On May 12, 1955, Sam Jones became the first African American player to pitch a no-hitter, striking out Roberto Clemente and Frank Thomas to end the game. He also happened to be one-half of the first all-black battery (pitcher and catcher) along with Quincy Trouppe in 1952. (By the way, May 10 marked the anniversary of the first – and only – no hitter thrown by a French-born player: on May 10, 1981, Charlie Lea threw a no hitter for the Montreal Expos.)
Jones was born on December 14, 1925, in Stewartsville, OH. After three years in the Negro Leagues (Oakland Larks and Cleveland Buckeyes) and two in the minor leagues, he made his MLB debut with the Cleveland Indians in September 1952. He returned to the minors for the 1953 and 1954 seasons and then was traded to the Chicago Cubs. He was with the Cubs when he pitched his famous no-hitter in 1955.
Known as “Toothpick Sam” because he nearly always had a toothpick in his mouth, Jones would go on to play for St. Louis, San Francisco, Detroit, and Baltimore. He was an all-star in 1955 and 1959, as well as the NL wins leader and ERA leader in 1959 and the NL strikeout leader in 1955, 1956, and 1958. Jones retired after the 1964 season with a career win-loss record of 102-101, an ERA of 3.59, and 1,376 strikeouts. Sadly, Toothpick Sam passed away at the age of 45 on November 5, 1971.
Thanks for making history, Sam!