Pirates Unable to Hit “Toothpick”

One never knows when going to a baseball game that history could be witnessed.

sam jonesOn the day that Sam “Toothpick” Jones tossed a no-hitter for the Chicago Cubs in 1955, not many fans were in attendance at Wrigley Field.

Toothpick’s historic moment as the first African-American to hold an opponent without a hit occurred in front of 2,918 folks on a Thursday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Many no-hitters have unforgettable moments. For Jones, his was in the ninth inning on May 12, 1955. By the last frame, the two-time all-star had only allowed one runner to reach third base, which was in the third.

Jones had also retired in order in the fourth and seventh innings, future 1960 Most Valuable Player Dick Groat, eventual Hall of Fame inductee Roberto Clemente and slugger Frank Thomas, who would hit over 30 homers in a season three times.

In the ninth, Jones lost control. In 1955, he would lead the league in walks and strikeouts and this inning was a prime example of both statistics.

Looking to preserve a 4-0 Chicago lead, the righthander began the inning by walking the bases loaded to set the stage for a remarkable performance. He was about to face all-stars Groat, Clemente and Thomas with no one out and the bases jammed.

Groat was caught looking at strike three, while Clemente went down swinging. Thomas was also no match for Jones as he watched a third strike. It’s too bad that under 3,000 fans watched the show as baseball history was created.

Jones finished the 1955 season at 14-20 for the Cubs, who ended the year in sixth place in the National League at 72-81.

In his 12-year career, Jones was 102-101 for the Cubs, Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles.

Jones, who pitched with a toothpick in his mouth, had his best season with the Giants in 1959. The Ohio native was 21-15 with an ERA of 2.83, while recording four shutouts. All of those numbers led the National League and “Toothpick” was named the Sporting News Pitcher of the Year, but he finished second in the voting for the Cy Young Award to Early Wynn.

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