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Who's the Ross?

If I had to guess, I'd probably say that I've written 25-30 "Where are they now?" related pieces for the various journalistic endeavors in which I've been involved. There had always been one person in particular that I wanted to track down, and last year, by writing a "Where are they now?" for "New York Mets Inside Pitch," I finally had a legitimate purpose to try to find Ross Jones.

In 1984, I was nine years old, and for the first time in my brief life, the Mets were a good team. They had a rookie pitcher named Dwight Gooden, a second-year slugger named Darryl Strawberry and a veteran star in Keith Hernandez. The Mets won 90 games that year and hung in the pennant race into September. They did so despite being outscored by 24 runs and because they got key hits in big spots.

The Mets were 10-8 heading into a game with the NL East defending champ Phillies at Shea Stadium on April 28 1984. My dad and I went to this game, and if I recall right, we sat fairly close to where his tickets are now- mezzanine, just off home plate.

Now, the Mets were playing well, but for some reason, we had taken a dislike to a rookie utility player, whose career had spanned just four hitless at bats to that point. I don't think we were to the point of booing him, but I do remember being told on a couple of occasions that he was not very good. His name was Ross Jones.

Well, wouldn't ya know it, in the 9th inning against closer Al Holland, Jones comes up with Hubie Brooks on first base in a tie game. The count quickly went to two strikes.

"Everyone thought I was overmatched" Jones would say 20 years later.

After a couple of weak foul balls, Jones laced a line drive into the left center field gap. Brooks raced home with the winning run, and suddenly, Jones didn't seem like such a bad player any more. We didn't go to a lot of games back then, and I can't remember whether or not I'd seen a walk-off prior to this one, but it was pretty cool to be there for that one, with the crowd cheering and the players celebrating.

The hit started a four-game win streak, but little did I know at the time that it would be the only hit in a Mets uniform for Ross Jones.

Three weeks later, Jones was sent to the minor leagues, and only came back for a couple of days in July. He played again in the majors for the Mariners and Royals, but only for 50 more games before retiring and going into the movie industry, working behind the scenes now as a grip on films such as the upcoming "Glory Road."

I imagine Jones was quite surprised when I tracked him down, but he was gracious, and a terrific interview. He said that a few years ago, someone stopped him on an airplane and told him that they, like me, were at the game in which he got his only Mets hit. He couldn't believe that people would remember that, and that to this day, he still gets asked for autographs. The way he talked about it, it was clear that the walk-off was his favorite moment in the big leagues. It is one of mine as well.

True Metamucils know- The only other player I could find whose only Mets hit was a walk-off hit was "Perfect Met" Rodney McCray, who went 1-for-1 in his Mets career and is better known as the minor league outfielder who once ran through a fence to try to make a catch.

Back, likely on Sunday...


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