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ONE BIG MOMENT – Ruppert Jones vs the White Sox (August 12, 1980)

by Paul Semendinger

October 26, 2020

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Being the Editor-in-Chief of a great Yankees blog has its privileges. The other day, I had a chance to call and talk to one of my favorite baseball players of all-time – Ruppert Jones. I interviewed Ruppert for the SSTN Interview Series. (Our interview will be published in a few weeks.)

Ruppert Jones was a Yankee for all but one season, 1980. That summer I turned 12-years-old. On my baseball team, I was the centerfielder, Jones’ position on the Yankees. From the moment I first ran out to my spot in the outfield, and all season long, I was called “Ruppert.” The name stuck and for some kids, I stayed “Ruppert” or “Rupe” for the rest of the days of my childhood.

As kids and as fans, players touch us in singular ways. Ruppert Jones was always one of those players I rooted for. I felt we had a connection even if I never met him.

In our recent conversation, I asked Ruppert Jones to share his best Yankees moment. Here is that story:

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The 1980 was not a great season for Ruppert Jones. He got off to a slow start and then had to have surgery in late May to remove an adhesion from an appendix surgery the previous year. Jones wouldn’t return to the lineup until July 10.

But he still never started hitting.

On August 12, Jones was batting in the .220’s with but 8 homers and just 38 RBIs. That night, he was penciled in as the number two hitter in the batting order – right behind Willie Randolph and right before Bob Watson and Reggie Jackson.

Against left-handed pitcher Steve Trout, Ruppert Jones grounded out in his first at bat.

In the bottom of the third, with the Yankees trailing 1-0, and with Willie Randolph at first base, Ruppert Jones struck out.

The Yankees took a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning, but no thanks to Jones. He grounded out to end the inning.

With the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Ruppert Jones came up with the bases loaded and no outs. He grounded into a double play. A run scored, but Ruppert Jones had killed the buddy rally.

In the bottom of the 8th, with the game knotted now at 4-4, Ruppert Jones came up with Willie Randolph at second base and just one out. Jones flew out. The Yankees didn’t score.

The game eventually went into extra innings.

In the bottom of the 10th inning, the Yankees put together a rally. With one out Aurelio Rodriguez walked. Jim Spencer then pinch-hit for Bucky Dent and singled Rodriguez to third. As Fred Stanley went in to pinch-run for Spencer, the White Sox determined to walk Willie Randolph, a right-handed hitter, to face Ruppert Jones, a lefty-batter, against the right-handed throwing Ed Farmer. I was the ultimate insult.

It was in that moment that Ruppert Jones turned the boos into cheers. He worked the count to 3-2 and then hit a game winning grand slam home run. The Yankees’ victory was his.

The 1980 season wasn’t a great one for Ruppert Jones, but on August 12, he had his “Yankees Moment.”

To that point in Yankees’ history, only four other players had hit walk-off grand slams in Yankees history. Those players were:

Babe Ruth (1925)

Red Ruffing (1933) – Ruffing was a pitcher, the only Yankees pitcher to ever do this!

Charlie Keller (1942)

Joe Pepitone (1969)

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Note – On June 25, 1985, Ruppert Jones became the first player to ever have two game winning walk off grand slams when he did this as a Tiger against the Cleveland Indians.

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One more note – the next walk-off Grand Slam for the Yankees was this one (from another of my favorite players) Mike Pagliarulo in 1987:

Since that time, the following other Yankees have hit walk-off grand slams:

Jason Giambi (2002)

Alex Rodriguez (2007)

Mark Teixeira (2016)

(My walk-off grand slam information came from: YankeesNumbers.com)

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