Sam Jones - "The Toothpick"
May 28, 2009
by William Szczepanek
This Sam Jones should not be confused with the Sam Jones who played basketball for the Boston Celtics, or Sam Jones the musician, or the female singer, Samantha Jones, or the pitcher for the American League Yankees, White Sox, and Red Sox from 1914-1935, or Sam Jones the actor. Known as “Toothpick” this “Sad Sam” Jones pitched in both leagues and had some very good years. For the Cleveland Indians in 1952 he and Quincy Trouppe formed the first black battery in the American League.
Sam Jones pitched a no-hitter against the Pirates on May 12, 1955. It was the first no-hitter by an African American in the Major Leagues. He walked the bases loaded in the ninth and then struck out Dick Groat, Roberto Clemente and Frank Thomas to complete the no-hit game. He walked seven in the game. The achievement earned him a golden toothpick. It was also the first no hit game that I ever saw on TV, and was the first in Wrigley Field since Hippo Vaughn threw nine hitless innings against Fred Toney of the Reds in 1917. I was not alive then. Vaughn lost the game in the tenth. Toney pitched a no hitter. This was the only game where two pitchers have pitched nine no hit innings each.
Jones also set the modern, major league record for walks that year, while leading the league in hit batsmen. Stan Musial and his battery mate, Hobie Landrith of the Cubs, considered his curveball to be one of the best of all time. His wicked curveball, combined with a good fastball and consistent wildness, kept batters from getting too comfortable in the batter’s box.
He pitched a one-hitter on June 15, 1959. On September 26, 1959, Jones had a no-hitter through seven innings, but rain stopped that game, so he did not get credit for a no-hitter.
Three times Jones led the league in strikeouts, and four times he led the league in walks. In 1959, he led the NL in wins with 21 and an ERA of 2.83.
Jones died at age 45 in 1971.
You can check out Jones's stats at Baseball-Reference.com.