On this Day in Rochester History - September 6, 2013
Nobody will ever know how Mike Jones’ baseball career would have been altered had he not crashed his car into a tree four days before Christmas 1981, suffering a broken neck.
After having played parts of the 1980 and ’81 seasons with the Kansas City Royals, the 6-foot-6 left-handed pitcher was going to be vying for a regular spot in the Royals’ 1982 rotation before fate intervened.
Charged with driving while intoxicated, the Pittsford Sutherland graduate sat out all of 1982 due to his injury, and only pitched at the single-A level in 1983 before finally working his way back to the Royals in 1984. He spent the next two years as a spot starter and long reliever, but the Royals gave up on him after winning the 1985 World Series (he did not pitch in the postseason) and Jones spent the next five years in the minors – the last two with his hometown Rochester Red Wings – before retiring after the 1990 season.
Jones, who recently had his number 17 retired by Sutherland, was the first-round draft choice of the Royals in 1977, and on Sept. 6, 1980, he made his major league debut by pitching three innings of mop-up duty in an 8-3 loss to the Indians at Cleveland Stadium.
That night, Jones allowed one hit and two walks for a Kansas City team that would go on to defeat the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. The first man he faced in the bottom of the sixth inning was Tom Veryzer and Jones retired him on a fly ball. Veryzer came to bat in the bottom of the eighth and exacted revenge by becoming the first man to get a hit off Jones, a single.
Two weeks later he made his first major league start, but he was hammered by the Oakland A’s and didn’t make it out of the first inning, giving up five hits and five runs and taking the loss. He didn’t pitch the rest of the year.
In 1981 Jones went 6-3 with a 3.21 earned run average, helping the Royals to earn a playoff berth in the strike-shortened season. He beat future Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven to record his first major league victory, and he made his postseason debut in Game 2 of a best-of-five series with Oakland. Though he pitched well for eight innings, he suffered a 2-1 loss when Dwayne Murphy led off with a single and came around to score on a Tony Armas double.
When Jones made is back to Kansas City two and a half years after his accident, he said, “I just want to show people I’m not washed up. I want to show people I’m not through.” He saw sporadic action and was a combined 5-6 with a 4.83 ERA in 1984 and ‘85, but he was released in spring training 1986, then bounced around in the organizations of Atlanta, Montreal, Cincinnati and Baltimore before calling it quits.