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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

"Rooftop Ruppert" Jones and His 12-Year Ride in Major League Baseball

Ruppert Jones has one of the coolest nicknames in baseball history; “Rooftop Ruppert.” This was due to his proclivity in hitting tape measure home runs in Tiger Stadium during his lone season with the Detroit Tigers in 1984. However, this is just one part of a greater 12-year major league career enjoyed by the former outfielder.

The left-handed Jones was a voracious athlete growing up in Berkeley, California. He played baseball, basketball and football, and was good enough to earn scholarship offers to play wide receiver from major football powerhouses such as the University of Southern California and Arizona State University.

Given how he was regarded as a prospect, he decided to pursue baseball instead and was selected in the third round of the 1973 draft by the Kansas City Royals, who immediately started the 18-year-old off on his professional journey in the minor leagues. He responded quickly, hitting .301 and .320 in his first two years. He made his major league debut in 1976 at the age of 21, hitting .216 with a home run and seven RBIs in 28 games.

For whatever reason, the Royals did not protect Jones ion that off season’s expansion draft and the newly minted Seattle Mariners snapped him up with the first pick. It was a wise moved, as he was an All Star the next season in 1977, hitting .263 with 24 home runs and 76 RBIs in 160 games.

Jones played three seasons with the Mariners and went on to also play for the New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, aforementioned Tigers and the California Angels. All told, in his 12 seasons he hit a combined .250 with 1,103 hits, 147 home runs, 579 RBIs and 143 stolen bases. He also added another All Star appearance in 1982 with the Padres.

As his career unfolded, he slid into more of a platoon role, as he fared much better against right-handed pitcher (.264/.348/.448) than he did against southpaws (.212/.281/.328). His final major league season was in 1987, with the Angels. He hung on to play another two years in the minors and in Japan, but retired as a player following the 1989 season due to a torn rotator cuff.

I was recently able to connect with Jones to ask him about his career. Keep reading for more about “Rooftop Ruppert” and his memories of his time in baseball.

Ruppert Jones Interview:

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up?: Willie Mays.

Can you describe your draft experience with the Kansas City Royals in 1973- How did you find out you had been selected?: I went to the public library to get updates on the draft where I found out Kansas City drafted me in third round.

What do you remember most about your major league debut?: I got a hit my first at bat against Gaylord Perry.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: Winning the World Series in 1984 as a member of the Detroit Tigers.

The 1985 California Angels included future Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson, Don Sutton and Rod Carew on the roster. What kind of influence did they have on the team?: I played against all those gentlemen for years and it was a  pleasure. Being their teammate is something I remember to this day. Also being around them, I quickly found out why they were so special as players.

Who was the toughest, nastiest pitcher you ever faced?: The Frank Tanana I faced in 1977.

If there is anything you could go back and do differently about your baseball career, what would that be?: I wish I would have not sustained so many injuries and truly discovered what kind of player I may have become.

What are you up to since retiring as a player?: I worked for a great company, The Boon Group, located in Austin, Texas. I sold employee benefits to government contractors that work on Prevailing Wage, Davis-Bacon and Service Contracts. These contracts have a built in hourly amount for health and pension benefits on their contracts. Most contracts that are funded with Federal and State dollars require contractors to pay hourly benefits. Believe it or not the contractors actually save money using those hourly dollars and purchasing benefits for their employees.

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

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