Tim Jones

June 5, 2007

Why have I spent the last several months delving on a nearly daily basis and with alarming thoroughness into the shadow cast on my life by the baseball cards I collected in the mid- to late-1970s? Here are some theories:

1. I am afraid of dying. Once every couple weeks I wake up in the middle of the night and all the distractions are gone, leaving a clean view at our raw deal. How could this all end? Everyone’s in the same boat on this one, but of course not everyone seems as crippled by the news. Cardboard Gods is my ultimately futile attempt to crawl into a fetid, familiar bunker and hide from the inevitable.

2. I am afraid of living. Living leads to dying. Better to hold fast to the rectangular shards of the past than venture out into the unknown.

3. I am seeking the wonder of childhood. “We all dream of being a child again, even the worst of us. Perhaps the worst most of all.” – Don Jose, The Wild Bunch

4. I am trying to invent a religion that will work for me. Several years ago I hitchhiked from Vermont to Boston to see a Red Sox game. I was 19 or so. A guy picked me up on the on-ramp to the interstate in Montpelier. He had black, fake-looking hair, a black, fake-looking mustache, and skin like raw tofu. “The Red Sox, huh? Rico Pepper-celli,” he said, mispronouncing the name of the Red Sox infielder who had retired years earlier. “Right,” I said. Then he abruptly changed the subject. “I was like you,” he began. “Messed up on drugs. Aimless. Drifting. Then one day I got down on my knees and gave myself over to Jesus Christ.” As we drove on the guy talked a lot about death and heaven, but his heaven seemed a brightly-lit eternal meat locker, terrifying in its lifelessness. I need a different kind of heaven, different gods. Many gods. Gods both admirable and faulty, heroic and obscure. Which brings us to . . . 

5. Tim Jones. Tim Jones reached the major leagues in September 1977. His first two appearances were in relief in games the Pirates were losing badly, and his third was as the starter in the first game of a doubleheader on the final day of the season. He won that game, pitching 7 shutout innings, and in all pitched 10 major league innings without being scored on. He was traded in March 1978 to the Montreal Expos for Will McEnany and never appeared in another major league game, his lifetime record unmarred, 1 win, 0 losses, 0.00 ERA. This card represents Tim Jones’ sole appearance on a baseball card. The three players he shares his lone card with, on the other hand, all went on to have several individual cards produced in their likeness, Mickey Mahler lasting a few years as a largely ineffective southpaw starter, Larry Andersen enduring as a useful reliever for 17 seasons, long enough to stumble into undeserved infamy as the less weighty entity in one of the more lopsided trades in baseball history (in which he was exchanged for a minor league first baseman named Jeff Bagwell), and Jack Morris, whose all-star career and post-season mastery have prompted more than a few fans and experts to call for his induction into the baseball Hall of Fame. But for Tim Jones, this is it. His one and only moment. All of us are Tim Jones, in a way. All of human history is but a tiny blip in the life of the universe, and each individual life within that history is an even smaller blip. In that light, even Shakespeare’s collected works don’t amount to much more than what Tim Jones appears here to be thinking: Wait, what?


  1. 1.  Ah, but didn’t Tim Jones subsequently move to England and become Hugh Laurie’s butler?

    No? I am agog, sir.

  2. 2.  Tim Jones looks like he should be playing clavinet for The Zombies.

  3. 3.  Funny you should post this.
    Just the other day I thought about sending you a message, asking whether you had any cards of players who had never actually appeared in an MLB game (most likely some luckless schnook on a Prospects card), and suggesting them as possible blog-fodder.

    Do you think these guys dodge their limited sliver of fame (“I never played in the big leagues, and I told you, I’m not signing that shit!”)
    Or do you think they revel in it? (“Of course I was in the major leagues! Topps said so! Now how ’bout a fresh head on this mug?”)

    But it looks like you’ve already gone where I was heading.

  4. 4.  2 No, he captained a swiftboat in Nam and then later lost an election.

  5. 5.  Tim Jones went on to some fame in the 1980’s under the stage name Mac Tonight.

  6. 6.  At one point, I had Mickey Mahler’s autograph. He was signing them as a Tiger before a game at Fenway. I actually knew the details of his latest mop up appearance. I think that he was impressed by that.

  7. 7.  1: Could be…

    2: No photo proof found, but sounds plausible.

    4: Might be…

    5: Hm, getting even warmer…

    3: I think there probably are some guys who appeared on prospect cards who didn’t get into a big league game. I’ll keep an eye out for ’em. I bet the guys, like Tim Jones, who get the proverbial cup of coffee in the majors revel in it. I sure would, especially if, like Tim Jones, I did a good job in the short stint.

  8. 8.  A friend of mine pitched one game in the PCL for the Vancouver Canadians and he loves talking about the experience. He was actually the team’s clubhouse boy, but they decided to let him be the starting pitcher as a joke on the last day of the 1968 season.

    You don’t really see that kind of thing happening anymore.

  9. 9.  Tim Jones’s face looks like a gardening trowel. He’s probably still looking for his fist lay . . . and a barber. Dude, disco is dead.

    He faced three guys three times and shut them down each and every time: Bobby Murcer, Manny Trillo, and Larry Biiiiiitttttner.

  10. 10.  9: “Tim Jones’s face looks like a gardening trowel.”


    I’m glad some others are also getting enjoyment out of the appearance of the all-time career leader in ERA: His giant chin, the way his hat sits precariously atop his acromegalic dome, his vacant expression, and especially his hair, his lank, neck-hugging, Prince Valiant-meets-back-of-the-schoolbus-stoner hair.

  11. 11.  Remember that video game, Dragon’s Lair? He looks like Dirk the Daring.

  12. 12.  This 6’5″ goober was taken 4th by the Pirates in the 1972 amatuer draft. Gary Anderson was taken 5th by the Pirates. Willie Randolph 7th.

    He was 15-5 for Columbus (when the Pirates were affiliated with the Clippers). He won league honors that season. He did show real promise, wonder what happened to this sky-scrapping, Andre the Giant-chinned phenom.

  13. 13.  Too, too funny! You have to check out this 1977 Pirates photo of Tim Jones and Phil Garner.

    Love the shorts! Boots are kickin’ too!

  14. 14.  13 Too bad Rowdy Roddie Scurry wasn’t on the scene yet.

  15. 15.  Beginning of Richard Ford’s “Lay of the Land” has a little story you might find useful.

    Main character reviews story of a killing in a college classroom. A neer-do-well student approaches teacher, points gun between her eyes, and asks, “are you ready to die?” Teacher replies, “yes, I think so.” The gunman shoots her and himself. Main character then asks self the same question. He comes up with a different answer. You sound like you would, too.

  16. 16.  Is a baseball card a type of immortality, will they survive long after the person dies. A writer has something similar with a published book while a baseball player has their card. Just what I was thinking about while reading your thoughts.

    Also remembered an old Peanuts cartoon where Lucy said something to the effect that Beethoven couldn’t be that important since he never had a bubble gum card.

    Also want to say I have been reading your blog since it was at the last site and have really enjoyed it. I have been meaning to dig out my cards and look through them again, but I don’t think my wife would really understand.

  17. 17.  I just read the Richard Ford sportswriter trilogy and they were tremendous-highly recommended. Especially for you, Josh. The Rabbit Angstrom of our generation, in a way.

  18. 18.  15, 17: Thanks a lot for the recomendations. I read the first Sportswriter novel a long time ago and loved it; I gotta check out the other two. His short story collection Rock Springs is great, too.

    16: Hey Daryl, thanks for checking in. Here’s the Peanuts quote, from A Peanuts Christmas:

    Schroeder: What do you mean Beethoven wasn’t so great?
    Lucy Van Pelt: He never got his picture on bubble gum cards, did he? Have you ever seen his picture on a bubble gum card? Hmmm? How can you say someone is great who’s never had his picture on bubble gum cards?
    Schroeder: Good grief.

  19. 19.  Seeing Larry Andersen here reminds me that some book (it might’ve been the Baseball Uncyclopedia) accused him of being a Carlos Mencia; lifting most of his material from Stephen Wright.

  20. 20.  I wish that I knew of this list before selecting my all time team. One of these guys might’ve replaced Lowenstein:

    “Brandon Isleib recently parsed the Retrosheet data (1957 to the present) to derive the following list of all-time leaders in defensive substitutions at each position:

    POS Player Subs
    C Rick Dempsey 291
    1B Mike Jorgensen 415
    2B Al Weis 205
    SS Rafael Belliard 291
    3B Garth Iorg 220
    LF Greg Gross 298
    CF Paul Blair 350
    RF Jim Eisenrich 152”

    Courtesy studes at Hardball Times.

  21. 21.  20: Wow, what a brilliant list. Thanks for that one, Ennui. A couple of these guys were indeed mentioned (Jorgenson, Eisenreich) as possible bench guys in the Gossage/all-time team discussion. It’s sort of surprising that a guy playing a relatively unimportant defensive position, first base, leads the way in games played as a defensive replacement, but I guess that’s the position most apt to need a defensive replacement. I wonder if Mike Squires was close to Jorgensen on the list. He’s the guy I always think of in terms of being a late-inning defensive “stopper.”

  22. 22.  That is a fascinating list of defensive replacements! That must have taken a ton of time to compile.

    I always thought of Paul Blair as a starter with the Orioles, but looks like his value in later years was exclusively resting upon his defense. I always had Mike Jorgensen pegged as a key defensive guy. I have to check to see the defensive duds he had to replace . . .CHECKING . . . ahhh, ’70 Mets Clendenon, early ’70s Expos Ron Fairly, ’78 Tex Mike Hargrove, ’79 Tex Pat Putnam, ’80 Mets Lee Mazilli, ‘early ’80s Mets Dave Kingman (he should had followed Kingman everywhere . . . the dynamic duo!), ’85 Cards Jack Clark.

    Greg Gross always interested me. I had his ’75 Topps card when he was hailed as a Topps Rookie All-Star or something like that . . . in ’74 Gross was a regular rookie and hit .314 (w/ zero homers!). I thought this guy was going to be really good. He was second in the ROY voting (Bake McBride won it, and Madlock was third . . . did not realize that Bucky Dent got more votes than George Brett for AL ROY honors in 1974! Wow!) Gross faded into a platoon player and then a fill-in/role player. Was the ball juiced in 1977 (all players seemed to have a career power year that year); Gross hit 5 homers that year, he only hit 2 others over his entire career, spanning 17 seasons and over 3,700 AB’s.

  23. 23.  “That is a fascinating list of defensive replacements! That must have taken a ton of time to compile.”

    I’ll bet it’s easy if you’re a database geek. I just never learned the skills it takes to do stuff like that with retrosheet or the Lahman database. I read Baseball Hacks, but it left me scrathing my head.

  24. 24.  Your #4 in the post reminded me of my favorite baseball quote: “Baseball is like church. Many attend, but few understand.”

    In different places I’vee seen it attributed to Leo Durocher, but I think its generally accepted that Wes Westrum is the guy who coined it.

  25. 25.  Oh, and by the way, it would be great to see a corresponding list of players who were replaced the most. It would most likely include recent Gods Kingman and Luzinski, and most likely Buckner as well.

  26. 26.  25: I had the same thought. That would be a great list. I already was wondering about the guys who (besides those Jorgensen-needers listed by Catfish326) required the use of the listed players. Luzinski definitely got Greg Gross on the list. I suppose Iorg must have been replacing Mulliniks. Who was Eisenreich replacing? Incaviglia on the Phillies, maybe?

  27. 27.  Tim Jones was an assumed name used by the man pictured on your card, a man whose real identity is Brad Leno, Jay’s lesser-known half brother.

  28. The following is a comment left by a reader on one of this blog’s “about” pages, but I wanted to paste it in here too since it relates to Tim Jones:

    Hey Josh –

    Just thought I’d drop you a note you may or may not find interesting regarding an old blog of yours:

    Particularly about Tim Jones,I thought I’d share with you – I live in Sacramento and am 36.. I love baseball, met my wife through baseball and all that good stuff.. I also own a trucking company and we happen to work for a company owned by Tim Jones’ brother. I have worked with Tim Jones for a minimum of 10 years. I’ve talked with him numerous times. The guy is an amazingly hard worker and I won’t bore you with what a really nice guy he is. Point of my writing you is this: I’m a huge Steelers fan since I was a little kid. Never liked the Pirates though. Today for the first time I see Tim on a job with a Steelers hat on and I give him some shit about being a frontrunner or something. He makes a comment about knowing half the old guys. So I ask what he means.. He sheepishly tells me about his time in the majors, and so on… This led me to google and to your blog.

    I don’t care about the comments people left dude, or the jokes – I could care less some of the stuff was funny.. his hair is still longer.. but grey.. anyways, I was reading about how people wondered, or assumed or whatever – about how he might recal or ‘use’ his cup of coffee in the majors and all that. I just found it ironic personally – and I’ve kinda learned a little lesson in just how far from true those perceptions are from reality. And I get that its just internet banter and all that.. I’m not overanalyzing it – but for what it is, I thought it worth sharing with you.

    Tim is absolutely the opposite. I never had any clue about his baseball past at all.. and he is a very proud man, deservedly so in my opinion. But he is far from living in his past.

    As a footnote, his nephew is the totally awesome award-winning and record setting snowboarder Kevin Jones just in case you wanted to know, and how could you not?

    Thanks for your time,


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: