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.
Among the Cubs’ gifts for Obama were: both a home and a road jersey (no. 44, of course), a no. 44 from the Wrigley Field scoreboard, a lifetime pass to Wrigley Field, and an official pardon for being a White Sox fan. And let’s not forget the personalized Jordans from Dexter Fowler:
One thing sociologists look at is how much something influences society and culture. Thus, when baseball shows up in unexpected places, it lets us know just how pervasive it really is. A social pattern or institution that is common to all societies is known as a “cultural universal.” Has baseball reached that status yet?
The other day I was watching “Violetta” on Netflix. “Violetta” is a teen telenovela that aired on Disney Channel Latin America from 2012-2015. The show takes place in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The characters on the show, high-school aged music students, are from Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, and Italy.
As the story unfolded, I noticed that one of the characters was wearing a shirt that had a graphic on it that seemed familiar. I had a feeling of what it was, but it was hard to get a good look at it, since he was wearing a sweatshirt over it. So I took a picture of the TV screen in order to study it more closely.
That’s when I realized I was right. This character from Mexico on the Argentinian soap opera for kids was wearing a Chicago Cubs t-shirt. Cool.
Now, sure, baseball is played around the world – and the Cubs have a long and storied history. But I found it interesting that the Cubs’ logo found its way into this particular TV show. I’m in the middle of season 2 of the show, and they’ve never discussed baseball – or any sport. The kids on the show generally don’t wear clothing with American logos on them. I’ve never noticed anything like this before.
And it got me thinking about baseball’s cultural reach. Is baseball truly a cultural universal? Is this a result of MLB’s international efforts? Or does this actor-kid just really like the Cubs?