In case you didn’t notice, we’ve moved on from 1969. We’re fast-forwarding four years to the 1973 season. There was little to get excited about in 1973 than 1969. In fact, the Padres won only eight more games. However, the one glimmer of hope for San Diego came in the form of a frizzy-haired lefty. On April 16, 1973, Padres fans would get their first glimpse of Randy Jones. Or at least they would read about it.
During the daylight hours of the New York City summer, the Padres took the field against another relatively new franchise, the New York Mets. Playing in Shea Stadium, on a plot of land that at one time was supposed to keep the Dodgers in New York, the Padres were a small fry in the Big Apple. It was a normal day in baseball, one in which Bob Gibson won his sixth game of the season, Bobby Bonds hit his 17th home run, and the Cubs extended their National League East* lead to 4.5 games over the Montreal Expos. Yet on this normal day, the Padres would be exposed to a pitcher who would one day find his number retired in San Diego.
*The divisions were split by just East and West during this era.
Mike Caldwell started the game for the Padres. He would finish the 1973 season with a 5-14 record, and this game would do nothing to help that record. In all Caldwell would go on to have a very respectable career. He won 137 games verse 130 losses, had a career 3.81 ERA, and threw 23 complete games for Milwaukee in 1978. Yet on this warm day in Flushing, New York, Caldwell would come up short. He would throw just three innings, give up six hits, walk two, and allow seven runs.
After Mike Corkins and Rich Troedson came in and collectively pitched one inning and gave up no runs, Randy Jones was given his shot. Jones grew up in California, played high school ball in California, played college ball in California, and eventually was drafted in the fifth round by the San Diego Padres. And on June 16, 1973, he made his Major League debut.
It was the bottom of the fifth inning when Jones climbed the Shea stadium mound and marked his first trip to a Major League mound. The first batter he faced, Ted Martinez a skinny utility infielder who would play nine years in the league, quickly ground out to Jones. Jones would then retire the next two batters in the inning for a perfect start to his career. Unfortunately, the sixth inning was next for Jones.
In the bottom of the sixth, Jones was facing Willie Mays. Mays was in the last year of his career, but still showed flashes of power. He hit six home runs in 66 games with the Mets. And one of them was about to come off Randy Jones. With no one on base, Willie Mays took Jones deep. Jones would proceed to give up two more straight hits before getting an out in the inning. He would give up just one more hit in his debut game. He gave up a one-out hit with runners on first and second. The hit came off the bat of Jim Fregosi. Fregosi was two years removed from appearing in five straight All-Star games. He drove in Felix Millan, a three-time All-Star himself. That would do it for Jones.
His debut started out about as promising as any start to a career could. A perfect frame. However, as is often the case with young pitchers, Jones imploded in his second inning of work. The relief appearance would be his only appearance out of the bullpen in the 1973 season. He would go on to start 19 games in 1973 and post a 3.16 ERA. It was a solid start to a career that would eventually lead Jones down the path of being one of the Padres all-time best players.
Thanks to Retrosheet for providing the box score from this game.