Cleon Jones

Jones was a major ingredient in the 1969 Mets World Championship. His career-high .340 average was third in the NL, the highest a Met has ever finished in that category. He led the Mets with 10 game-winning RBI (not an official statistic at the time) and established personal bests with 92 runs and 75 RBI as one of the few offensive forces on a team that did it with pitching and mirrors. At the start of the year he was 26 years old, but he was the oldest regular on the team.

Jones figures especially prominently in Mets history as a pivotal figure in the turning points of the 1969 and 1973 seasons. In 1969, manager Gil Hodges removed Jones from left field after Jones had not hustled after a hit during the first game of doubleheader on July 30 against the Astros; it signaled to the players that Hodges would accept only 100% effort and helped the Mets take themselves more seriously in their surprising pennant contention. In 1973, it was a fielding play that Jones did make that suggested that another miracle season was in the making. The evening Willie Mays announced that he would retire at the end of the season, September 20, the Mets were in the middle of a three-game series with the first-place Pirates. With the game tied 3-3 in the ninth inning, the Pirates had Richie Zisk on at first when Dave Augustine hit what seemed to be a certain home run. But the ball hit the top of the fence and bounced back into Jones’s glove. Jones threw a strike to third baseman Wayne Garrett, whose relay caught Zisk at the plate. The Mets won in the thirteenth inning, and took over first place the next day.