Remembering Mets History (1975) The Drama & Release of All Time Met Left Fielder Cleon Jones

July 27th 1975: After the Mets 1973 Pennant season, the 1974 follow up was a disaster. The club finished 71-91 in fifth place.

In the off season the club made some moves to improve run production.

They acquired slugger Dave Kingman, who would set a club record hitting 36 HRs. 

They acquired Del Unser from Philadelphia in the Tug McGraw trade; Unser became the everyday center fielder batting .294. They also got another outfielder; the speedy Gene Clines from Pittsburgh, he hit just .227. 

One of the biggest names to arrive in '75 was veteran Joe Torre. Torre a native New Yorker was now at the twilight of his career, but the Mets front office had been after him for years. Torre would have his worst season in 1975 batting just .247 with six HRs.

In Spring Training 1975 there were a bunch of players who were now fighting for outfield & first base spots on the club. 

Ten-year veteran outfielder, Cleon Jones was there as well assuming the left field job was still his. But during Spring Training, Jones injured his knee. At the time the Mets were holding their Spring Training in St. Petersburg, Florida. As the team went North for the start of the '75 season, Jones stayed in Florida to rehab the knee a

On May 6th, St. Petersburg Police, found Cleon Jones with a young woman, asleep in a van. News reports at the time say the two were both sleeping in the nude. At first Jones told the police he was a laborer who worked at the Mets Spring Training complex, trying to hide his identity. But he later admitted the truth, that he was Cleon Jones the baseball player. 

 Some reports say the woman was still a teenager, but the St. Petersburg newspaper of the time says she was 21 years old. The woman, named Sharon Ann was an unemployed waitress, she was charged with indecent exposure, possession of marijuana & possession of two marijuana pipes.

Jones was 32 at the time, and still married. He was charged for indecent exposure as well but was eventually released on his own recognizance. He was fined a record sum at that time of $2000 by the ball club. 

The Mets organization were not at all happy at the bad press & wanted the matter addressed to the media. To clear the issue up, Mets Chairman, M. Donald Grant, had Cleon Jones publicly apologize about the incident in a press conference with his wife Angela at his side. 

Quotes-Cleon Jones: "I have promised the management that if they permit me to rejoin the team where I can regain the confidence of everyone & the support of my family, no one will regret having done so." It was the beginning of the end for Cleon Jones. 

Looking back, this situation could have been handled a lot better. It was blown way out of proportion due to the times. 

Jones was off the DL & back with the club by the end of May. On May 27th he came in the game as a pinch hitter & singled off Dodger pitcher; Burt Hooton in a 10-4 Mets Loss. On May31st, he got his first start, going 3-3 with an RBI double in a Mets 7-2 win. 

In June he got just eight starts in the outfield, Cleon was batting .282, but no HRs & just two RBIs since his return.

Manager Yogi Berra claimed, Jones had been late for work outs numerous times, but he overlooked it.

On June 18th, in a game against the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium, Jones was sent in to pinch hit in the 8th inning. Manager, Yogi Berra then told him to play left field for the 9th inning. Jones refused to go, saying he still had to wrap his knee up. He had made the second out of the inning & still had not wrapped his knee. He shouted to Berra "get someone else out there".

The two got into a shouting match and Jones stormed off into the club house. On his way he threw his glove and knocked down a towel rack. Berra was furious. 

The usually laid back manager wouldn’t let this situation go. He demanded the organization stand behind him to discipline Jones. By July, Cleon was upset about his lack of playing time & was batting just .240.

Quotes-Yogi Berra: “It was the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to me as manager. I had to change my whole line up around because of him”. 

Yogi gave the club an ultimatum, it was either him or Jones. M. Donald Grant tried to change Berra's mind but to no avail, this time Yogi stood his ground. The club waited four days then suspended Jones for four days. 

They attempted to trade him, but he vetoed an original deal going to Chicago. Then on July 27th, the Mets gave Cleon Jones his unconditional release. 

Quotes- Mets General Manager Joe McDonald:
"Having exhausted all avenues in attempting to reconcile the problem, we are offering Cleon Jones his unconditional release. We see nothing to be gained in going to arbitration proceedings. Regardless of the result, the problem would not be resolved." 

Yogi Berra: "I'm glad its over. I'm relieved. I feel I did the right thing. I feel the way Joe does, I wish Cleon all the luck in the world. He's got talent if he wants to play."

Berra dismissed the notion that race was an issue, saying he would do the same thing with any player. Marvin Miller, head of the players Union, filed a grievance against the Mets ball club.

 After a ten-year Mets career, Cleon Jones who held many club records & had been to two World Series, winning one championship, was gone from the team. 

Aftermath: Within two weeks the Mets' upper management fired Yogi Berra, replacing him with coach Roy McMillan. It was agreed at the time it was only for the rest of the season as McMillan did not want the job permanently. 

On August 9th the Mets were 58-54 in fourth place seven 1/2 games back. They finished the year at 82-80 in third place.

On April 3rd, 1976 Cleon Jones signed a deal with the Chicago White Sox. He would appear in just 12 games with them, batting .200 (8-40) with three RBIs. On May 3rd he was released & eventually retired at age 33.


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