I walk up and down steep hills in my neighborhood for an hour just about every day in an effort to hold back Father Time. Recently, during one of these treks, I got behind a group of kids who appeared to be walking home from school. They looked to be about eleven-or-twelve years old. I could see they were in animated conversation amongst each other but I couldn’t hear a word they were saying because I was wearing ear-plugs connected to my iPod™ at the time, listening to the glorious Patsy Cline sing “Crazy.” One of the youngsters in the pack suddenly made a tossing motion with his arm and perhaps three seconds later, I saw a Jefferson head nickel rolling toward my Nike walking sneakers.
When I was their age, it would have been unimaginable for me to throw away a penny, much less a freaking nickel. Five cents in my childhood was like gold because it would buy me a pack of Topps™ baseball cards. There have been very few self-indulgences in my lifetime that can compare to the feeling of enjoyment I would get, tearing the wax paper of of one of those packs. I’d grab the stick of cement-like pink gum first and quickly shove it in my mouth and next turn the thin stack of five cards around without fanning them out. If that first card was someone you didn’t yet have in your collection it was a great omen. If it happened to be a member of your favorite team who you didn’t yet have, you got really excited. Slowly, I would slide the top card upward with my thumb to uncover the second, third, fourth and then the final cards in the pack. I’d carefully reveal the team name or logo first and then the player’s name and finally the face. The total sum of what was in that single five-cent pack of cards could make or break your spirit for the whole day.
OK so why am I telling you this in a post of the Beantown Baseball Birthday Blog? You see the card pictured at the top of today’s post? It is the 1965 Topps issue for former Red Sox infielder, James Dalton Jones. It also represents for me, a terrible childhood memory. Why? Because when I was kid, I bet you I got this same stinking card at least fifteen times during the 1965 card-collecting season. I still remember the horror I would feel when I’d slide a card from a freshly open pack diagonally upward and see the classic but ugly Red Sox-batting logo and the letters D…a…l revealed. It would have of course been wonderful if it was the Yaz card I kept getting because you could trade your Yaz doubles for at least five guys you didn’t yet have. About the only thing you could do with 1965 Dalton Jones doubles was fasten them with clothespins to the spokes of your bicycle to make it sound like a Harley™ instead of a Schwinn.™
I apologize to Dalton for disparaging his baseball card, especially on his birthday. He was just 20-years old when Boston Manager, Johnny Pesky made him the Red Sox starting second baseman in 1964. He hit just .230 in his rookie season but improved to .270 the following year. In all he played six seasons with Boston, splitting his time between second and third base. The highlight of his Red Sox career was the 1967 World Series. After hitting a career-high .289 as a lefty-platoon hitter that season, Manager Dick Williams played Jones in six games of that year’s Fall Classic and he responded with seven hits and a .389 batting average.
Dalton played two more seasons for Boston before getting traded to the Tigers in December of 1969. While the baseball card pictured at the top of this post is my least favorite photo of Jones, I absolutely love the second picture shown in today’s post. I found it in a book called “Baseball in Baton Rouge” and it shows Jones as a seven-year-old in the backyard of his Baton Rouge home wearing the uniform of his favorite team, the Boston Red Sox. His favorite player as a kid was the Splendid Splinter. The youngster would tell everyone who would listen back then that some day, he would play for the Boston Red Sox. Congratulations Dalton, for living your dream and Happy Birthday too!