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Former Phillies All-Star closer Doug Jones dies at 64

Jones pitched 16 seasons in the majors with seven teams, including one with the Phillies, who acquired him to replace Mitch Williams.

Doug Jones closes out a Phillies win over the Cubs in 1994.
Doug Jones closes out a Phillies win over the Cubs in 1994.Read moreSteven M. Falk

Doug Jones, who pitched an All-Star season for the Phillies after being acquired to replace Mitch Williams following the 1993 World Series heartbreak, died Monday at 64.

Mr. Jones pitched 16 seasons in the majors with seven teams and recorded 303 career saves, all but one of which were recorded after he turned 30. The right-hander spent the majority of his first nine professional seasons in the minor leagues until carving a lengthy big-league career with a masterful changeup.

He closed 27 games for the Phillies in 1994 before a player strike in August canceled the season. Greg Swindell, a former teammate and longtime friend, tweeted that Mr. Jones died from complications of COVID-19.

The Phillies acquired Mr. Jones along with right-hander Jeff Juden in December of 1993 in a trade with Houston in return for Williams, who had allowed the World Series-clinching three-run homer to Joe Carter in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 6 just six weeks earlier. Jones was 36, coming off a down season, and was still owed more than $3 million.

But the Phillies felt they had to move Williams, who was seven years younger and had saved 43 games in 1993 before melting down against the Blue Jays. Mr. Jones proved to be the right fit. He had the third-most saves in the National League and his ERA (2.17) was the second-best among NL relievers.

Mr. Jones pitched a scoreless inning in the All-Star Game and was the winning pitcher. It was Mr. Jones’ fifth All-Star selection; he earned the honor three times with Cleveland and once with Houston.

Williams, who appeared in just 52 big-league games and had just six saves after being traded, leaned on velocity in the ninth inning while Mr. Jones was crafty.

“He has that changeup,” then-Braves slugger Fred McGriff said at the 1994 All-Star Game. “You see a lot of guys who can throw the ball 90 mph and they get hit hard. But it’s the guys who can change speeds who win. When he gets you out, you’re made. You’ve been outsmarted. You’d rather have a guy just blow you away than for that to happen.”

Mr. Jones left the Phillies as a free agent after the 1994 season and pitched six more seasons before retiring after the 2000 season, when he was the game’s oldest player at 43 and made 54 appearances for Oakland. Just seven other pitchers — Joe Heving, Jim Kaat, Diomedes Olivo, Jesse Orosco, Satchel Paige, Mariano Rivera, and Hoyt Wilhelm — have made at least 54 appearances in a season at 43 or older. For Mr. Jones, the key was his changeup.

“That’s part of the fun of pitching,” Mr. Jones said. “I remember when I was pitching for Cleveland and I’d face Don Mattingly when we played the Yankees. If I’d get him out, he’d go back to the dugout and I’d hear bats breaking, helmets slamming, cussing. You get in a hitter’s head when you have some success like that.”