,  at 5:00 a.m. on May 4, 1975, Jones was arrested for indecent exposure in St. Petersburg, Florida. Police officers found him asleep in a van with 21-year old Sharon Ann Sabol, who was charged with possession of marijuana. Jones said he did not know Miss Sabol, but was giving her a ride home in a friend’s borrowed van, which ran out of gas, and that he had fallen asleep fully clothed, except for his shoes. The charges were later dropped, but chairman of the Mets, M. Donald Grant, fined Jones $2,000, four times as much as a Met had ever been assessed before, and forced him to publicly apologize during a press conference held in New York.The Mets released Jones later in 1975, and he played 12 games with the White Sox in 1976 before retiring.

Jones had a rare combination of being a left-handed thrower and a right-handed hitter. He, along with Tommie Agee and Rusty Staub, gave the Mets a strong outfield in the early and mid 1970s. Cleon Jones is now 70 years old, and participates in team activities and celebrations. Let’s give a hat-tip to the left-fielder of the 1973 National League Champion New York Mets.

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