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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mike Jones, Not Through - 305

The car's front end was ripped out, as were the transmission, wheels and axle, according to a wire report. all the result of the vehicle's impact with a tree.

In the driver's seat this December night in 1981 outside Rochester, NY, was Mike Jones, Kansas City Royals pitcher. He was there with a broken neck.

The once-promising 21-year-old hurler, who'd went 6-3, with a 3.21 ERA in 11 starts in 1981, survived the wreck. He also worked much of the next two years to get back.

Going into spring training 1984, Jones tried to show he was just that, back.

"I just want to show people I'm not washed up," Jones told The Associated Press that February. "I want to show people I'm not through."

Jones wasn't through. Coming back from that broken neck, he pitching parts of 1984 and 1985 back in the major leagues, 23 outings with 12 starts in 1984 and 33 outings with one start in 1985.

Jones' career began in 1977, taken by the Royals in the first round of the draft, out of Sutherland High in Pittsford, NY.

Jones started in the rookie Gulf Coast League, making AA Jacksonville by 1979. He returned to Jacksonville for 1980. That September, he was in Kansas City.

With the Royals, Jones pitched in three games, starting one. He also gave up six earned runs in 4.1 innings of work.

Back in Kansas City by August 1981, Jones finished out the year with 11 starts, and that 6-3 record. In mid-August, Jones went up against Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, picking up a 4-1 win. Over six innings, Jones gave up that one run for his first victory.

"I didn't worry about who was going for them," Jones told The Associated Press afterward. "I just tried to pitch my game, and I certainly won't forget my first win."

Over 75.2 innings, the first-round pick showed what he could do, giving up just 27 earned runs for a 3.21 ERA.

But then came his accident. Jones was injured seriously in the Dec. 21, 1981 crash. A passenger suffered minor injuries and was released that night.

Police placed the cause of the crash on Jones himself, charging him with driving while intoxicated. Jones, though, later said he didn't think that was what it was. He cited ice, calling it a freak accident, according to The AP. The outcome of the charge filed against Jones could not be determined.

Regardless of the cause, Jones still came back. His injuries were described more precisely as two dislocated neck vertebrae. Jones' surgeon Dr. P. William Haake told The AP days after the crash that the chances were good that Jones would return. But it would take time.

"I'm sure what he's feeling is that within a month he's going to be all right and be returning to spring training," Haake told The AP. "It's going to be a blow to him when he hears that it's going to be quite a while before he can return."

Jones sat out all of 1982. He returned in 1983, but only for 18 starts at single-A Fort Myers. But, for 1984, Jones made it back, all the way to Kansas City.

In 23 outings, 12 starts, Jones went 2-3, with a 4.89 ERA. He returned in mid-June, in relief. By July, he was starting. In his first two starts, Jones didn't get out of the fifth inning. In his third start, Jones pitched a gem, going eight innings, giving up just one hit.

"Everything I've been through the last three years, it's going to take more than a couple of bad starts to get me down," Jones told The AP after his third start. "I'm just happy to be here and to have a chance to pitch."

Jones returned to Kansas City for 33 final outings in 1985. While the Royals went on to win the World Series, Jones did not pitch in the postseason.

Jones, though, didn't stop pitching for another five more seasons, spending those seasons largely at AAA. His last season, the Rochester-area native pitched in eight games, starting five, for his hometown Rochester Red Wings.

1990 CMC Tally
Cards Featured:
686/880 - 78.0%
Players/Coaches Featured:
Made the Majors:
471 - 68%-X
Never Made the Majors:

5+ Seasons in the Majors:
10+ Seasons in the Minors:

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