Jones clean of throat cancer

Padres pitching legend given clean bill of health

Jones clean of throat cancer

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

The battle was longer and tougher than he expected, but Randy Jones has rid himself of the throat cancer that was discovered last November.

He called yesterday to give me the news in true Jones fashion.

"We've got to talk," Jones said. At first my mind stumbled. "We've got to talk," is generally not good news.

"I met with my doctors this morning," the Padres Hall of Famer said. "Got some good news. I'm free of cancer."

"You didn't think you might start with that," I said.

Then the reality set it. One of my favorite friends -- and the only Padre I know who can be mentioned in the same breath with Tony Gwynn and Jerry Coleman -- is healthy. Randy said he would beat cancer. And he did.

"I still got a ways to go," Jones said Tuesday evening upon arriving at Petco Park. "My energy isn't where I want it to be. But I had some tests yesterday. You never know with tests. But these results were all good. When my doctor called me this morning, it was like a bright new day."

"Now I want to get back to doing things that I like doing, like chores. I'm looking forward to getting out and working again."

Jones' scoreless ninth

I remember the day last December when Randy told first told me of his cancer. At the time, he wished to keep it just to his closest friends.

"I don't want people feeling sorry for me," Jones said. "When I'm on the road to whipping this, we'll talk."

That talk came in mid-January.

Jones was wrapping up his first rounds of radiation and chemotherapy. The doctors had told him the cancer was restricted to an area in his throat and had not spread to his lymph nodes. They also linked the cancer to the tobacco he chewed as a Major League player and the cigars he had smoked for 3 1/2 decades.

"Can't change what I did," said the 1976 National League Cy Young Award winner. "But I'm beating this thing." Jones then said he'd be at Spring Training.

Jones on playing for Padres

Well, he made it to Spring Training ... but only for one day and not the two weeks he was planning on. And his weight dipped back to his playing weight. "Pants are becoming an issue," Jones joked.

But he beat it. Randy Jones 1, Cancer 0. Jones just pitched the 19th shutout of his Padres career. It just took a little longer than his 92 other wins.

Next winter I'm planning to rank the top 25 individual seasons in Padres history. You can make arguments for several as the greatest in franchise history. But it is hard to argue against Jones' 1976 season.

Jones became the Padres' first Cy Young Award winner because he went 22-14 with a 2.74 earned run average on a team that won a total of 73 games. He made 40 starts and pitched 25 complete games. He pitched 315 1/3 innings while allowing only 1.027 baserunners per inning.

Jones not only led the NL in starts, complete games and innings pitched -- he established single season Padres records that will likely never be matched.

And over the 1975-76 seasons, Jones went 42-26 with a 2.50 ERA while pitching 600 1/3 innings.

Huge.

But not as big as his most recent win. Randy Jones beat cancer.