• His nickname was “RUPE”
• Seattle made Ruppert Jones the first player selected in the 1976 expansion draft (which created the Mariners and Blue Jays)
• The first All-Star in the history of the Seattle Mariners franchise (did not play in game)
Ruppert Jones moved from Texas to Northern California where he starred in baseball at Berkeley High School. He excelled so much that he was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 3rd round of the 1973 amateur draft. Jones fared pretty well in his 3 seasons in the Royals minor leagues. In 1976, at Double-A Omaha, he had a .262 AVG, 19 HR, 73 RBI, in 102 games. He even showed off his speed with 16 SB and 9 triples!
On August 1st, 1976, Rupert Jones made his major league debut versus the Texas Rangers. He went 1-4 with an RBI. Jones played in 28 games that season, with 1 HR and 7 RBI. Better days were in store for Rupe.
In what seems like an inexplicable move, the Royals did not protect Jones from the upcoming American League expansion draft (the MLB Expansion Draft was held November 5, 1976). The Mariners were lucky to go 1st in the expansion draft with the Blue Jays; they selected their first star with a stroke of genius!
In 1977, at the fresh age of 22, Jones had an incredible first season with the Mariners. In 160 games, he had a .263 AVG, 24 HR and 76 RBI. He also led the team in runs with 85.
My dad and Rupe are connected in baseball lore: How you may ask? Well, at the very first “Businessmen Special” (weekday game in the early afternoon) in franchise history, Jones hit a game-winning home run (8th inning variety) into the left field seats at The Kingdome. Who caught that ball? None other than my father! (He still has the ball – maybe one day I can find Rupe to sign it?) Only 9,167 fans attended that game versus the Twins that day. Not many saw this, but for my dad, it’s one of his fondest sports memories ever.
Box Score link to game: 4-14-1977 Box Score
In 1979, Jones established career highs in runs (109), RBI (78), hits (166), triples (9) and stolen bases (33) while playing in every game. A star was born in the Pacific Northwest, but unfortunately, this would be the end,
Exit From Emerald City: November 1, 1979: Traded by the Seattle Mariners with Jim Lewis to the New York Yankees for Rick Anderson, Jim Beattie, Juan Beniquez and Jerry Narron.
Despite only playing in Seattle for 3 seasons, Ruppert Jones built a legacy as the first star of the Seattle Mariners. He played on bad teams but will forever be remembered as the city’s first star. Talk with any Mariner fans from the beginning, and they just might give ya a “Ruuuuuuuuuupe!”
• All-Star in 1982 with Padres
• A member of the legendary 1984 World Series champion Detroit Tigers
• On June 24, 1984 (aka my first birthday!) Jones cleared the right field roof in Tiger Stadium