Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The no-hitter by former Negro League pitcher

According to the Major League record book, there have been 275 no-hitters pitched; seven this year.  The Major League total does not include the no-hitters pitched in Negro League baseball.  But it does include the one by Sam “Toothpick” Jones, the only former Negro League pitcher to throw a Major League no-hitter. 
Past feature articles, game summaries, and game box scores of African-American newspapers indicate there were at least 29 no-hitters thrown in Negro League baseball.  Most notably there were two by Satchel Paige and one each by Hilton Smith, Andy Cooper, “Smoky” Joe Williams, and Leon Day; all Hall of Fame pitchers.  The “invisible color line” that kept African–American ballplayers out of the Major Leagues was not erased until 1947 which was too late for these and other Negro League hurlers who were by then either dead or past their prime.  But there were a few younger Negro League pitchers that got their opportunity in the Major Leagues; Sam Jones was one of them.

Jones pitched for the Homestead Grays in 1946 and the Negro League World Series runner-up Cleveland Buckeyes in 1947.  He got his nickname from having a toothpick in his mouth while on the pitching mound.  It was 1950 when the Cleveland Indians finally noticed the talented hurler that was in their own backyard, but he pitched in only 16 games with them in four years and was traded to Chicago Cubs after the 1954 season.
Once in the National League, the talent Jones displayed in the Negro Leagues proved not to be a fluke.  Jones was a power pitcher with what some said was the best curveball National League hitters faced at that time.  Batters said Jones had a mean streak that was exhibited with his pitches; he hit 14 in 1955 (league leader).  There was an ongoing intense confrontation whenever Henry Aaron faced Jones that is well documented.  Jones struggled at times with control of his pitches; he led the National League in walks four times.  But he also could be overpowering; being the league leader in strikeouts three years and pitching 17 shutouts in his 12 year Major League career.  He was also twice a National League All-Star, winning 21 games with the San Francisco Giants in 1959 and 18 in 1960.  

But it was on May 12, 1955 as a Chicago Cub that Jones pitched himself into the Major League Baseball record book with a 4-0 no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  It was a “Sam Jones” pitched type of game.  He struck out six batters, walked seven, threw a Wild Pitch, and was helped with two double plays.  In the ninth inning, he walked the first three hitters before striking out the final three.
Jones won 102 games in the Major Leagues, but lost 101.  No doubt the inconsistent control of his pitches cost him victories, but he still had 1,376 career strikeouts.  And no other former Negro League pitcher, other than Don Newcombe, had the success in the Major Leagues as Sam Jones.
Along with Don Newcombe and Sam Jones, who were the other former Negro League pitchers that played in the Major Leagues?