Doug Jones: The “Sultan of Slow”

Most closing pitchers in Major League Baseball are known for their ferocious fastballs and high energy. After all, they sit on the bench for the first six or seven innings. By the time closers mount the mound in the eighth or ninth inning, the rest of the team (and the opposing batter) is exhausted, allowing the relief pitcher’s well rested arm to drive the final nail in the coffin of a victory or turn the tides in the favor of a lagging team. Lebanon, Indiana resident Doug Jones, on the other hand, went about his closing duties with deliberate precision, throwing slow change-ups and meandering circle changes to confuse batters and ultimately make them whiff. Known as the “Sultan of Slow,” the story of Doug Jones is one of perseverance, timing, and patience, all of which were characterized by his maddening change-ups.

The son of a race car driver, Doug Jones was born in Covina, California, but soon moved with his family to Lebanon, Indiana, where he attended Lebanon High School. After his graduation from the Lebanon school, Jones moved to Indianapolis to see what the Butler University baseball team had to offer. He pitched for the Bulldogs for a year before switching schools to Central Arizona Community College. After his stint in Arizona, he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers. He spent an astonishing ten years paying his dues in the minor leagues, a startling contrast to other Indiana baseball players like Kyle Gibson who rocketed through the minors. Jones’ problems weren’t caused by a lack of skill; rather, he had re-occurring shoulder issues that kept him from peak performances.

After ten years of wallowing in the minor leagues, however, Doug Jones finally got his chance to play in the big leagues when he was picked up by the Cleveland Indians in 1986. By 1988, Jones had proved his worth. He was the starting closer for the Indians and racked up a record 37 saves in the 1988 season. By the time he left the Indians in 1991, he held the all-time Indians save record with 129; unfortunately, his record was broken by Bob Wickman in 2006. During his time in Cleveland, Doug Jones was selected to three American League All-Star teams for three straight years, in 1988, 1989, and 1990.

Though the Cleveland Indians did not renew Doug Jones‘ contract in 1991, he was quickly picked up by the Houston Astros, with whom he recorded his best ever season. During that 1991 season, Jones racked up 36 saves, 93 strikeouts, and a 1.85 ERA. After the Astros, however, the Lebanon sports figure didn’t stay with a team for more than a few years. He left the Astros in 1993 and signed on with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1994. From there, he joined the Baltimore Orioles, the following year the Chicago Cubs, and the year after that (1996) he returned to his minor league ball club, the Milwaukee Brewers. He again traded teams in 1998, when returned to the Cleveland Indians for a single season.

Doug Jones spent his final two seasons, from 1999 to 2000, with the Oakland Athletics. At the time of his retirement from Major League Baseball in 2000, he was the oldest pitcher in the league at the age of 43. He ended his long, 16 year professional baseball career with 303 saves (12th most in MLB) and made 846 appearances on the mound. He pitched in a total of five All-Star games, three of them on the American League All-Star team (1988, 1989, 1990) and two with the National League All-Star team (1992 and 1994). Currently, Doug Jones lives in Tucson, Arizona, where he is an assistant coach for the San Diego Christian College Hawks. Like fellow Lebanon resident Craig Terrill, Jones also dabbles in music: he and his wife are the founders of a Christian music label, His Heart Music, LLC.

This famous Lebanon person is a model for perseverance. Despite a slow ten years in the minor leagues, Doug Jones eventually rose above his physical problems to become an excellent closer. The “Sultan of Slow” took his time with everything, from his change-ups to his career, and his precision has paid off. He was a reliable closer for a number of different Major League Baseball teams, appeared in five All-Star games, and was nominated for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. Slow and steady wins the race, and nobody knows this better than the Sultan of Slow, Doug Jones.

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