Wednesday, March 16, 2011

#308 Mets Rookie Stars: Cleon Jones and Tom Parsons

#308 Mets Rookie Stars: Cleon Jones and Tom Parsons
Firstly, sorry for the absence of a post yesterday. I've been in a good groove in recent months of posting every weekday, but I'm juggling a lot of things right now and had to skip. But today we jump to another handful of cards sent my way by Max. This first one features his favorite team, the Mets. Tom Parsons is presumably airbrushed out of a Pirates cap.

Fun facts about Cleon Jones:

-Cleon was born in Plateau, AL. He played both baseball and football at Alabama A&M University and signed with the Mets in 1963.

-He debuted with New York in September of 1963, skipping AA and AAA, but had only 2 hits in fifteen at-bats. One of those hits was a single off of Sandy Koufax.

-In 1966, his first full season in the majors, Cleon batted .275 and led the team with 74 runs scored and 16 steals. He finished fourth in N.L. Rookie of the Year voting.

-Was the Mets' leading hitter in 1968 with a .297 average and .452 slugging. Also hit a team-best 29 doubles, scored 63 runs, and swiped 23 bags. His 14 homers and 55 RBI were both second-best in a lean offensive season.

-Jones followed up that strong year with a career-best effort in 1969. He was tabbed for the All-Star Game after batting .341 with 10 homers and 56 RBI in the first half. Injuries sidelined him for most of the season's final month, but he still finished with personal highs in AVG/OBP/SLG (.340/.422/.482), runs (92), and RBI (75). No other Met would top his batting average until John Olerud hit .354 in 1998.

-After posting a .429 average (6-for-14) in the NLCS sweep over the Braves, Cleon struggled against the Orioles in the 1969 World Series, batting just .158 (3-for-19). But his fingerprints and shoeprints were all over the clinching Game 5. He led off the bottom of the sixth with the O's leading 3-0. A Dave McNally pitch skipped into the dirt at home plate and skittered away, and umpire Lou DiMuro denied Jones' claim that the ball hit him. But manager Gil Hodges retrieved what was allegedly the ball in question and showed DiMuro that there was a shoe polish stain on the surface. The outfielder was awarded first base and scored one batter later on a Donn Clendenon home run. The Mets tied it in the seventh, and Jones set the table again in the eighth with a leadoff double off of reliever Eddie Watt. He scored the go-ahead run on a Ron Swoboda double, and capped the Series the following inning by snaring a Davey Johnson fly ball.

-1971 was his last truly healthy season. He led the Mets in practically every offensive category: .319/.382/.473, 63 R, 6 3B, 14 HR, 69 RBI. His 24 doubles trailed team leader Jerry Grote by one.

-Renowned for his strong throwing arm, he totaled 64 career outfield assists, including 10 each in 1966 and 1970.

-The Mets released him halfway through the 1975 campaign. The combination of a knee injury, disagreements with manager Yogi Berra, and an arrest for indecent exposure combined to exhaust the team's patience with him. He caught on with the White Sox the following year, but saw action in just a dozen games before receiving his release on April 30. In parts of 13 seasons he batted .281 with 93 home runs and 524 RBI.

-He was chosen for the Mets Hall of Fame in 1991, and has also been honored by the Alabama and Mobile Sports Halls of Fame.

Fun facts about Tom Parsons:

-Tom hails from Lakeville, CT. He signed with the Pirates in 1957 out of high school.

-His best minor league season was likely 1960, when he was 12-7 with a 3.19 ERA for AAA Salt Lake City. He led the Bees in wins, ERA, and innings pitched.

-Parsons debuted in Pittsburgh with a start on September 5, 1963. The 23-year-old was chased in the fifth inning, allowing six runs (four earned) to the Braves on seven hits and two walks. He was saddled with the loss as Milwaukee's Bob Sadowski blanked the Bucs. The crucial blow was a three-run homer by future Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews.

-A June 1964 trade to Houston was dissolved that September, after which the Pirates sold Tom to the Mets. He spent the rest of the season in the big leagues and earned his first win on October 3. He relieved Dennis Ribant in the fourth inning with the Mets leading 8-4 and the Cardinals having loaded the bases. He snuffed out that rally and allowed a single run for the remainder of the game. New York piled on the runs and took it by a 15-5 final.

-Though he spend the entire 1965 season in the majors, the righthander probably wished he hadn't. Appearing in 35 games (including 11 starts) for the 50-112 Mets, he went 1-10 with a 4.67 ERA.

-His only 1965 win also happened to be the only shutout of his career, a six-hitter against the Cubs on July 5. As coincidence would have it, he also singled in his first at-bat that day for his lone big league hit!

-Tom never pitched in the majors again after 1965, finishing his MLB tenure with a 2-13 record and a save in parts of three seasons. His ERA was 4.72.

-Of the 19 home runs he allowed, 7 were to Hall of Famers. Eddie Mathews hit three. Much like Cooperstown enshrinee Jim Palmer, Parsons never surrendered a grand slam.

-The Astros acquired him for catcher Jerry Grote in the 1965-1966 offseason, and he spent the next three seasons at AAA Oklahoma City before concluding his career with the AA Pittsfield Red Sox in 1969. He was 95-98 with a 3.97 ERA in 12 minor league seasons.
#308 Mets Rookie Stars: Cleon Jones and Tom Parsons (back)


  1. I'll never forget watching Cleon Jones catch Dave Johnson's fly to end the '69 Series. Right up to that very instant I was sure we'd come back and win the thing.

    What an awful day.

  2. The shoe-polish incident kind of summed up that Series. Jimmy Orr, open in the endzone...

  3. Bob - And it was a Thursday. School the next day? Insult to injury.

    Doug - Yeah, looking at the controversial calls and big plays that went the Mets' way in the 1969 Series, they must have been living right.

  4. The worst was that Met and Jet fans came out of the woodwork. Folks I knew who wouldn't know Tom Seaver from Tom Thumb ware giving me grief. Awesome memories. :-(

    And I had school the next day.