July 12, 1976
The Cy young special costs $8.75. It's a quarter of a chicken, two pork ribs and a beef rib, all slathered in barbecue sauce, plus two side orders and a cornbread muffin. It's a good deal that only gets better, what with the stories and autographs that come with it. "I love the interaction," says former Padres lefthander Randy Jones, the 1976 National League Cy Young Award winner and owner of the barbecue stand that bears his name at Qualcomm Stadium. "I sign for the kids, and then I have to convince them that I was a major leaguer at one time."
That's because he was in the limelight for only two of his 10 big league seasons, as a 20-game winner in 1975 and during that glorious summer of '76. Standing just 6-feet tall (6'2" with his Harpo Marx hair), weighing 178 pounds and throwing a 73-mph fastball, Junkman Jones was hardly intimidating. Pete Rose once stepped out of the batter's box and shouted at him, "Throw hard, dammit!"
Jones didn't need to. At the All-Star break in '76 he was 16-3. But a not-so-funny thing happened to him as he tried to become the only southpaw other than Lefty Grove to win 30 games in a season: He started getting hit—often. In his final start of the season he felt something tear in his left forearm. The strain of pitching a league-high 25 complete games and 315 innings had severed the nerve attached to his biceps tendon. He couldn't flex a muscle. He finished the year 22-14. "After that," he says, "it was years of futility and frustration."
With rest he was able to throw again, but he was never the same pitcher as before. He was dealt to the New York Mets in '81 and released after two years. Jones retired with a 100-123 record and returned to Poway, Calif., where his wife, Marie, and daughters, Staci and Jami, lived during the season. He went to work in his sister's catering business, which led to a gig as a food broker. While playing golf with Qualcomm Stadium's concessions director in 1994, Jones thought of opening his own barbecue stand. The sauce he created, Randy Jones Ballpark Barbecue Sauce, is on San Diego grocery-store shelves.
On Padres home dates, Jones, 48, holds court at his 36-table eatery, except when he's doing the Padres' pre-and postgame radio shows. "Life is good," he says. "I love what I do. It's fun being around the ball club and having a new identity."