Bibby, Jim

Player Name: Bibby, Jim
Position: Starting pitcher
Birthplace: Franklinton, NC

First, Middle Names:  James Blair
Date of Birth:  Oct. 29, 1944   Date and Place of Death: Feb. 16, 2010, Lynchburg, VA
Burial: Briarwood Memorial Gardens, Amherst, VA

High School: B.F. Person-Albion High School, Franklinton, NC
Colleges: Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, NC; University of Lynchburg, Lynchburg, VA

Bats: R Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-5, 235
Debut Year: 1972        Final Year: 1984          Years Played: 12
Team and Years: St. Louis Cardinals, 1972-73; Texas Rangers, 1973-75; Cleveland Indians, 1975-77; Pittsburg Pirates, 1978-81, 1983; Rangers, 1984

Awards/Honors: All-Star, 1980

Career Summary
G          W        L          Sv        ERA     IP           SO         WAR
340    111      101     8          3.76     1722.2  1079    19.4

Jim Bibby was a late bloomer. He was nearly 28 years old when he debuted in the major leagues and almost 36 before he became a consistent, winning pitcher. Just as he was on the cusp of stardom, though, his right arm failed him. The surgery was successful; the comeback wasn’t. He spent his later years teaching minor leaguers how to pitch and took great pleasure when one of his kids made the big time.

On the sports pages, he was “big” Jim Bibby. He stood six-foot, five inches and weighed more than 230 pounds. Only teammate Dave Parker was as physically imposing in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ clubhouse. Not even Parker, though, could hold eight baseballs in his hand. Bibby’s size contributed to the wildness that marked much of his professional career and delayed his development into an effective pitcher. “Bibby has hands twice as big as you or me,” Harvey Haddix, one of his pitching coaches, once explained. “A baseball feels to him like golf ball would to us. It’s easy to see how it would get lost in his hand.”[I]

Even as a youngster growing up on a farm in Franklin County, North Carolina, Bibby was a commanding figure at the dinner table. “Jim’s the only guy I’ve ever known who has to have two plates in front of him – one for the meat, one for the greens,” his older brother, Fred, remembered.[II]

Born in 1944, James Blair Bibby was the second of Charley and Evelyn’s three sons. All were athletic. Fred played college basketball and coached in high school. The youngest, Henry, was an All-America point guard on consecutive NCAA championship teams at UCLA in the early 1970s and then starred in the National Basketball Association.

Along with athletic talents, the boys also shared chores on the family’s 150-acre farm outside Franklinton. The work seemed never ending, Bibby remembered. “The three boys, we all had a lot of work to do with the tobacco, corn, cotton, the animals. There was no need to lift weights,” he said. “Farm work’s terrible – I hate it – but we were never poor. We had everything we wanted. We never had to make ends meet.”[III]

His small, segregated high school, B.F. Person-Albion, didn’t have a baseball team, but Bibby was an intimidating presence on the basketball court.[1] He followed Fred to what’s now Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on a basketball scholarship in 1962.[2] There, they discovered his fastball, and baseball became his primary sport.

During his junior year, Bibby attended a New York Mets’ tryout near Franklinton and threw a few pitches before it started to pour. Team scouts saw enough, however, and signed him to a minor-league contract that paid $500 a month, or the equivalent of $4,500 today. That he decided to quit school to pursue a baseball career didn’t sit well with Evelyn. “My mother had the old-fashioned idea that you went to school to study, even if you were helping work your way through college,” Bibby later explained.[iv] He would fulfill his mother’s wish by finishing college more than a decade later when he received a degree in physical education from the University of Lynchburg in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The Mets sent Bibby to their Rookie League team in Marion, Virginia, where he joined Nolan Ryan, another raw fireballer, on the starting staff. “I just threw one fastball after another, and I was always wild,” Bibby remembered. “Neither one of us knew a damn thing about baseball. We were both ungodly wild.”[v]

He was drafted into the Army in 1966 and spent part of his hitch driving a truck in Vietnam. “We hauled everything from dead bodies to plastic forks back and forth to the front lines,” he later explained. “My unit never got hit. We stayed on the main road and were home before dark. It was scary at first, but after a while you got used to nothing happening.”[vi]

Bibby was back with the Mets after his discharge in 1968. He made stops that year in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Memphis, Tennessee, where he struck out 115 in 122 innings, before being promoted to the Mets’ top farm club, the Tidewater Tides, in Portsmouth, Virginia. The Mets called him up to New York late in that miracle season of 1969, but he didn’t get into a game. Though he wasn’t on the playoff roster, he took part in the celebration when the Mets clinched their division and was the batting practice pitcher while they beat the Atlanta Braves for the National League pennant. The Mets paid him $100 ($800).

After the euphoria of a pennant came the dread of the operating room. Doctors in 1970 diagnosed Bibby’s chronic back pain as a congenital flaw that required surgery. They took a piece of bone from his hip and attached it to his spine, fusing the first and second lumbar vertebrae. They gave him a 50-50 chance of ever pitching again. “Some days lying there in bed, I wondered if I’d ever walk again,” he recalled. “I was sure I’d never pitch again. I figured I had it in baseball.”[vii]

First, he stood up. Then, he took a few steps. Finally, he started throwing again.

Bibby was back in Portsmouth for the 1971 season, his career sidelined for two years by military service and surgery. He won 15 games but walked 109 in the process. The Mets traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals in October.

He pitched well for the Cards’ Class AAA team in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the following year, winning 13 games while walking just 76. Called up to St. Louis late in the season, Bibby was credited with the victory in his debut on Sept. 4, 1972, an 8-7 win over the Montreal Expos. The first half of the following season was uninspiring, though – an 0-2 record as a spot starter while walking a batter an inning. The Cardinals traded him to the Texas Rangers in June.

The Rangers were in their second season as the transplanted Washington Senators. The team had lost 100 games in its inaugural run and would lose 105 the second time around. Bibby knew he was joining one of the worst teams in baseball. “But then it occurred to me that this was going to be the best thing that ever could happen to me,” he said, looking back on the trade a few years later. “It was the first time anyone had given me a chance to pitch regularly in the big leagues.”[viii]

On his 10th start for his new team, Bibby showed what he could do with that fastball when he knew generally where it was going. He no-hit the world champion Oakland As in their home park. Though he walked six that night, he fanned 13, throwing exclusively fastballs to a lineup that included the likes of Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, and Gene Tenace, hitters who normally feasted on fastballs. Jackson struck out on one in the ninth. “That last one was the best pitch I ever saw,” he said after the game. “Well, really I didn’t see it, I heard it.”[ix]

Over in the A’s dugout, Jim Hunter was rooting for his fellow North Carolinian. “But only in the ninth inning when we didn’t have a chance to win,” he admitted. “I know how the kid felt. I’ve been there myself.”[x] Hunter had pitched a perfect game against the Minnesota Twins in 1968.

That Bibby was the author of the first no-hitter for the Rangers wasn’t good enough for some sports scribes, who mangled history by reporting it was only the third in the 75 years of the Senators-Rangers combined lifetime. The Senators’ great Walter Johnson, they noted, was the last to turn the trick on July 1, 1920.[3] “Man, that’s fast company,” Bibby responded. “Just to get your name mentioned in the same breath with Walter Johnson is really something. Now they want my cap and the ball for Cooperstown. Can you imagine that? I never pitched a no-hitter at any level, and I never thought I would. There’ll never be another night like this.”[XI]

Bob Short, the Ranger’s owner, gave his new star a $5,000 ($33,000) raise on the spot. “Things are looking up,” Bibby said.[XII]

Though he won 19 games in 1974, he also lost that many. Bibby noted that there was a weird symmetry to the season. “Seemed as though everything went in cycles,” he said. “I’d pitch well in three starts and then wouldn’t make through the third inning in the next three.” [XIII] The numbers tell the story: He had 2.50 earned-run average, or ERA, in his wins and a 9.23 ERA in the losses.

The Rangers traded Bibby and two other players in June 1975 to the Cleveland Indians for fellow North Carolinian Gaylord Perry. The Indians needed the money, and Perry didn’t get along with Cleveland Manager Frank Robinson. Used as a spot starter and reliever, Bibby was 30-29 during his three seasons as an Indian, but he distinguished himself as a loyal teammate. Duane Kulper, Cleveland’s second baseman, was furious with Rod Carew of the Twins for spiking him while breaking up a double play at second. Bibby said he’d take care of it, but the opportunity didn’t arise until years later during an exhibition game in Japan. Bibby drilled Carew in the ribs. “That’s for Duane Kulper,” he yelled from the mound.[XIV]

He became a free agent in March 1978 after the Indians failed to pay him an incentive bonus and signed a six-year contract with the Pittsburg Pirates nine days later for $700,000 ($3 million). The Pirates used him mostly out of the bullpen and saw him as a replacement for Goose Gossage, their All-Star closer who had departed as a free agent. “I don’t want you to classify me as a Gossage,” Bibby told reporters. “I’m Jim Bibby, a whole different person. Maybe for one day I played the role that Gossage played last year, but I’m not trying to fill anybody’s shoes.”[XV]

Under the watchful eye of Haddix, who constantly preached the importance of mechanics, Bibby matured as a pitcher. He pulled a muscle in his rib cage that sidelined him for a couple of weeks at the start of the 1979 season, but he went 12-4 the rest of the way with a 2.81 ERA for a pennant winner. He pitched six splendid innings in a 5-3 win over Montreal on July 28 that put the Pirates in first place. “He’s more of a pitcher now,” said Manager Chuck Tanner. “In the American League, he was just a guy who threw a lot of heat.”[XVI]

Bibby pitched well down the stretch, winning big games in the final weeks’ drive to the pennant. He shut out the Cubs in Chicago, striking out 11, and then beat them a week later 6-1 in Pittsburg. Sports writers started referring to him as a “money pitcher,” a guy the team could rely onto to win big games. “I’ve never been in a pennant race before, so I don’t know,” he responded. “I was with Texas and Cleveland, and we were always 30 games out. I just hope to keep pitching well through the playoffs and the World Series.”[XVII]

He did. He had two starts in the playoffs and two more in the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles, including Game 7 won by the Pirates. He had no decisions but pitched effectively, allowing four runs in about 17 innings of work.

Bibby finally came into his own in 1980. He had proven to himself that he could be a consistent winner. “When I came to the Pirates, I didn’t know if I could win a big game,” he said soon after the season began. “I had never been in one.”[XVIII] He had his best season, going 19-6 with a 3.32 ERA — and was an All-Star for the first time. Though the Pirates finishing third in their division, Bibby angled for a raise. Pete Peterson, the club’s executive vice president, refused, noting that he didn’t try the cut Bibby’s salary after his 6-7 season in 1978. Bibby got the message and dropped the demand.

He seemed to be on the way to another dominant season the following year when, in May, he allowed a leadoff single and then retired 27 in a row in a 5-0 win against the Atlanta Braves. He threw just 93 pitches. “I was more consistent tonight than in my no-hitter,” he said.[XIX]

A players’ strike interrupted the season on June 12. Bibby made four starts when play resumed in early August before going down with what was originally diagnosed as a sore pitching shoulder. He didn’t pitch again that year. Surgeons the following April removed bone fragments from the shoulder, and Bibby sat out the season,

Though he was optimistic about a comeback, Bibby was awful in 1983 – 5-12 with a 6.99 ERA. He became a free agent in November.

He re-signed with the Rangers in February and made the club in the spring, but Texas released him in June. The Cardinals took a another chance on him and sent him to their Class AA club in Louisville, Kentucky. They cut him loose in July. Bibby finished the season as a coach for the Bulls in Durham, North Carolina.

By then, Bibby had lived for more than 15 years in Lynchburg, Virginia. He had married a local girl, Jacqueline “Jackie” Jordan,  in 1968. The couple settled in Lynchburg, where they raised two daughters.

In 1985, he signed on as the pitching coach for the Mets’ local team in the Class A Carolina League. “I miss the big-league atmosphere and the money,” he noted at the time, “but I came to accept that one day my time in the big leagues was going to end and that I would have to resort to something else. I’m just glad to get the opportunity to stay in baseball.”[XX]

He remained with the Lynchburg Mets for the next 14 years, becoming a mentor to many young pitchers, including Dwight Gooden and Aaron Sele who went on to star in the majors. “When I see guys make it to the bigs and have success there, that’s more gratifying to me than anything else,” he said.[XXI]

Bibby was the pitching coach for the Pirates’ top farm club in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2000 when he underwent surgery to replace both knees. He retired.

He died 10 years later of bone cancer in Lynchburg.

Footnotes
[1] Clergyman Moses A. Hopkins started Albion Academy, a co-educational African American school, in Franklinton in 1879. It became a public normal and industrial school, or trade school, before eventually becoming a graded school. It merged with the B.F. Person School in 1957 to become B.F. Person-Albion High School. When schools were fully integrated, the upper grades consolidated with Franklinton High School in 1969. B.F. Person-Albion High School was renamed Franklinton Elementary School.
[2] Founded by the Freedman’s Bureau in 1867, the school is one of 10 historically Black public universities in North Carolina. It was one of the first public colleges in the South to train Black teachers. It was a college during Bibby’s time and became a university in 1969.
[3] Good copy, maybe, but bad history. The team that Johnson pitched for was in Minnesota. The original Senators were one of the eight charter members of the American League in 1901. It moved to Minneapolis-St. Paul in 1960 and became the Minnesota Twins. A new Senators’ team started play in Washington in 1971. That was the team that moved to Texas.

References
[I] “Jim Bibby.”  Pittsburg (PA) Press, March 21, 1980.
[II] Costello, Rory. “Jim Bibby.” Society for American Baseball Research, 2016, https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/jim-bibby/.
[III] Ibid.
[IV] Broeg, Bob. “Control Is Big Problem for Birds’ Sweet Bibby.” St. Louis (MO) Post-Dispatch, March, 7, 1972.
[V] Costello.
[VI] Donovan, Dan. “The Road Up Has Been Long Grinds for Bibby.” Pittsburg (PA) Press, March 2, 1980.
[VII] Heryford, Merle. “Ranger Bibby Rides No-Hit Rings Around A’s.” Sporting News (St. Louis, MO), Aug. 18, 1973.
[VIII] Thompson, John. “Bibby Big Man in Ranger Plan.” Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram, Feb. 27, 1975
[IX] Heryford.
[X] Lowitt, Bruce. Associated Press. “No-Hitter Worth $5,000.” Abilene (TX) Reporter-News, July 31, 1973.
[XI] Heryford.
[XII] Lowitt.
[XIII] Thompson.
[XIV] Costello.
[XV] Donovan, Dan. “Bibby: I’m No Goose.” Pittsburg (PA) Press, May 2, 1978.
[XVI] Smizik, Bob. “Jim Bibby Finds His Place – First.” Pittsburg (PA) July 29, 1979.
[XVII]Donovan, Dan. “You Bet Your Bibby It Was a Big Buc Win.” Pittsburg (PA) Press, Sept. 29 1979.
[XVIII] “Jim Bibby.”
[XIX] Costello.
[XX] Bullla, David. “Bibby’s Back in Carolina League; This Time as Met Pitching Coach.” Winston-Salem (NC) Chronicle, May 9, 1985.
[XXI] Costello.

 

 

 

 

Baldwin, James

Position: Starting pitcher
Birthplace: Pinehurst

First Name: James Jr.
Date of Birth:  July 15, 1971
Current Residence: Pinehurst

High School: Pinecrest High School, Southern Pines, NC
College: Did not attend

Bats: R                         Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-3, 210
Debut Year: 1995       Final Year: 2005          Years Played: 11

Teams and Years: Chicago White Sox, 1995-2001; Los Angeles Dodgers, 2001; Seattle Mariners, 2002; Minnesota Twins, 2003; New York Mets, 2004, Baltimore Orioles, 2005; Texas Rangers, 2005

Awards/Honors: All-Star, 2000

 Career Summary
G         W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
266   79       74       2          5.01     1322.2 844      9.3

James Baldwin was a much-heralded prospect as he pitched his way through the Chicago White Sox’s minor leagues. If not for a kid named Derek Jeter, he would have been recognized as the best rookie in the American League in 1996. He would spend 10 more years in the majors and be an All-Star in one of them, but most of those other seasons were marred by puzzling inconsistency. He was never able to string together winning seasons, or even successful halves. Baldwin ended up as a journeyman and finished his career with just a few more wins than losses.

Born in Pinehurst in 1971, Baldwin played baseball, basketball and football at Pinecrest High School in Southern Pines, North Carolina. He was an all-conference pitcher during his senior year in 1990 when the White Sox picked him in the fourth round of the amateur draft.

The joy that came with signing his first pro contract was overwhelmed a few days later by the death of his father, James Sr. “Coming out of high school, coming into the world on your own for the first time… it was tough for me,” Baldwin said of those first days at rookie camp in Sarasota, Florida. “I didn’t know how to deal with the outside world at the time.”[I]

He got the hang of it, though, and steadily pitched his way up the White Sox minor-league system. At Birmingham, Alabama, in 1993, he led the Class AA Southern League in earned-run average (2.25), or ERA, before being promoted to Class AAA Nashville, Tennessee, where he won 12 games and cemented his standing as one of the top pitching prospects in the organization.

Baldwin was favored to open the 1994 season as Chicago’s fifth starter. He trained with the club in Sarasota that spring and was the first professional to pitch to His Airness, Michael Jordan, during an intrasquad game.[1] Baldwin’s general wildness, however, persuaded team coaches that he needed more time in Nashville, where he won 10 games that season while striking out about a batter an inning.

He earned a spot In the White Sox rotation to start the new season and debuted on April 30. It didn’t go well. He got tagged for four runs by the Boston Red Sox, though his team managed to win 17-11. Baldwin lasted for only two outs in his second start after giving up five runs and was pounded by the Detroit Tigers for four home runs in his next turn. The White Sox shipped him back to Nashville the next day. He wasn’t much better there, however, losing his last six games along with his confidence. “There was one night in Indianapolis,” Baldwin remembered. “I was on the mound, getting knocked around again, and I looked into the dugout. I almost walked off for good right there and then. So frustrated. So lost.”[II]

He returned to Pinehurst after the season. “I got down on myself, but my mother, Lucille, and my little boy (James III was four at the time) got me through it,” he said “I knew I still had my family. No one could take that away from me.”[iii]

The road back to the majors started in Venezuela where Baldwin played that winter. “I went there to sort things out,” he remembered. “I had a lot of support in America, from a lot of friends I made with the Sox, but I didn’t need any more advice, as much as I appreciated it. I needed to get up on my own two feet, relax and start over. I needed to be a man about things.”[IV]

Though he began the 1996 season in Nashville, Baldwin was summoned to Chicago in late April to replace an injured starter. He won eight games before the All-Star break but faltered afterwards. His 11-6 record, however, was good enough for second place behind the New York Yankees’ Jeter in the balloting for Rookie of the Year.

Baldwin became a reliable, but erratic, starter for the White Sox over the next five seasons, acquiring a reputation as a second-half pitcher. He had, for instance, a combined 7-12 before the All-Star break in 1998 and ’99 with an ERA approaching 7.00 and was 18-7 after the break with a 3.61 ERA. “I wish we could figure him out,” moaned Ron Schueler, the team’s general manager.[V]

The 2000 season was the exception. He was 11-4 at the midway point and was chosen to the American League All-Star team He pitched almost as well in the second half, but injuries sidelined him for almost two months. He finished 14-6. He had surgery after the season to remove a bone spur in his right shoulder and to repair his rotator cuff.

He was never the same pitcher. The White Sox traded him the Los Angeles Dodger midway through the 2001 season. Baldwin signed with eight different clubs over the next five years, appearing in games for five of them, mostly out of the bullpen. He retired after being released by the Toronto Blue Jays in April 2006.

Baldwin returned to Pinehurst to become the pitching coach at his high school where he helped his son, James, develop into a centerfielder who was drafted by the Dodgers in 2010. The youngster played six years in the minors.

Baldwin was also a coach for the Cincinnati Reds.

He and his wife, Sharon, live in Pinehurst.

Footnote
[1] Michael Jordan, who grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, retired from basketball in 1993. He surprised the sports world early the following year by signing a minor-league contract with the Chicago White Sox. He spent two years in the club’s minor leagues, advancing as far as Class AA Birmingham, Alabama, where he hit .202 and struck out 114 times. He quit in March 1995 because he feared Chicago would promote him to the majors as a replacement player during the player’ strike that season.

References
[I] Sullivan, Paul. “2nd Time up, Baldwin a Cut Above.” Chicago Tribune, July 16, 1996.
[II] Verdi, Bob. “Baldwin’s Gains Far Outweigh Friday’s Pain.” Chicago Tribune, September 14, 1996.
[III] Sullivan
[IV] Verdi
[V] Sullivan, Paul. “Baldwin Again Tries to Put It All Together.” Chicago Tribune, February 17, 2000.

 

Jones, Sherman

Position: Relief pitcher
Birthplace: Winton

First, Middle Names: Sherman Jarvis            Nickname: Roadblock
Date of Birth:  Feb. 10, 1935  Date and Place of Death: Feb. 21, 2007, Kansas City (KS)
Burial: Leavenworth National Cemetery, Leavenworth, KS

High School: C.S. Brown High School, Winton
College: Did Not Attend

Bats: L             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-4, 205
Debut Year: 1960       Final Year: 1962          Years Played: 3
Teams and Years: San Francisco Giants, 1960; Cincinnati Reds, 1961; New York Mets, 1962

 Career Summary
G         W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
48       2        6          4          4.73     110.1   53        -0.2

Sherman Jones always said his proudest achievement on a baseball field was his short, but flawless, performance during a World Series game, but what Jones did after baseball was far more important than anything he accomplished on a pitching mound. For, this son of a sharecropper from Hertford County was one of only a handful of African-Americans elected at the time to the Kansas legislature. He became a respected state senator, a leader among black politicians in the state and a stalwart defender of progressive causes.

Born outside Winton, the county seat, Sherman Jarvis Jones was the seventh of 10 surviving children. Along with working the farm, their father, Starkie, was a laborer on street projects in the county. Gladys, their mother, did other people’s laundry.

At six-foot, four inches and approaching 200 pounds, Jones was a formidable presence on the basketball court and football field at C.S. Brown High School.[1] He was also a catcher on the baseball team and for local semipro teams. He had started playing for them when he was 17 to make a little extra money. He volunteered to pitch in a game against Cuban barnstormers. “The guy that was going to pitch had an accident or got hit by a car or something,” Jones remembered years later. “They were giving him $20, so I said, “I’ll pitch.’”[I]

The New York Giants signed Jones after he graduated in 1953 and he played in their minor leagues for the next five years, interrupted by a three-year stint in the Army.  Pitching in relief, he won both games of a doubleheader for Tacoma, Washington, in 1960. A local sportswriter, impressed with Jones’ ability to emerge from the bullpen and shut down the opposition, tagged him with the nickname that would stick: Roadblock. He won 10 games in relief that season and a train ticket for San Francisco, the Giants’ home since 1957. Though he pitched well in his one-month call-up, Jones was traded to the Cincinnati Reds.

He had his longest tenure in the majors in 1961 – 55 innings that included two starts – for a pennant-winning team led by Frank Robinson and Vida Pinson. In the World Series that year, Jones was among the parade of Reds’ hurlers who the New York Yankees beat up for 13 runs to win the fifth and final game. He did better than most, entering the game in the fourth inning with his team already down 10-3. “I faced two batters and got them out,” he recalled proudly years later.[II]

The performance wasn’t good enough, however. The Reds let him go to the Mets during the expansion draft several weeks after the Series for the rock-bottom price of $50,000. Jones went from a pennant winner to a team that would lose 120 games, that was so bad night after night that its manager, the venerable Casey Stengel, would famously ask of his charges, “Does anyone here know how to play this game?”

Casey saved Jones for the team’s home opener at the old Polo Grounds. It was a rainy day and Mets “slipped and fell like novice ice skaters,” The New York Times reported.[III] Jones left in the fifth inning after two outfielders let a fly ball drop between them for a triple that scored two runs. He lost 4-3.

Jones first noticed a “tiredness” in his pitching arm when the season started. By midseason, he couldn’t lift his arm to comb his hair. The Mets sent him down to the minors to recuperate. He would never return to the majors. At least, his time with the Mets was blessedly short.

He would make something of a comeback in the bushes – winning 12 games for Raleigh, North Carolina, for instance, in 1963 – but the tiredness came back and the weariness of life in the minors with its long bus rides and the low pay was finally too much to overcome. Jones retired at the end of the 1965 season.

He also had a family to consider. Jones had met Amelia Buchanan of Atchison, Kansas, in 1956 when he was playing in Topeka, Kansas. She was a co-ed at the a local college and had been assigned to ride with Jones in a convertible during the opening-day parade. He broke his finger soon after the season began and was out of action. “I didn’t have anything to do but court her,” he later said.[IV] They were married that December. The couple had moved to Atchison in 1963 where Jones worked on his father-in-law’s livestock farm and helped raise their two girls.

After retiring, he became a cop for the Kansas City Police Department and the athletics director of a church-sponsored program for underprivileged kids. He used his interactions with the kids to help them overcome any fears of the police.“This is what I really want to do.” he explained at the time. “In a neighborhood like this, the police department needs all the help it can get to get over the point to these kids that the man in uniform would be a friend and a helper rather than an enemy if given half a chance.”[V]

Baseball, though, tried to pull him back. He became the batting-practice pitcher for the Kansas City Royals in 1970. An expansion team, the Royals had started playing a year earlier. Five years after retiring, Jones was once again putting on a uniform and joshing with the guys in the clubhouse. He realized how much he missed the sport. “I’d like to get back into baseball in some capacity,” he said at the time. “I know I could be of some help to a club, maybe as a scout or coach or perhaps in the office.”[VI]

He would, however, remain a cop, retiring as a master sergeant after 22 years.

A year later, in 1988, Jones, a Democrat, filed for the seat of a retiring legislator. He won his first try at elected office after no one ran against him. “That never happened when I was pitching,” he joked. “Somebody was always up there with a bat.”[VII] He was one of four blacks in the Kansas House of Representatives.

He was unopposed again in 1990 and ran for the state senate two years later after courts approved a redistricting plan that created a new district made up of predominantly black voters. He was one of two African-Americans elected to the senate.

Jones became an influential senator during his two terms. He was elected to lead the legislature’s black caucus and the governor appointed him to serve on committees to study the expansion of gambling and to oversee the creation of a new hospital. He also was a reliable proponent of liberal causes. He, for instance, voted repeatedly against a bill to allow Kansans to carry concealed firearms. The legislature finally passed the bill but it was vetoed by the governor. “That’s good news,” said the former cop. “I think it’s terrible policy to have frightened people carrying guns.”[VIII]

He also opposed a measure that would have made English the official language of Kansas by requiring that it be used for public records and meetings. He called it a “racist and elitist” effort against cultural and ethnic diversity. “I’ve heard no one but middle-class white people wanting this legislation,” he said.[IX] His opposition was a critical factor in the senate’s refusal to consider the bill.

After undergoing surgery for prostate cancer in 1997, Jones sponsored a bill that required insurance companies to include coverage of prostate screening in their health policies. It passed easily.

Jones turned 70 in 2000 and retired from the senate. He said it was time to go home. He died seven years later, eleven days after his birthday.

Footnote
[1] Segregated at the time, C.S. Brown High was named after Calvin Scott Brown, a pioneer in African-American education in North Carolina.

References
[I] Hanna, John. Associated Press. “Road Back: Former Met Is Turning to Politics.” St. Louis (MO) Post-Dispatch, November 27, 1988.
[II] Ibid.
[III] Ibid.
[IV] Ibid.
[V] Liston, Warren. “He Stars in the Big Leagues.” Kansas City (MO) Star, October 23, 1966.
[VI] O’Boynick, Paul. “Roadblock Is Back.” Kansas City (MO) Star, June 16, 1970.
[VII] Bordman, Sid. “It’s a Long Road Back for ‘Roadblock’ Jones.” Kansas City (MO) Star, November 11, 1988.
[VIII] Associated Press. “Override Try Possible.” Manhattan (KS) Mercury, April 22, 1997.
[IX] Associated Press. “Senate Avoids English Issue.” Manhattan (KS) Mercury, March 26, 1997.