Apr 3, 2017

Remebering Mets History (1969): Gil Hodges Removes Cleon Jones From Left Field

Wednesday July 30th 1969: Gil Hodges second place Mets (55-42) were playing good baseball, chasing the first place Chicago Cubs, but still 5 1/2 games back. Manager Gil Hodges, demanded discipline & that his players gave it 100% and no less.

On this day, he sent a message to his team, that no slacking off would be tolerated, not even his teams best hitter. The incident has become legendary in Gil Hodges & the 1969 Mets story.

Harry Walker's Houston Astros (52-49) came in to play a double header in a wet Shea Stadium in front of 28,922 fans. 

In the first game of the twin bill, the Astros destroyed the Mets 16-3, behind the pitching of Don Wilson. The Mets pitchers; Jerry Koosman gave up three earned runs, Cal Koonce gave up five runs & Ron Taylor six earned runs in the debacle. The Astros scored eleven runs in the top of the 9th inning alone.

The second game was no better, as the Mets took an 11-5 loss, to Larry Dierker who allowed five runs on twelve hits. A ten run 3rd inning, in which Gary Gentry gave up eight runs & Nolan Ryan two more, did the Mets in. Strangely, The Mets out hit Houston 13-12.

In the top of the 3rd, it was already 7-0 as Nolan Ryan replaced Gary Gentry on the mound. Next, Astros catcher Johnny Edwards doubled to left field scoring Doug Rader. Mets left fielder Cleon Jones who had been nursing an ankle injury, slowly went after the ball and weakly tossed it to the infield.

Next thing everyone saw, was manager Gil Hodges coming out of the dugout. He started walking to the mound, but Ryan had just pitched to one batter. Hodges didn’t want him. Short stop Bud Harrelson thought oh no he's coming to get me, but couldn’t figure what he had done wrong. Hodges had no problem there & walked past the short stop, to his relief.

Cleon Jones who also thought Gil was going to Harrelson now knew he was coming for him. The rest of the team held their breath. Mets pitcher Tom Seaver thought to himself, “I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of this”.

According to Cleon Jones he said Hodges told him “I don't like the way you went after that ball, is that ankle is bothering you? You better come out, if you’re nursing it like that”.

At first Jones said “ I told you I can play through it Gil, the grass is just wet.”

Hodges said no you better come with me & pulled him from the game. Hodges walked away with a dejected Cleon Jones a few feet behind him with his head down.

Hodges just proved to his team that he would not settle for anything else but 100% from his players, always, no matter what the score is. It must be noted that at the time of the incident, Jones was leading the N.L. in hitting. The rest of the players got the message, if the manager can remove the league’s batting leader he could remove any of us.

From this day forward on the 1969 Mets would go 45-19 the best record in baseball.

Trivia: Years later, Hodges widow Joan, speaking at an event in Brooklyn, said that later that night when she asked why he would do that to the young man in front of everyone, Hodges said, he realized after he walked past the mound he couldn't go back!


youngjet said...

Could you imagine a manager trying that stunt today? He'd be fired dealing with today's egomaniacs.

The Mets allow players, coaches and executives to by-pass superiors to talk with the owners. Wonder why they drop balls and throw balls away?? No accountability..

Long live Gil!!!

Seamus O Riley said...

It was before money took over the dignity of the game.