Friday, March 06, 2009

"Rooftop" Jones Another Instant 1984 Legend

I had known about Ruppert Jones, from his days toiling in near-obscurity with the Seattle Mariners, but he had mostly dropped off my radar by the time the 1984 baseball season began. I knew that he was a left-handed hitting outfielder, and that he once had some pop in his bat. But he played for the Mariners, which meant that he wasn't a household name by any means.

So when the Tigers signed Jones and dispatched him to AAA Evansville in April of '84, I may have halfway raised an eyebrow -- then hoisted another beer at Theo's Tavern or the Spaghetti Bender, or wherever else I chose to do my drinking on the campus of Eastern Michigan University as a junior student.

Little did I, or anyone else, know that Ruppert Jones, within a few months, would be known as "Rooftop" Jones and would become yet another delicious side story in a wild, wonderful championship season.

Jones, in near anonymity as a Mariner

Jones was called up to the Tigers in early June, and in typical Sparky Anderson fashion, the manager put Jones into the lineup right away. The Toronto Blue Jays were in town, and they were the only team that had a snowball's chance in Hell of slowing down the Tigers, who had famously started 35-5, but were now on a 4-8 streak. The Jays had moved to within 3-1/2 games of the Tigers.

Jones started in center field, and went 1-for-3. The Tigers lost. The next day, Jones started again in center. And he launched a rocket of a home run, onto the right field roof at Tiger Stadium. It was part of a four-run sixth inning. The Tigers won, moving back to a 4-1/2 game lead. The Jays wouldn't get closer the rest of the season.

They started calling Ruppert "Rooftop" shortly thereafter -- and Jones lapped up the attention. No longer was he playing in a vacuum. He had been a Yankee for a period of time, but hardly one of their stars. In Detroit, Rooftop Jones became an instant legend, in a season that made legends of many. The famous "short porch" in right field at Tiger Stadium was custom made for his upper-cut, lefty swing.

Jones hit 12 HR in 215 AB in spot duty with the '84 Tigers, though he only got eight at-bats (hitless) in the post-season. But he got himself a World Series ring. After the season, Jones was granted free agency and ended up signing with the Angels. He hit 46 HR in three seasons with the Angels -- maintaining a good HR/per AB ratio -- before retiring after the 1987 season at age 32.

Ruppert "Rooftop" Jones -- another Tiger who was sprinkled with the magic pixie dust of the 1984 season. A few of them did that in '84 -- swept in for the fun and were hardly heard from again. But they had their moments in the sun that year, and that's all any big league player can really ask for.


Post a Comment

<< Home