Mets Card of the Week: 1967 Cleon Jones


So imagine if you will that it’s 1967. You’re a happening guy/groovy chick. You’re in your pad, listening to the Airplane, tripping on some of Owsley’s finest.

The Baleroesque thrum of White Rabbit kicks in and just then you realize that you’re incredibly parched. After spending a few seconds contemplating the fact that thirst is, like, hunger’s little brother, you make your way to the refrigerator.

You open the door and squat in the glow of the small single bulb, contemplating your choices. The milk container is an oppressively heavy jug, with a red plastic strap spanning its wide mouth. Bad vibes. You push it aside, and a tall brown bottle catches your eye: Tab.

You pull out the bottle and grab an opener from the drawer. Placing the tooth of the opener under the rim of the cap, you press up. The top of the bottle cap bends inward slightly, until there is an immensely satisfying little whoosh. A small cloud of carbon dioxide gas crests over the rim of the bottle, and the cap hits the floor and rattles like a dropped nickel.

The Tab tastes like a mix of half-flat Coke and a 9-volt battery, but it satisfies your thirst.

You pick up the bottle cap and notice a small black-and-white photo of Cleon Jones printed on the underside. The name “Cleon” echoes in your head until it becomes just an abstract sound, and before you know it, you are saying it out loud: “Cleoncleoncleoncleoncleoncleoncleon.”

So what is it that led to this reverie?

Well, back in 1967/1968, Coca Cola issued a wide-ranging series of 580 baseball bottle caps. They produced team sets for all of the extant franchises, as well as three all-star sets.

To make things complicated for future obsessive-compulsive types, they issued these across their entire product line, so along with relatively common Coke caps, those so inclined will need to deal with Tab, Sprite, Fresca. and Fanta iterations. Which can then be broken down further according to the specific text on the caps– to date, over 30 total variations are known, ranging from king-size Sprite to Coke approved for Passover use.

The Cleon Jones all-star cap presented for your consideration today never made it onto a bottle, which is why the rim is fluted and uncrimped, and the top as flat as the day it was stamped…

3 comments for “Mets Card of the Week: 1967 Cleon Jones

  1. July 18, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Wow – I didn’t even know they made Tab back then – thought it was a 70s creation. The things you learn at Mets360!

    I have a couple of these but mine are all beat up and discolored. This is really something to see.

    One thing I can add to your piece – this was one of the first major efforts of the Players’ Association after they hired Marvin Miller. This was a fund-raising campaign for the MLBPA which is why there are no team trademarks on this set.

  2. Doug Parker
    July 18, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Yeah, this was the start of the “golden” age of memorabilia unlicensed by the pro leagues. Just try to find a team logo on a 1970′s Topps football card.

    One of the eternal mysteries of the 67/68 Coke set is why the Dodgers’ caps’ caps are the only ones that do include team logos…

  3. kjs
    July 18, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Interesting. I sort of remember seeing these around when I was a kid, though it was a few years before I started collecting baseball items. In retrospect, seeing baseball and Tab together is humorous, as I recall Tab being marketed to a female get-in-shape demographic.

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