December 15, 1980
The very first Padre-developed superstar was Randy Jones. Before Dave Winfield, Tony Gwynn, Benito Santiago, and Roberto Alomar Jr. there was Randy Jones. He was adored by fans and pitched extremely well despite hardly ever seeing any run support from the offense.
Jones was a left-handed pitcher who relied more on changing speeds than throwing the ball by you. He wasn’t blessed with a blazing fastball, but he knew how to get batters out. It was easier for Jones to allow batters to hit the ball rather than trying to strike everyone out. He worked the ball low in the zone and more often than not, batters put the ball in play right at a fielder.
He was a master of changing speeds and worked with such quickness on the mound. By getting the ball and throwing it without pitching ball after ball, you keep your fielders on their toes and in the game. It wasn’t uncommon to see Jones pitch games lasting only two hours long. He attacked hitters and wasting no effort on the mound.
The fifth round selection by the Padres in the 1972 draft spent the first year and a half in the minor leagues, going 12-6 with a 2.38 ERA and a 1.043 WHIP. He was promoted to the Padres’ major league team in 1973 and never looked back.
Jones lost a league-high 22 games in 1974, while taking his lumps in the major leagues. The 24-year-old would respond from that season with two of the greatest ones in Padres’ history from a starting pitcher. Jones went 20-12 with a league leading 2.24 ERA in 36 starts for the Padres. He finished as the runner-up for the Cy Young award to Tom Seaver. Jones was named the 1975 Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year.
The following season, Jones won the franchise’s first Cy Young award, going 22-14 with a 2.74 ERA in a league-leading 40 starts. He also completed a league-high 25 games that season and finished the year with a 1.000 fielding percentage. From May 17th 1976 to June 22 1976 Randy Jones tied Christy Mathewson‘s National League record 68 innings without allowing a walk. His eighth-inning walk on June 22 to Marc Hill of the Giants, on a full count pitch, broke that streak. Jones also set a new major league record by inducing batters to ground into a double play 112 times during the year. He ironically also set a record by not recording an error in 112 straight chances on the field. A magical season for the lefty.
At the end of the season, Jones underwent exploratory surgery on his elbow and was never the same. The injury slowed him in 1977 as he only managed to start 25 games, going 6-12 with a 4.58 ERA and a 1.419 WHIP. In 1977 Jones registered a 89-minute win (4-1) in a game versus the Phillies and pitcher Jim Katt in Mission Valley. He manged three more seasons with the Padres, sometimes showing his past dominance, but all in all, he wasn’t as effective due to his lingering arm issues.
Jones would finish his eight year Padres career going 92-105 with a 3.30 ERA and a 1.208 WHIP. He was the first pitcher to win 20 games without striking out 100 batters. He did that in 1976 when he won 22 games and struck out 93 batters in 315 innings pitched.
He was dealt to the New York Mets for John Pacella and Jose Moreno. Neither player did anything of importance for the Padres. Pacella was a right-handed relief pitcher and spot starter, who was traded to the New York Yankees with Jerry Mumphrey right before the 1981 season started. The Padres got a decent return as they landed Ruppert Jones, Joe Lefebvre, Chris Welsh, and Tim Lollar. The additions of Lollar and Welsh helped soften the loss of Jones in the rotation.
Jose Moreno was a young switch-hitting infielder and outfielder who the Padres coveted. Moreno hit .305 with 11 homers and 70 RBIs in 107 games with the PCL Padres in Hawaii in 1981. The California Angels took notice of Moreno, and prior to the 1982 season, the Angels drafted him via the Rule-5 draft. He never had much success at all in the majors, only playing in 82 games total.
Losing Jones was rough and seeing him in a Mets uniform made most Padres fans sick to their stomachs. Jones didn’t have much success at all in New York and retired after the 1982 season at the age of 32. He will always be loved by Padres’ fans because he represents the infant stages of this franchise and the team’s first star. Randy Jones is a San Diego Sports icon and his continual ties to the Padres and the city speak volumes towards the type of man he is.
This date, December 15th, changed the franchise forever. Embrace the history of the team.
James was born and raised in America’s Finest City. He is a passionate baseball fan with even more passion towards his hometown Padres. Editor-In-Chief of EastVillageTimes.com. Always striving to bring you the highest quality in San Diego Sports News. Original content, with original ideas, that’s our motto. Enjoy.