This might be my favorite Mets card of all time.
Well, not this clean version that I got a picture of online. I mean the one my brother and I had as kids. Our 1970 Cleon Jones card was exquisite. It had perfect centering, beautiful color and sharp focus. Unfortunately, we played with our cards back then. So, first the corners went. Then somehow it got a big crease through the middle of the card.
But it still had the centering, color and focus. Then one day I got mad at my brother and colored in the number on the back of the card. I forget what I was mad at him for, but this was the worst thing I could think to do to him. Whatever it was, I’m sure he deserved it.
But this card stayed in the collection for 25 or so years until I “upgraded” it on ebay. When I got the card in the mail – there was no writing on it and no crease and it had four sharp corners. But the centering wasn’t quite as good. And the color and focus left me cold. It’ll never by my 1970 Cleon card.
This is probably the card I handled most as a kid. On the back you can see that wonderful 1969 stat line, when Jones hit .340 and set the team record for average. I can’t remember what I had for breakfast today but I’ll be able to tell you until the day I die that Jones hit .340 in 1969.
He never approached that .340 mark again, although he did hit .319 in 1971 and ranked among the leaders, getting his name printed on the back of the 1972 NL Batting Leaders card.
I wonder if some kid will be thrilled with a 2012 Jose Reyes card and his .337 average that won the batting title last year. My guess is probably not. First, Reyes bolted for greener pastures, which undoubtedly hurts his standing among Mets fans. Second, batting average doesn’t hold the same place in the baseball universe as it did 40 years ago. Finally, I would be shocked if any kid handled a card and memorized it like I did back then with the 1970 Jones.
Plus, even if times were similar — .337 just doesn’t have the same cachet as .340, does it?