Padres' Jones remembers special 1976 All-Star Game
By Bill Center
San Diego Padres |
Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.
Randy Jones has special reason to look forward to the 2016 All-Star Game at Petco Park.
The 2016 Midsummer Classic will be played on the eve of the 40th anniversary of one of the greatest All-Star performances in Padres history.
On July 13, 1976, Jones started the All-Star Game and held the American League scoreless in three innings. He was credited with the win in the National League's 7-1 victory at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.
The 1976 All-Star Game was doubly significant since it was part of the nation's 200th anniversary.
"The pregame ceremonies were heavy on history," Jones recalled. "All the All-Stars got autographed balls from President [Gerald] Ford. I also got a ball signed by Tom Seaver."
But it was what happened during the game that became part of Padres history.
Jones allowed no runs on two hits and a walk with a strikeout over three innings. He faced 11 batters. Seven of the nine outs he recorded came on ground balls.
Jones also pitched a scoreless inning in the last inning of the 1975 All-Star Game -- giving him four straight scoreless innings in his only two All-Star Game appearances.
The left-hander went onto win the NL Cy Young Award in 1976, finishing with a 22-14 record with a 2.74 ERA in 40 starts (25 of which resulted in complete games). However his career turned in his last start of 1976, when he suffered a nerve injury.
Jones earned the right to start the 1976 All-Star Game by going 16-3 before the Midsummer Classic with a 2.53 ERA in 21 starts -- 15 of which were complete games.
"I remember before making my first pitch, I looked around the infield and saw Pete Rose at third, Dave Concepcion at short, Joe Morgan at second and Steve Garvey at first," said Jones. "Johnny Bench was catching. I figured things might go pretty well."
Jones remembers "being too strong" in the first inning.
"I was pumped. Sometimes when the adrenaline was flowing, I threw harder than usual and the ball didn't sink like I needed it to."
Ron LeFlore opened the game for the AL by grounding a single to left. But Jones got Rod Carew to ground to second, Morgan starting a 4-6-3 double play. Jones then walked George Brett on a full-count pitch.
"I should have got the strike there," said Jones.
But Thurman Munson grounded out to second to end the first.
When Jones returned to the mound for the second, the NL held a 2-0 lead against Mark Fidrych.
Jones got Fred Lynn on a pop foul and retired Toby Harrah on a grounder to Rose before Rusty Staub singled to center. Bobby Grich grounded out to short to end the inning.
Jones recalls having an interesting talk with Bench after the second inning.
"I had three pitches, but my best pitch was always the sinker," said Jones. "But in the first two innings, Bench kept calling for curves. Bench had homered off my slider in 1974. After that, I threw Bench curves. But he was the only hitter I threw curves.
"So we're in the dugout and I ask Bench, 'Why are you calling for so many curves?' And he says, 'I can't hit your curve.' Which is when I tell him he's the only hitter I throw curves."
Jones concluded his All-Star Game with a perfect third -- retiring Hal McRae on a comebacker, striking out LeFlore and covering first when Carew again grounded to second.