Baseball is filled with stories of people who display strength and perseverance. Former Cleveland Indians closer Doug Jones is one such story.
A draft pick by Milwaukee in 1978, he toiled through the minor leagues for years save for one quick cameo with the 1982 Milwaukee club.
In the mid 1980’s he found himself in the Cleveland Indians organization but not impressing manager Pat Corrales. The team was filled with young hitting stars like Julio Franco, Joe Carter, Brett Butler, Pat Tabler, Mel Hall and Tony Bernazard. But they lacked pitching depth and certainly anything resembling an anchor in the bullpen.
Jones was a 29 year old career minor leaguer who threw in the 80’s. Corrales wanted none of that. He wanted flame throwers on the team and Jones appeared in only 11 games.
In 1987, the expectations for the Indians were through the roof. Sports Illustrated famously picked them to win the American League pennant.
Their pitching staff was a catastrophe and closers Ernie Camacho and Scott Bailes just could not do their jobs. Manager Pat Corrales was fired and new manager Doc Edwards came in.
Edwards was not necessarily thrilled that they had a soft tossing reliever in their pen, but he was a better option than everyone else and he wound up getting 8 saves to lead the team.
For spring training 1988, Edwards told Jones that the front office would rather have a young flame thrower than a 30 year old soft tosser. Jones was told that he would have to win his spot by outpitching everyone else otherwise he would be out of a job.
Jones, now sporting a choice 1980’s mustache, had to fight preconceptions about age, velocity and experience and he had no good will in the bank to cash in. That spring training, he did indeed win the spot in the bullpen.
Edwards began to use him as the closer. Instead of a fireballer coming out in the 9th, Jones’ slow stuff kept everyone off balance. He converted 4 of 5 save chances in April.
On May 11, he pitched 4 shutout innings to get the 4-3 win in 13 innings over the Angels. 2 days later, he threw 1 1/3 innings for a save. Nobody knew it, but he was beginning a record breaking streak.
By May 24th, he had 9 saves, one more than his team lead was for the entire 1987 season.
In June, he made 7 appearances and got saves in every single one. Three of those saves were ones where he entered in the 7th inning. The last one, on June 24th, was the 14th straight appearance with a save, one more than the record set by Steve Bedrosian the year before.
On July 2, he recorded his 19th save and the 15th straight appearance. On the 4th of July, he came into the game in a tie situation, breaking the streak. But a few weeks later, he was named to his first All Star Game.
He finished the season with 7 straight appearances with a save and 37 for the year. His ERA was a solid 2.27 and he struck out 72 while only giving out 13 unintentional walks.
Doug Jones, who was offered a coaching job instead of a spring training invite in 1987, would be named to the 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1993 All Star Teams.
He pitched for the Astros and Phillies before rejoining Cleveland in time to pitch in the 1998 post season. His final game was in the 2000 Division Series as a member of the Oakland A’s.
Besides playing in 3 different decades, he became a millionaire many times over as well.
If he had listened to what everyone was saying about him, he would have quit in the mid 1980’s instead of playing to 2000 at age 43.
We can all learn a little something from his strength.
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