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Sam Jones (December 14, 1925—November 5, 1971), also known as Sad Sam Jones and Toothpick Jones, was the first African-American to pitch a no-hitter in Major League Baseball. Born in Ohio, Jones moved to Monongah, Marion County, as a young boy with his family so his grandfather could pursue work in the coal mines. Before taking up baseball, Jones won the state marble-shooting championship in 1937 and played football and basketball as a student at Fairmont’s Dunbar High School.

Jones began playing baseball while serving in the U.S. Army in the 1940s. He joined the Cleveland Buckeyes of the Negro American League in 1947, and signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1949. Sam Jones made his Major League debut with the Indians on September 22, 1951, against the Detroit Tigers. In a May 3, 1952, game he and catcher Quincy Trouppe made up the first black pitcher-catcher duo in American League history.

As a Chicago Cub, Jones threw his historic no-hitter on May 18, 1955, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Remarkably, he walked the first three batters in the final inning before striking out the next three batters (including Pirates legend Roberto Clemente) to secure his place in baseball lore. In addition to Cleveland and Chicago, Jones’s Major League career included stints with the St. Louis Cardinals, the San Francisco Giants, the Detroit Tigers, and the Baltimore Orioles. He also played winter baseball for a number of years in Latin America and the Caribbean. His accolades include selection as the National League Pitcher of the Year and runner-up for the Cy Young Award in 1959; leading the National League in strikeouts in 1955, 1956, and 1958; and selection to the All-Star Game in 1955 and 1959.

During the off-seasons in many years, Jones lived in Monongah and worked at a local dry-cleaning shop. After his playing days ended in 1967, he returned to Monongah and opened a drive-through car wash. The moving story of Jones’s special friendship with a young fan who came to visit and stayed with him in the WVU Hospital was told by Fairmont reporter John Veasey in 1971. In that year, Sam Jones died of cancer. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Fairmont.

This Article was written by Jay Cole

Last Revised on March 02, 2017


Sources

Veasey John. Now, Johnny Visits Sad Sam. Charleston Daily Mail, October 7, 1971.

Schaap Dick. The Ups and Downs of Sad Sam. Sport, June 1960.

Sam Jones. Society for American Baseball Research

Cite This Article

Cole, Jay "Sam Jones." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 02 March 2017. Web. 17 October 2018.

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