Toothpick Sam Jones


Image courtesy of SABR.

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!

~ baseballrebecca

Two Cuban Baseball Oral Histories

Yesterday I stumbled upon a great resource for baseball fans and researchers: the Luis J. Botifoll Oral History Project digital collection at the University of Miami. The collection includes several videos of oral history interviews that were conducted with “members of the first generations of Cubans to leave the island after the Cuban Revolution.”

The online collection contains two baseball-related interviews. The first is an oral history interview with Andres Fleitas, former player for the Almendares Blues of the Cuban baseball leagues. The University of Miami libraries blog includes a summary of the interview, and the online collection has a video of the interview. The other interview is with Rafael “Felo” Ramírez, the Spanish-language broadcaster for the Miami Marlins. The online collection contains a video of his interview, as well.

I’m sensing a future blog post on these two!


~ baseballrebecca




You Know It’s A Good Baseball Town Also When …

… the local newspaper keeps tabs on where baseball players who played at the local colleges and universities are currently playing. 

On a recent trip to New Orleans, LA, I noticed a list of all the guys who had played locally – including both major and minor league players. I knew they took college baseball really seriously in Louisiana, but this was pretty cool:

Boston Apologizes

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As the Baseball Sociologist, I am deeply concerned about what happened in Boston Monday night during the Orioles-Red Sox game. I am also concerned about the way it was covered in the media. As an Orioles fan, I am even more upset. Don’t mess with Adam Jones. Or anyone on my team.

I’m still pondering the media coverage, and will comment more on that at a later date. But I wanted to share one thing that appears to have been largely overlooked in the coverage of all this: a simple tweet by Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts:


A few hours later, Boston fans warmly welcomed Adam Jones to the field:


I don’t know how many folks were responding to Betts’ tweet, how many were simply applauding because everyone else was, or how many were truly sorry for the actions of a few bad people.

But at least it’s a start.

~ baseballrebecca


Who Am I Watching?


How are we really expected to know who these two teams are at first glance?

It’s hard to be out of town and not be able to watch your favorite teams. It’s even harder when you turn on the hotel TV to watch baseball – any baseball, because you’re desperate for baseball – only to have your mind wander and forget what you’re watching. This recently happened to me as I was watching the Rangers and Angels this past weekend.

Of course, these aren’t my favorite teams, so I wasn’t watching as closely as I usually do when it comes to baseball. And, granted, I’m used to watching the Orioles and the Nationals on a regular basis, so these weren’t players I am completely familiar with. So, its only natural, I suppose, that at one point I looked up on the screen an had no idea who I was watching.

Excuses noted above, aside, I blame this thoroughly on the two teams themselves and the uniforms they were wearing. Although they were wearing the traditional home-white and away-gray uniforms, they were wearing essentially the same colors. Shouldn’t there be a rule about both teams wearing the same color hats? Whatever happened to the Rangers’ blue uniforms? Why did they need to add that splash of red to their wardrobe?

These aren’t the only teams I have difficulties watching. Being a Nats fan, this can be particularly problematic. There’s nothing worse than when the Nats are playing the Cardinals or the Reds and everyone decides to wear red. This really isn’t as much a problem with the Orioles, although I was thoroughly confused at times last year when they played the Giants.

With all the alternate and specialty uniforms they have these days, you’d think they could find a way to avoid this. After all, haven’t they ever had to worry about showing up to a party wearing the same outfit as someone else?

As for that Rangers-Angels game, I could only tell who was who when I really paid attention. And when Darvish turned around so I could read his jersey.

~ baseballrebecca


You Know It’s A Good Baseball Town When…

DSCN4522… there is an NFL stadium right next door to the baseball stadium. That’s right, in Charlotte, NC, the Charlotte Knights’ stadium is literally next door to an NFL stadium. Not in the next town over, not on the other side of town, not even a block or two away. Right next door.

Charlotte is home to over 800,000 residents, and the Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC combined statistical area has a population of 2.5 million. That’s a lot of people who need to be entertained. A visit to BB&T Ballpark suggests that keeping those folks entertained was all part of the plan.

DSCN4572Previously, the Charlotte Knights played in Fort Mill, just down the road in South Carolina. However, that stadium’s location was blamed for the team’s poor attendance and after years of planning and negotiation, the team moved to downtown (actually known as Uptown) Charlotte in 2014.  In fact, between the last season in Fort Mill and their first season in Charlotte, attendance more than doubled. In 2016, the Knights had the largest average attendance in Minor League Baseball, averaging 8,974 fans per game.

Perhaps it really is all about location!

~ baseballrebecca