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″Roadblock” Jones Makes a Pitch for Politics

November 26, 1988

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ Sherman ″Roadblock″ Jones is back.

But Jones, a big right-hander who pitched and lost the New York Mets’ first home game 26 years ago, has switched sports. He’s in politics now.

When the 1989 Kansas Legislature convenes Jan. 9, Jones will be among 20 new members of the House. The other freshmen lawmakers are attorneys, farmers and businessmen.

″I guess I don’t like to be stalemated,″ said Jones, who retired in January as a detective with the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department and was looking for something else to do.

Jones, 53, jokingly described himself as a ″house husband, couch potato and yard bird,″ but he spent about eight years playing professional baseball and once pitched in the World Series. After that, he was a policeman for 22 years.

His baseball career was spotty, but it left him with some good stories and memories - such as the time he won a close game against a crosstown rival while playing in a winter league in Caracas, Venezuela.

″Twenty-eight thousand people, they went wild,″ Jones recalled. ″They’d come up to the screen and stick money through it. I collected money for one hour and five minutes.″

Jones spent three years in the National League with three different teams and parts of eight more with minor league teams. He went from playing for the pennant-winning Cincinnati Reds in 1961 to the hapless 1962 New York Mets.

The Mets lost 120 games that year, finishing 60 games out of first place. Jones was part of the Reds’ contribution to the pool of players for stocking the franchises of the newly formed Mets and Houston Colt 45s, now the Astros.

Jones was the first Met pitcher to pitch a complete game, in an exhibition. When the Mets returned to New York’s Polo Grounds to launch their home season after opening in St. Louis, manager Casey Stengel named him as the starter against the Pittsburg Pirates.

Jones also got the Mets’ first hit in New York. He tells people who ask that it was a screaming line drive between the shortstop and third baseman, a ″frozen rope.″

In reality, he confessed, ″It was a ground ball.″

The Mets lost the game, 4-3, on a rainy day in which players ″slipped and fell like novice ice skaters,″ the New York Times reported. Jones left the game before the sixth inning, after two outfielders let a fly ball fall between them for a triple that scored two runs.

Jones’ soon developed arthritic gout in his right shoulder. He finished the season with an 0-4 record and his career 2-6. He staged a brief comeback in 1964, with a minor league team in Buffalo, N.Y.

″I could hardly break a pane of glass,″ he said.

Jones admitted the Mets’ losing frustrated him, but he looked back upon his days with them fondly. He said the Mets’ owners had enough money to provide first-class accommodations, such as a carpeted clubhouse.

″I remember going to spring training,″ said Jones, who is black. ″There was extensive segregation in the south. All of a sudden, I’m on a St. Petersburg (Fla.) beach and in an exclusive hotel.″

Jones said the highlight of his career came in October 1961, when he pitched for the Reds in the World Series against the New York Yankees. He appeared in the fourth inning of the fifth and final game, which the Yankees won, 13-5.

″I faced two batters and got them out,″ he said.

His baseball career started in 1953, when the New York Giants signed him to a professional contract and sent him to Muskogee, Okla., to play for a minor league team.

Jones had played semi-professional baseball since he was 16 - for any team in and around his hometown of Winton, N.C., (population 825) would pay him the most. He switched from catching to pitching in a game against a team of Cuban barnstormers.

″The guy that was going to pitch had an accident, or got hit by a car or something,″ Jones recalled. ″They were giving me $20, so I said, ’I’ll pitch.‴

His minor league career took him from Muskogee to Topeka, where he broke his finger and married his wife, Amelia, in the same year.

″I didn’t have anything to do but court (her),″ he said.

He then went to Sioux Falls, S.D., and later to Tacoma, Wash., where a sportswriter gave him his nickname, Roadblock. It appeared in a newspaper headline in the summer of 1960, the day after the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Jones picked up both victories in a doubleheader. The Giants, who had moved to San Francisco, called him to the major leagues soon after.

After his baseball career ended, he moved to Kansas City, which he had called home since his playing days with the Mets. He became a policeman after a short, futile search for a management job in baseball.

An interest in civic affairs led him to politics, he said. He became a Democratic precinct committeeman about 10 years ago. This spring, Rep. Clarence Love, the Democrat who represented Jones’ House district for 22 years, announced his retirement.

″It was just a natural inclination, I guess,″ Jones said of his entry into politics.

END ADV Weekend Editions Nov. 26-27

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