Despite being born and raised in Southern California, former Cy Young Award winner Randy Jones has a pretty good idea what America's Heartland is all about.
Jones journeyed from his San Diego home to the Heartland as the guest of honor at this year's Cy Young Days Festival in Newcomerstown.
The left-handed soft tosser won the 1976 Cy Young Award with the San Diego Padres, and was named The Sporting News National League Pitcher of the Year.
Before taking the car ride as the Grand Marshall for the parade Saturday evening, he got the chance to talk to the people of Newcomerstown and other event attendees as the guest speaker of the luncheon at Labors Local Hall 134 on Main Street in America's Heartland.
Talking to about 200 people of all ages, Jones shared his stories and memories of playing baseball in the 1970s. He engaged the crowd, frequently making them laugh, throughout the hour or so he talked.
He talked about facing Cincinnati's Pete Rose and his success against MLB's all-time leading hitter with 4,256 hits. Rose had the second most at-bats of anyone Jones faced during his career with 93, but "Charlie Hustle" managed just 17 hits (a .183 average), with only two being extra-base hits and just three RBIs.
"I'd give Pete that 74 mph sinker and he'd be over the top of it with a groundball to short, or grounder to second," Jones told the crowd. "One thing Pete never realized was that I never threw him a slider. Didn't have to. One time, before a home game against the Reds on Sunday afternoon, Pete decided to hit left-handed against me that day. I said to him before the game, 'You sure you want to do this?' Rose replied, 'Just pitch to me.' I pitched him three sliders on the outside corner and he never took the bat off his shoulder as I struck him out. I look over to the Reds' bench and I see (Manager) Sparky Anderson and Johnny Bench laughing as Pete walked by them saying 'I didn't know he had a slider.'"
That was one of many great stories from Jones, who told it like it was with some filter, and made those in attendance feel as though they were part of it with him.
Jones posted a 20-12 record in 1975 before notching a league-high 22 wins in 1976 when he won the Cy Young Award. In 1975, he led the majors with an ERA of 2.24, with 18 complete games and five shutouts in 285 innings. He walked just 56 and never hit any batters that season.
In 1976, he went 22-14 with an ERA of 2.74. He led the majors in game starts with 40, complete games with 25 and an astounding 315 innings pitched. The "Junkman" didn't even have 100 strikeouts that year, but allowed just 50 walks. He also led the majors in batters faced with 1,251 and WHIP at 1.03.
Jones made just $60,000 in 1975 and $90,000 in 1976. He knows that his pitching statistics — if they were today — would mean a multi-million dollar deal that would set up himself and generations of his family. Despite the difference in dollars, nobody can take away the amount of fun he had playing a game he loves. That remains the case today as he still is part of the Padres family as a pre-game broadcaster.
"I wouldn't trade the years I played for all the money in the world," he said. "The players I got to meet and the people I got to associate with was something you can't put money on."