The first player selected in the 1976 Major League Baseball expansion draft by the new Seattle Mariners organization, Ruppert Jones quickly made his mark on the new franchise. A multi-talented athlete with power and speed, Jones became the Mariner’s first rep at the MLB All-Star Game in 1977.
In 1979, he posted the best single-season stats of his entire career when he recorded 166 hits, scored 109 points, had nine triples, produced 78 points and stole 33 goals while playing in all 162 games.
After brief stops with the New York Yankees and a second All-Star appearance while playing for the San Diego Padres, Jones became World Series champion in 1984 with the Detroit Tigers. He also spent three years with the California Angels before ending his career in Japan.
In our latest Q&A Card Back, we catch up with the retired player and current author on getting into karate to help him out on the baseball field, hitting bombs in Seattle’s Kingdome, and how good a teammate is. by Claudell Washington was really awesome.
Tony Reid-Your 1987 Topps card stated that you enjoyed both karate and racquetball. Are those two activities that you really excelled at during your playing days?
Ruppert Jones-I didn’t play racquetball after I broke my shoulder in 1980. I stopped playing racquetball. I did karate. The two best seasons I have had in baseball, 1979 and 1982, I took up karate in the offseason. I have had my best seasons in the past two years, without a doubt.
TR-Was it the speed, timing, and hand-eye coordination in karate that helped you out on the diamond?
RJ– That was the concentration aspect of it. It was the aspect of me that really controlled my body. It was about uniting my mind to my body. I was able to go out and do that on the pitch much better.
TR-Your Topps card from 1980 stated that you were the fifth player in Kingdome history to reach the third deck with a bomb. It was 7/11/79. Do you remember hitting that moon stroke?
RJ– He was a Yankees pitcher named Ken Clay. Yeah, I hit one in the third deck. I’ll tell you what, if you look at the records and history of the Kingdome, I bet you in the right field there weren’t that many balls hit in the second bridge. I hit one in the second deck. It had to be a line reader. You couldn’t get one other than with a line reader. The second bridge was a real narrow slit. If you look at the history, I guarantee that there weren’t more than four or five balls hit in that second bridge.
TR–The back of your 1988 scorecard stated that you were a three-star sports star as a baseball outfielder, basketball goalie and football wide receiver. He also mentions the fact that you were a teammate with Claudell Washington. That’s a pretty cool fact, considering you’ve both had long careers in Major League Baseball.
RJ– I’m from Texas. In 1967 my family moved to Berkeley, California. It was in summer. I didn’t play baseball that year, but the following year, 1968, I was playing baseball on the sand court. A guy I played basketball with saw me play. He said I was a better baseball player than a basketball player. I told him the only reason I played basketball was because they didn’t have a football team. He told me they had Pony League trials. He told me to come but not to do anything. He told me to sign my name and he told me not to run or throw or do anything. He said his team won the championship and chose the last one. If the other teams saw me, they would pick me up. OK, so I went to the trials. I signed up and didn’t do anything. His team chose me. The first day we trained the team coach saw me play. He said he didn’t normally draft guys he didn’t know anything about. He said he heard I was good, but he didn’t know I was that good.
Then I played against Claudell Washington. I was 13 years old. He was by far the best player in the league. I’ll tell you how good he was. I played against him when I was 13 and 14. Claudell did not play baseball from 14 to 17 years old. We had a Connie Mack team that year and we needed players. We asked Claudell to play for us. He said okay. He hadn’t played baseball for a few years. He got out and a month later signed a free agent deal with the Oakland A’s. He goes to Oregon and kills the league. Then he goes to the Midwest League and kills the league. Then he goes to Double A and by the All Star break in Double A, the Oakland A brings him into the big leagues. So he goes 17 and at 19 he was in the big leagues after not playing baseball for three years. In two years, he was in the big leagues. That’s how good Claudell Washington was.