1970 TOPPS CLEON JONES

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?

5 comments on “Mets Card of the Week: 1970 Cleon Jones

  • NormE

    Thanks for the memory, Brian.
    I remember Cleon as being a very good but not great ballplayer. He could run, hit, had some power and was a fine outfielder. He was that somewhat rarity of a lefty thrower, righty hitter. Mets fans will always remember his catching the final out (off the bat of Davey Johnson) in the World Series clincher against the Baltimore Orioles.
    Cleon and his teammateTommy Agee gave the Mets two very good outfielders from Mobile, Alabama.

    • Brian Joura

      Injuries really kept Jones from having the career he should have. He had ankle, knee, elbow and wrist problems. He and Agee were always linked to one another and both had promising careers cut short.

  • Doug

    One of my favorite Mets’ cards from my favorite set. I love the composition and colors on this card– the only thing that irks me a bit is the fact that the photo is recycled from the ’69 set…

    • Brian Joura

      The ’70 set is special to me because it’s the first one I ever completed. I also think the yellow and blue backs work really well.

  • Michael J, AKA: Grubby Glove

    I enjoyed your comments, Brian. I too have the number .340 embedded in my brain and will never forget it nor the amazing experience we all shared that summer and fall. The whole Miracle Mets story is one that will live on long after we’re gone. It transcends baseball, and stands as an example of what happens when a committed group of people work together for the collective good. It tells us that if one’s belief is strong enough, their faith deep enough and the love of their craft pure enough, anything is within reach. Any dispassionate baseball fan, and by that I mean someone who can let go of “their” binding commitment to “their” team for even a few minutes, can understand and appreciate the 1969 Mets dazzling achievement. Ultimately, however, only one team lived it; ours.

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