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Mon, 12.14.1925

“What a curve ball,” Sam Jones

Sam Jones

Sam Jones was born on this date in 1925. He was a Black baseball player.

Sam Jones, born in Stewartsville, Ohio, pitched the Cleveland Buckeyes to the Negro World Series in 1947.  He was known as Red in the Negro Leagues for his reddish complexion. In the majors, Jones became Sad Sam, after the original Sad Sam Jones, and Toothpick Sam for the toothpick he always chewed on the mound.

He signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1950, but the rotation of Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, and Mike Garcia was a tough one to get into. Traded to the Cubs, on May 12, 1955, Jones threw a no-hitter against Pittsburgh, the first Black man to do so.  That year he led the N.L. in losses (20), strikeouts, and walks (185), while allowing only 175 hits. He repeated as strikeout and walk leader in 1956 and again in 1958 after his trade to the Cardinals. With the Giants in 1959, he was both a leading starter and most effective reliever.

On June 30 of that season, at Los Angeles, an error by Giant shortstop Andre Rodgers was scored a single, keeping Jones from a second no-hitter, He got it instead on September 26, though it was a rain-shortened, seven-inning one against St. Louis. His 21 wins in 1959 led the N.L., as did his 2.83 ERA and 109 walks. That year he was the only N.L. pitcher to receive a MVP vote. After an 18-14 season in 1960, Jones was hindered by arm problems, winning only 12 more over the next four seasons.

Hobie Landrith, who caught Jones with the Cubs, Cards, and Giants said, "You've never seen a curve ball until you've seen Sam Jones's curve ball. If you were a right-handed hitter that ball was a good four feet behind you.” It took a little courage to stay in there because he was wild and he could throw a fastball very hard.

Sam Jones died on November 5, 1971 in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Reference:
20th Century Baseball Chronicle
Year-By-Year History of major league Baseball
Copyright 1999, Publications International Ltd.
ISBN 0-7853-4074-2

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