Aug 4, 2018

Remembering Mets History (1973): Cleon Jones Hot Hitting In the Final Week

Cleon Jones is certainly a Mets legend, the all time team leader in games played in left field (800)  fourth all time in Mets hits (1188)  triples (33) & sac flies (41) sixth in games played (1201) eight in RBIs (521) tenth in doubles (182). Jones came in the leagues top ten in batting three times (1968-1969-1971).

He was part of two Mets NL Pennant teams & the Amazing Mets World Champions of 1969 where he batted .340 (3rd best in the NL). He also caught the last out of the '69 World Series. In what I like to call the Mets golden era of 1969-1973, Cleon Jones was a vital part of the core line up.

In 1973 he missed action from mid April to mid May. He was back for six brief games before going down again for almost six weeks. He returned in July & slowly regained form. In early August the Mets were a season worst 11 1/2 games out of first place. The '73 Mets were in last place as late as August 30th in a tight division, but just 6 1/2 games back. An incredible September run of 20-8, great pitching, a healthy line up clutch hitting, unity & a Rally cry of "You Gotta Believe" go them to the World Series.

Here we highlight Cleon Jones hot hitting in the final ten games of the year as the Mets chased the NL Eastern Crown winning it on the last day of the season. Jones hit six HRs, drove in 14 runs with ten hits, seven walks & eight runs scored in that span.

Jones had not a HR in over a month, the last coming on August 15th in San Diego. On September 19th, in a huge game against the first place Pittsburgh Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium,, the sleeping giant bat of Cleon Jones woke up.

The Mets were just 2 1/2 games behind the Pirates at 75-77 on this night. In the 2nd inning, with the Mets down 1-0, Jones hit a two run HR putting New York ahead. As George Stone was clinging to a 4-3 lead in the 8th inning, Rusty Staub singled & John Milner walked, setting the stage for Cleon to blast a three run HR off reliever Dave Guisti, one of the NL's best. The Mets went on to a 7-2 win, Stone went to 12-3 & the Mets were a 1 1/2 games back.

The series switched to New York, on September 20th the game that is looked at as the biggest turning point of the season for the Mets is "the Ball on the Wall" game. (search centerfieldmaz.com for full game coverage) In the 6th down 1-0, Jones singled to tie the game. But his biggest role of the night came on defense, in extra innings.

In the top of the 13th, Dave Augustine blasted a shot to left field, the ball hit the top of the wall & bounced into Cleon's glove, he turned & fired a bullet to short stop Wayne Garrett the relay man, Garrett fired a strike to rookie catcher Ron Hodges, he applied the tag to base runner Richie Zisk, out at the plate. It was incredible play- You Gotta Believe.. The Mets won it in the bottom of the inning & were now just 1/2 game back.

Friday September 21st, saw a crowd of over 51,000 at Shea as the Mets took over first place, routing the Pirates 10-2 behind Tom Seaver. That night Jones came up I the 1st inning with Wayne Garrett & Rusty Staub aboard. He doubled off Steve Blass to right field, putting the Mets ahead  2-0. He added a single & scored in the 3rd as well.

Two nights later the Mets were hosting the St. Louis Cardinals, Jones hit his 8th HR of the year, a solo shot off Hal Hrabosky "the Mad Hungarian". Jones also had an earlier sac fly RBI as well. The Mets won it 5-2 remaining a half game in first place.

On Tuesday September 25th, Jones hit another HR, this one was the game winner coming in the 6th inning off Steve Rogers breaking a 1-1 tie. Jerry Koosman & Tug McGraw combined in the 2-1 win.

The next two games were heart breaking losses, an the season winded down in Chicago. But three days of rain at Wrigley Field all resulted in rain outs. But the Expos helped the Mets by beating the Pirates.

On September 30th, the Mets played a twin bill at Wrigley Field. In the first game Rick Reushel & Bob Locked outdueled Jon Matlack 1-0. But in the second game the Mets won & clinched at least a tie for the NL East crown.

In the 1st inning, Jones reached on a Ron Santo error, resulting in Wayne Garret scoring from third base. In the 6th, Cleon connected for his 11th HR, his third of the week, a two run shot off Fergie Jenkins putting the Mets ahead 5-2, Koosman rolled along for the complete game win.

The next day, two games were scheduled but only one needed to be played, the Mets clinched the NL East behind Tom Seaver & Tug McGraw's 6-4 victory. In the 2nd inning, Jones hot bat blasted a solo HR off Burt Hooton, it was his 11th of the year, his second in two days & his fourth of the week.

Quotes- Cleon Jones:  "When I was out, I couldn't contribute, I don't think what I've done in the last month can offset that. But we're in now, that's what counts. I kept myself in shape when I was hurt & I feel strong & healthy. It's just fantastic, I can't express the way I feel."

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