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20 years ago, local baseball fans invaded spring training

Avoca’s Ned Jones was on a mission to get players’ autographs for his ailing son

Ned Jones with Hall of Famer Jim ‘Catfish’ Hunter during the 1986 baseball trip.

Ned Jones with beloved Yankees centerfielder Bernie Williams.

Ned Jones with Yankee pitcher Jim Abbott who, despite being born with only one arm, made it to the Major Leagues and pitched a no-hitter in 1993 at Yankee Stadium.

Mike Carroll with Dick Vermeil, NFL football coach.

Mike Carroll, right, with Phillies’ Dave Cash.

Phillies general manager Bill Giles, center, with Ned Jones and Mike Carroll.

Twenty years ago, Ned Jones wanted to do something nice for his son, Dave. He was suffering from a heart condition and would have liked nothing more than a signed baseball from one of his favorite players. Little did Ned know that 20 years later he would have amassed one of the most prolific and impressive baseball collections one can put together.

In order to set off on his mission to get a signed ball, Ned enlisted the help of his good friend Mike Carroll. Mike was going to spring training in Florida and Ned was going to tag along with some other friends, including Dan Llewellyn, Jim Allardyce, Bill Riccetti, Jim Jumper, and Tom Lacomis.

Knowing they weren’t going to get much more than an upper deck ticket at one of the games, Carroll decided to try to help the cause. He went to Ed Ackerman, then managing editor of the Sunday Dispatch, who provided him with a press pass and send bring back some photos for the paper. Neither one was sure if it would work.

There was one problem though: no baseball.

A contract dispute had halted play. But, Ned was not going to give up on his son.

Next year they tried the same thing, only this time they had better results.

They wound up meeting some of the most famed figures of baseball including: Yankees Don Mattingly, Paul O’Neil, Bernie Williams, and the boss himself, George Steinbrenner. They were also able to meet some great Phillies players, including John Kruk, Lenny Dykstra and general manager Bill Giles.

They met the players, they ate with the players, they drank with the players, and they shared stories with them.

Jim Jumper was excited about seeing a different person. During one of the games he was stunned to see Hall of Fame organist Wilbur Snapp. Snapp is famous for playing Three Blind Mice on his organ once the umpires blew a call. Eventually the umpire threw him out. He became the first and only organist to be thrown out of a baseball game.

Bill Riccetti even added a bit of surprise to the trip when, to the disbelief of the rest of the group, he called current Red Baron Dave Cash, and asked him to show them around. Apparently, they were good friends and he was able to give them a tour of the field.

Through all the excitement and the activities, Ned Jones was able to get enough memorabilia for his son. He returned home with a big smile and a ton of stories.

Ned continued to grow his collection of baseball memorabilia throughout the years. Twenty years later he has signed baseballs from players such as: Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Tom Seaver, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt, Ted Williams, Yogi Berra, Tom Larson, Harmon Killebrew, Ernie Banks, Pete Rose, Reggie Jackson, Eddie Matthews, Cal Ripken Jr., and Frank Robinson.

Dave Jones, Ned’s son, passed away the next year on March 15, 1992.

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