|Mack Jones, played on 1966
J.E. Geshwiler - Staff
Friday, June 11, 2004
Mack Jones got to play two seasons for his hometown team, the Atlanta Braves, but he made a bigger splash not only out of town, but out of the country.
After a couple of seasons with the Montreal Expos, he said in 1971 that the fans in the Quebec metropolis "are without a doubt the greatest in the world," The Atlanta Constitution reported.
He was a big favorite in Montreal from his first time at bat in 1969, hitting a three-run homer in the first major league game played there. He had his best season of a decade-long career that year with a .270 average, 22 homers and 79 RBIs.
The Montreal stadium's left-field stands, where he usually parked his home runs, became known as "Jonesville."
The funeral for Mr. Jones, 65, will be noon Saturday at Mount Gilead-Mount Hermon Church of God Holiness. He died Tuesday of stomach cancer at his Atlanta residence. Murray Bros. Cascade Chapel is in charge of arrangements.
A graduate of Turner High School, Mr. Jones played baseball for an Atlanta semipro team, then worked his way up to the majors through the Milwaukee Braves farm system.
He earned the nickname "Mack the Knife" as a hard-hitting Braves rookie in 1962. When the franchise moved to Atlanta in 1966, he was part of a slugging outfield that featured the Braves' greatest star, Hank Aaron.
"I admired Mack for his talent," Mr. Aaron said. "He was tremendously gifted. He could hit with power, he had speed and he knew the strike zone. He also was a good guy in the clubhouse. I wish he had played longer."
Retiring in 1971, Mr. Jones devoted his time to looking after his children and coaching youth baseball and football, said his wife, Esther Jones.
Survivors include a daughter, Gayle McDaniel of Atlanta; a son, Rontae Jones of Atlanta; a stepdaughter, Cheryl Carpenter of Atlanta; a stepson, Antonio Hill of Atlanta; and three grandchildren.
Expos' Jones 'really loved the fans'
By JEFF BLAIR
Before all the romance and bitterness set in -- before the Team of the 80s, Rick Monday's home run, the Kid, the Spaceman, the 1994 players strike, Jeffrey Loria and even before Rusty Staub -- there was Mack Jones.
They will bid adieu to Jones today in Atlanta, where a funeral service will be held for the man known as the Mayor of Jonesville during the Montreal Expos' first season.
Jones, 65, died on Tuesday of stomach cancer, and while Staub, le Grand Orange, is the first bona fide Expos star, it was Jones's three-run home run and two-run triple that highlighted an 8-7 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in the Expos' first home opener at Jarry Park.
That begat Jonesville, a nickname given to the left-field bleachers by Montreal journalist Ted Blackman, who died two years ago of liver disease.
Former teammate Bill Stoneman remembers Jones as a largely private person.
"Mack was a person who really loved the fans and the crowd, but with us he was actually a pretty private guy," said Stoneman, the general manager of the Anaheim Angels. "The whole Jonesville concept was something he just loved. I think it was Jonesville that made him a colourful guy."
Stoneman said his only contact later was when a friend of Jones asked Stoneman, a vice-president with the Expos at the time, to scout Jones's son, Rontae.
Esther Levon Jones was married to Mack Jones for 22 years. She and a nursing assistant were with Jones when he died in bed in their home in Atlanta.
Jones was diagnosed with cancer in October and resisted any attempt to get him admitted to a hospice. His wife said he spent much of his time at a condominium the couple had in Florida before spending his final days in Atlanta, watching whatever baseball game was on television.
"He was doing good with the chemotherapy and stuff, but it was the medication after the chemotherapy that did him in," she said. "It messed up his kidneys.
"I was with him when he stopped breathing."
She agreed with Stoneman's characterization.
"Mack was a very private man," she said. "He didn't really try to keep in contact with anybody from baseball, but he still loved watching and talking the game and he liked doing all the old-timers things. We were together for 28 years and I have to tell you, he gave me a good time. He showed me a lot of things and treated me well and he treated my kids well. The phone hasn't stopped ringing here, and they say it's the same thing at the funeral home. Mack would like that."
When finality does arrive for the beleaguered franchise, whoever puts together the definitive history of the club should include a sizable chapter for the Joneses and Oil Can Boyds and Rodney Scotts and Bill Lees and anybody else whose personality helped provide the historical texture that is not offered up by mere numbers.
Jones batted .270, with 22 homers and 79 runs batted in, during the Expos' inaugural 1969 season. He was a career .252 hitter.
In addition to Rontae, Jones leaves a daughter, Gayle McDaniel of Atlanta, stepdaughter Cheryl Carpenter, stepson Antonio Hill and three grandchildren.