Lew Burdette

Selva Lewis Burdette, Jr. (November 22, 1926 – February 6, 2007) was an American right-handed starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who played primarily for the Boston and Milwaukee Braves.[1] The team's top right-hander during its years in Milwaukee, he was the Most Valuable Player of the 1957 World Series, leading the franchise to its first championship in 43 years, and the only title in Milwaukee history.[2] An outstanding control pitcher, his career average of 1.84 walks per nine innings pitched places him behind only Robin Roberts (1.73), Greg Maddux (1.80), Carl Hubbell, (1.82) and Juan Marichal (1.82) among pitchers with at least 3,000 innings since 1920.

Lew Burdette
Lew Burdette 1954
Burdette in 1954.
Born: November 22, 1926
Nitro, West Virginia
Died: February 6, 2007 (aged 80)
Winter Garden, Florida
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 26, 1950, for the New York Yankees
Last MLB appearance
July 16, 1967, for the California Angels
MLB statistics
Win–loss record203–144
Earned run average3.66
Career highlights and awards

Major League career

Born in Nitro, West Virginia, Burdette was signed by the New York Yankees in 1947, and after making two relief appearances for the team in September 1950, he was traded to the Braves in August 1951 for four-time 20-game winner Johnny Sain.[3] Along with left-hander Warren Spahn and Bob Buhl, he gave the Braves one of the best starting rotations in the majors during the 1950s, winning 15 or more games eight times between 1953 and 1961. Burdette led National League pitchers in earned run average in 1956.[4] When Milwaukee won the 1957 World Series against the Yankees, Burdette became the first pitcher in 37 years to win three complete games in a series, and the first since Christy Mathewson in 1905 to pitch two shutouts (Games 5 and 7).[5][6] In the 1958 Series, however, the Yankees defeated Burdette twice in three starts.[7] In addition to winning 20 games in 1958 and tying Spahn for the National League lead with 21 victories in 1959, Burdette won 19 in 1956 and 1960, 18 in 1961, and 17 in 1957.[1][8]

Burdette was the winning pitcher on May 26, 1959 when the Pittsburgh Pirates' Harvey Haddix pitched a perfect game against the Braves for 12 innings, only to lose in the 13th.[9] Burdette threw a 1–0 shutout, scattering 12 hits. In the ensuing offseason, he joked, "I'm the greatest pitcher that ever lived. The greatest game that was ever pitched in baseball wasn't good enough to beat me, so I've got to be the greatest!"

On August 18 of the following year, facing the minimum 27 batters, Burdette no-hit the Philadelphia Phillies 1-0 at Milwaukee County Stadium.[10] Tony González, the only opposing batter to reach base after being hit by a pitch in the fifth inning, was retired on a double play. Burdette helped himself by scoring the only run of the game; after doubling to lead off the eighth inning, he scored on Bill Bruton's double one batter later. Following up his no-hitter, five days later he pitched his third shutout in a row.[11]

In 1963 Burdette was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals (1963–64), and was later sent to the Chicago Cubs (196465) and Phillies (1965).[3] Signing with the California Angels, he pitched exclusively in relief for the team in 1966 and 1967 before retiring.

Career statistics

In an 18-year career, Burdette posted a 203–144 record with 1074 strikeouts and a 3.66 ERA in 3067.1 innings, compiling 158 complete games and 33 shutouts.[1] In two All-Star games, he allowed only one run in seven innings pitched,[12][13] and in 1956 he topped National League pitchers with a 2.70 earned run average.[1] He was twice a twenty-game winner and twice led the National League in shutouts.[1] He also led the National League in wins, earned run average, innings and complete games once each.[1] His totals of wins, games and innings with the Braves ranked behind only Spahn and Kid Nichols in franchise history. He won his only NL Player of the Month award in August 1958 (7-1, 1.89 ERA, 38 SO); teammate pitcher Joey Jay had won the award the month previous. As a hitter, he compiled a .183 batting average (185-for-1011) with 75 RBI and 12 home runs;[1] his first two home runs came in the same 1957 game, and he later had two more two-homer games.[14][15] Burdette was a very fidgety pitcher, constantly scratching himself and fussing with his uniform before pitches. Former manager Fred Haney once said, "Burdette would make coffee nervous."[5] Frequently repeated motions such as bringing his fingers to his lips and wiping sweat from his forehead lead to rumors of throwing spitballs,[6][16] leading New York Times sportswriter Red Smith to write, "There should be 3 pitching statistics for Burdette: Wins, Losses, and Relative Humidity." Burdette himself referenced this reputation, saying he retired because "they were starting to hit the dry side of the ball."[17]


Burdette was inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame.[18] He died of lung cancer at age 80 in Winter Garden, Florida.[5]

In 1958, a reference to Burdette appeared in an episode of Leave It To Beaver. The text "Lew Burdette just hit a home run and Milwaukee leads seven to one in the series." appears briefly in a few frames showing a letter from the principal to Beaver's parents.[19] Burdette also cut a record in the 1950s entitled "Three Strikes and Then You're Out".

Burdette's grandson, Nolan Fontana, is a professional baseball player.[20]


  • Two-time All-Star (1957, 1959)
  • Third in Cy Young Award voting (1958)
  • Led league in wins (1959)
  • Led league in games started (1959)
  • Led league in complete games (1960)
  • Twice led league in shutouts (1956, 1959)
  • 5 times in top 4 in wins (1956–58, 1960–61)
  • Player of the Month for August 1958

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Lew Burdette Stats - Baseball-Reference.com". Baseball-Reference.com.
  2. ^ "1957 World Series - Milwaukee Braves over New York Yankees (4-3) - Baseball-Reference.com". Baseball-Reference.com.
  3. ^ a b Inc., Baseball Almanac. "Lew Burdette Trades and Transactions by Baseball Almanac". www.baseball-almanac.com.
  4. ^ "1956 National League Pitching Leaders - Baseball-Reference.com". Baseball-Reference.com.
  5. ^ a b c Goldstein, Richard (February 7, 2007). "Lew Burdette, Masterful Pitcher, Dies at 80". New York Times. Archived from the original on June 5, 2011.
  6. ^ a b Lew Burdette: His Moment of Glory Came in '57 Series, by Lou Chapman, Baseball Digest, October 1991, Vol. 50, No. 10, ISSN 0005-609X
  7. ^ "1958 World Series - New York Yankees over Milwaukee Braves (4-3) - Baseball-Reference.com". Baseball-Reference.com.
  8. ^ "1959 National League Pitching Leaders - Baseball-Reference.com". Baseball-Reference.com.
  9. ^ "Pittsburgh Pirates at Milwaukee Braves Box Score, May 26, 1959 - Baseball-Reference.com". Baseball-Reference.com.
  10. ^ "Philadelphia Phillies at Milwaukee Braves Box Score, August 18, 1960 - Baseball-Reference.com". Baseball-Reference.com.
  11. ^ "Milwaukee Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers Box Score, August 23, 1960 - Baseball-Reference.com". Baseball-Reference.com.
  12. ^ "1957 All-Star Game Box Score, July 9 - Baseball-Reference.com". Baseball-Reference.com.
  13. ^ "1959 All-Star Game box score at Baseball Reference".
  14. ^ "Milwaukee Braves at Cincinnati Redlegs Box Score, August 13, 1957 - Baseball-Reference.com". Baseball-Reference.com.
  15. ^ "Milwaukee Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers Box Score, July 10, 1958 - Baseball-Reference.com". Baseball-Reference.com.
  16. ^ The Case of the Suspected Spitter, LIFE Magazine, September 10, 1956, Vol. 41, No. 11, ISSN 0024-3019
  17. ^ Baehler, James R. (18 November 2014). Unbreakable: The 25 Most Unapproachable Records in Baseball.
  18. ^ Lew Burdette at the Florida Sports Hall of Fame Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "All of this is nonsense". Letters of Note. Retrieved 2009-10-13.
  20. ^ Fowler, Jeremy (May 20, 2010). "Gators star Nolan Fontana paying tribute to his late grandfather, former pitcher Lew Burdette". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved October 31, 2013.

External links

Preceded by
Joey Jay
Major League Player of the Month
August 1958
Succeeded by
Willie Mays
Preceded by
Don Cardwell
No-hitter pitcher
August 18, 1960
Succeeded by
Warren Spahn
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Harry Dorish
Atlanta Braves pitching coach
Succeeded by
Herm Starrette
1952 Boston Braves season

The 1952 Boston Braves season was the 82nd season of the franchise; the team went 64–89 (.418) and was seventh in the eight-team National League, 32 games behind the pennant-winning Brooklyn Dodgers. Home attendance for the season at Braves Field was under 282,000.This was the final season for the franchise in Boston, Massachusetts, and the last home game at Braves Field was played on September 21. Several weeks prior to the 1953 season, the team moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which was the first franchise relocation in the majors in a half century. By 1958, four other teams had moved. The Braves stayed for thirteen years in Milwaukee, then went to Atlanta prior to the 1966 season.

1956 Milwaukee Braves season

The 1956 Milwaukee Braves season was the fourth in Milwaukee and the 86th overall season of the franchise. The Braves finished in second place in the National League, just one game behind the Brooklyn Dodgers in the league standings, and one game ahead of the Cincinnati Reds. All three teams posted wins on the final day of the season; the Braves had entered the final three games with a game advantage, but dropped the first two at St. Louis while the Dodgers swept the Pirates.

The Braves' led the major leagues in home attendance with 2,046,331; next closest was the New York Yankees of the American League at under 1.5 million. The runner-up in NL attendance was champion Brooklyn at under 1.22 million. The Braves averaged 30,093 for the 68 home dates.

1957 Milwaukee Braves season

The 1957 Milwaukee Braves season was the fifth in Milwaukee and the 87th overall season of the franchise. It was the year that the team won its first and only World Series championship while based in Milwaukee. The Braves won 95 games and lost 59 to win the National League pennant by eight games over the second-place St. Louis Cardinals.

The club went on to the 1957 World Series, where they faced the New York Yankees. Pitcher Lew Burdette was the star and Most Valuable Player, winning three games, including the crucial seventh game played in New York City.

1957 New York Yankees season

The 1957 New York Yankees season was the 55th season for the team in New York, and its 57th season overall. The team finished with a record of 98–56 to win their 23rd pennant, finishing eight games ahead of the Chicago White Sox. New York was managed by Casey Stengel. The Yankees played their home games at Yankee Stadium.

In the World Series, the Yankees were defeated by the Milwaukee Braves in seven games. They lost the crucial seventh game in Yankee Stadium to the starting pitcher for the Braves, Lew Burdette, who was selected the World Series Most Valuable Player based on this and his other two victories in the Series.

Phil Rizzuto, the former team shortstop from the early 50s, joined the broadcast team for the radio and television broadcasts taking over from Jim Woods in what would be the first of many seasons as a Yankees broadcaster.

1957 World Series

The 1957 World Series featured the defending champions, the New York Yankees (American League), playing against the Milwaukee Braves (National League). After finishing just one game behind the N.L. Champion Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956, the Braves came back in 1957 to win their first pennant since moving from Boston in 1953. The Braves won the Series in seven games, behind Lew Burdette's three complete game victories. The Braves would be the only team besides the Yankees, Dodgers, or Giants to win a World Series title in the 1950s.

The Yankees had home field advantage in the series. Games 1, 2, 6, and 7 were played at Yankee Stadium, while Milwaukee County Stadium hosted Games 3, 4, and 5. This was the first time since 1946 that the Series included scheduled off days after Games 2 and 5.

Of the previous ten World Series, the Yankees had participated in eight of them and won seven. This was also the first World Series since 1948 that a team from New York did not win.

This is the first of four Yankees-Braves matchups, and the only Series that was won by the Braves; they lost in 1958, 1996 and 1999, with the last two instances occurring with the Braves based in Atlanta.

Hank Aaron led all regulars with a .393 average and eleven hits, including a triple, three home runs and seven RBI.

As of April 2015, four original television broadcasts from this Series (Games 1, 3, 5 and 6) had been released on DVD.

1958 Milwaukee Braves season

The 1958 Milwaukee Braves season was the sixth in Milwaukee and the 88th overall season of the franchise. The Braves finished first in the National League with a 92–62 record and returned to the World Series for the second consecutive year, losing to the New York Yankees in seven games. The Braves set a Major League record which still stands for the fewest players caught stealing in a season, with 8.

1958 World Series

The 1958 World Series was a rematch of the 1957 World Series, with the New York Yankees beating the defending champion Milwaukee Braves in seven games for their 18th title, and their seventh in 10 years. With that victory, the Yankees became only the second team in Major League Baseball history to come back from a 3–1 deficit to win a best-of-seven World Series; the first was the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1925. (The 1903 Boston Red Sox came back from a 3–1 deficit in a best-of-nine affair.) These teams would meet again in the fall classic thirty-eight years later—by that time, the Braves had moved to Atlanta. As of 2019, this is the most recent World Series featuring the two previous Series winning teams.

1959 Philadelphia Phillies season

The 1959 Philadelphia Phillies season was the 77th season in the history of the franchise. During spring training, manager Eddie Sawyer told the press, "We're definitely not a last place club... I think the biggest thing we've accomplished is getting rid of the losing complex. That alone makes us not a last place club." The Phillies finished in last place in 1959, seven games behind seventh-place St. Louis and 23-games behind the pennant and World Series winning Dodgers.

1960 Philadelphia Phillies season

The 1960 Philadelphia Phillies season was the 78th in franchise history. The team finished in eighth place in the National League with a record of 59–95, 36 games behind the NL and World Series Champion Pittsburgh Pirates.

1987 Baseball Hall of Fame balloting

Elections to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum for 1987 followed the system in place since 1978.

The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) voted by mail to select from recent major league players and

elected two, Catfish Hunter and Billy Williams.

The Veterans Committee met in closed sessions to consider older major league players as well as managers, umpires, executives, and figures from the Negro Leagues.

It selected Ray Dandridge from the Negro Leagues.

Bob Buhl

Robert Ray Buhl (August 12, 1928 – February 16, 2001) was an American right-handed starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who played with the Milwaukee Braves, Chicago Cubs, and Philadelphia Phillies. His last name rhymes with "fuel".

A native of Saginaw, Michigan, in a 15-year career Buhl posted a 166–132 record with 1288 strikeouts and a 3.55 ERA in 2587 innings. He pitched 111 complete games and compiled 20 shutouts. He was first signed to a major league contract in 1953 by Milwaukee Braves scout Earle W. Halstead.

Buhl compiled an 8–1 record against the National League champion Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956, en route to an 18-win season. He repeated as an 18-game winner the following year, helping the Braves capture NL pennants in both 1957 and 1958 as the third starter behind Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette.

In 1957, Buhl led the National League in winning percentage (.720), with an 18–7 record.

In 1959, Buhl won 15 games and led the National League with four shutouts. His most productive season came in 1960, when he finished with a 16–9 record, a 3.09 ERA and an All-Star berth.

In 1962, Buhl was traded to the Cubs after appearing in just one game for the Braves. He had 12 wins against 13 losses, a considerably better percentage than the 9th-place Cubs (59–103 .364) achieved overall that year.

He was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1966 in a deal which brought future Hall-of-Famer Ferguson Jenkins to Chicago.

in 1962, Buhl failed to get a hit in 70 at-bats. the worst single-season batting performance in major league history. Baseball author Bill James named Buhl as the worst hitting pitcher of the 1950s. For his career, Buhl had a batting average of .089, with just two extra-base hits (both doubles) in 857 at-bats, for a slugging percentage of .091.

Buhl died in Titusville, Florida, just two days before his Braves roommate Eddie Mathews.

Dave Jolly

David Jolly (October 14, 1924 – May 27, 1963) was a Major League Baseball relief pitcher.

The 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m), 165 lb (75 kg) right-hander was a native of Stony Point, North Carolina. He was signed by the St. Louis Browns as an amateur free agent before the 1946 season. After pitching in the Browns, Cincinnati Reds, and New York Yankees organizations, he was drafted by the Boston Braves from the Yankees in the 1952 rule V draft (December 1). He played for the Milwaukee Braves from 1953 to 1957 and was a member of the 1957 World Series championship team.

Jolly made his major league debut in relief on May 9, 1953, against the Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee County Stadium. From 1953 to 1957, the first five years that the Braves were in Milwaukee, he was second on the pitching staff with 158 relief appearances, an average of almost 32 per season. During those seasons the closer's job was held at different times by Lew Burdette, Ernie Johnson, Jolly, and Don McMahon.

Jolly's best season was 1954, when he was 11–6 with 10 saves and a 2.43 earned run average in 47 games. He finished in the National League Top Ten for winning percentage, games pitched, games finished, and saves.

Career totals for 160 games (159 as a pitcher) include a record of 16–14, 1 game started, 0 complete games, 82 games finished, 19 saves, and an ERA of 3.77. He wielded a strong bat for a pitcher, going 14-for-48 (.292) with 1 home run, 7 runs batted in, and 8 runs scored.

On October 15, 1957, Jolly was purchased from the Braves by the San Francisco Giants, but never again pitched in a big league game.

Jolly died in 1963 at the age of 38 in Durham, North Carolina, one year after he underwent surgery for a brain tumor. He was buried at Stony Point Cemetery, Stony Point, North Carolina.

Glen Hobbie

Glen Frederick Hobbie (April 24, 1936 – August 9, 2013) was an American professional baseball player who pitched in the Major Leagues from 1957–1964. A right-hander, he stood 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m) tall and weighed 195 pounds (88 kg). Born in Witt, Illinois, Hobbie attended and graduated from Witt High School.All but 13 of Hobbie's 284 games played were spent in the uniform of the Chicago Cubs, for whom he won 16 games in back-to-back seasons (1959–1960). He also lost 20 games in 1960, tying for the National League lead in that category. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for veteran pitcher Lew Burdette on June 2, 1964, but his last MLB appearance came only seven weeks later and Hobbie finished that campaign in minor league baseball.

Overall, he posted a 62–81 won–lost record, 682 strikeouts and a 4.20 earned run average in 284 games pitched (170 as a starter) during his Major League career, with 45 complete games and 11 shutouts; he also earned six saves in relief. He surrendered 1,283 hits and 495 bases on balls.

After retiring from baseball, Hobbie worked as a supervisor for the Roller Derby Association in Litchfield. He died at the age of 77 on August 9, 2013, at a hospital in Springfield, Illinois. He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Sharon, and their two children, Glen and Linda

Harvey Haddix's near-perfect game

On May 26, 1959, at Milwaukee County Stadium, Harvey Haddix of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitched a perfect game for 12 innings against the Milwaukee Braves, but lost the game in the 13th. His perfect game bid was broken up in the bottom of the 13th by a throwing error; he would lose the no-hitter, and the game with it, on a Joe Adcock hit (a baserunning mistake caused it to be changed from a 3-run home run to a 1-run double) later in the inning.

Braves starter Lew Burdette, despite giving up eight hits through nine innings, was pitching a shutout of his own. Three times, the Pirates came close to scoring the winning run for Haddix. In the third inning, a baserunning blunder by Don Hoak negated three consecutive singles; in the ninth, Bill Virdon, after reaching base on a hit with one out, advanced to third on Rocky Nelson's single; however, Bob Skinner grounded back to Burdette the threat. In the 10th inning, with the Pirates still not having scored, pinch-hitter Dick Stuart flied out to center fielder Andy Pafko on a ball that came within a few feet of a two-run home run. The Pirates also recorded hits in the 11th, 12th and 13th innings, but left a runner on base in the latter two innings.

Félix Mantilla, who entered the game in the 11th after Del Rice had pinch-hit for Johnny O'Brien, was the Braves' first hitter in the 13th inning. He hit a ground ball to third baseman Hoak, who fielded the ball cleanly but threw wide to first, pulling Nelson off the base. Mantilla was then sacrificed to second by Eddie Mathews. Haddix, his perfect game bid gone but his no-hit bid still intact, then intentionally walked Hank Aaron to set up a double play situation for Adcock, who had already grounded out twice earlier in the game, striking out the other two times. Adcock hit a fly ball to deep right-center field, just beyond the reach of right fielder Joe Christopher, who was making his Major League debut (he replaced Román Mejías in right field after Stuart had pinch-hit for Mejías), for an apparent home run, the ball landing between the outfield fence and another fence behind it, in front of a line of pine trees. Mantilla rounded third and touched home plate for the winning run; however, in the confusion, Aaron saw the ball hit the second fence but did not realize it had carried over the first and, thinking that the game had ended when Mantilla scored the winning run, rounded second and headed for the dugout. Adcock rounded the bases, running out his home run. First base umpire Frank Dascoli ruled that the final score was 2-0; he was overruled by National League president Warren Giles, who changed Adcock's home run to a double and declared that only Mantilla's run counted for a final score of 1-0. In addition to Stuart being used as a pinch-hitter, two other Pirate regulars did not play in this game: Dick Groat, who would win the 1960 National League Most Valuable Player Award, was mired in a slump and had been benched, and Roberto Clemente was sidelined with a sore shoulder.

In 1989, during a banquet attended by players from both teams commemorating the game's 30th anniversary, Milwaukee pitcher Bob Buhl told Haddix that the Braves' bullpen had stolen Smoky Burgess' signs, the Pittsburgh catcher exposing them due to a high crouch. From their bullpen, the Braves pitchers repeatedly repositioned a towel to signal for a fastball or a breaking ball, the only two pitches Haddix used in the game. If a fastball was coming, the towel was made visible to the batter; if a breaking pitch was coming, the towel was out of sight. Despite this assistance, the usually solid Milwaukee offense managed only the one hit. All but one Milwaukee hitter, Aaron, took the signals. Haddix's 12 2/3-inning complete game, in which he struck out eight batters against the team that had just won the previous two National League pennants (including winning the 1957 World Series), and featured one of the top offensive lineups in the Major Leagues, is considered by many to be the best pitching performance in Major League history. Pirate second baseman Bill Mazeroski would say, "Usually you have one or two great or spectacular defensive plays in these no-hitters. Not that night. It was the easiest game I ever played in." In 1991, Major League Baseball changed the definition of a no-hitter to "a game in which a pitcher or pitchers complete a game of nine innings or more without allowing a hit." Under this new definition, Haddix's masterpiece was one of 12 extra-inning no-hitters to be struck from the record books. Haddix's response was, "It's O.K. I know what I did." Haddix's near-perfect game is immortalized by the Baseball Project, whose song, Harvey Haddix, appears on their debut album, 2008's Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails.

Myers Field

Myers Field was a ballpark located off of Church Street in Norfolk, Virginia, United States. It served as the home of the Norfolk Tars, a New York Yankees minor league affiliate, from 1940 to 1955. Originally known as High Rock Park, it was renamed Myers Fields in honor of local dentist Eddie Myers.Notable major leaguers like Yogi Berra, Lew Burdette, Whitey Ford, Bob Grim, Mickey Owen, Bob Porterfield, Vic Raschi, Bobby Richardson, Spec Shea, Moose Skowron, Snuffy Stirnweiss and Gus Triandos all played for the Tars and therefore called Myers Field home.

Sam Jones (baseball)

Samuel "Toothpick" Jones (December 14, 1925 – November 5, 1971) was an American Major League Baseball pitcher with the Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, Detroit Tigers and the Baltimore Orioles between 1951 and 1964. He batted and threw right-handed.Born in Stewartsville, Ohio, Jones played for several Negro League teams, including the Orlando All-Stars in 1946; and the Cleveland Buckeyes, where he played under the management of Quincy Trouppe, in 1947 and 1948; and the Kansas City Royals, " touring Negro League squad handpicked by Satchel Paige." In 1948-49 he played in Panama, and then, with the end of the Negro National League, played semi-pro ball until he was signed by the Indians organization in the fall of 1949, playing Class A ball in the season and winter ball for Panama in 1949-50. Jones began his major league career with the Cleveland Indians in 1951. When he entered a game on May 3, 1952, 39-year-old rookie Quincy Trouppe, a Negro League veteran, was behind the plate. Together they formed the first black battery in American League history. Both Sam Jones and Quincy Trouppe played for the Cleveland Buckeyes in the Negro American League.

After the 1954 season, the Tribe traded him to the Chicago Cubs for two players to be named later, one of who was slugger Ralph Kiner. In 1956, the Cubs traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals in a multi-player deal; prior to the 1959 season, he was dealt this time to the San Francisco Giants for Bill White and Ray Jablonski. He was picked 25th by the expansion Houston Colt .45s in the 1961 expansion draft, then traded to the Detroit Tigers for Bob Bruce and Manny Montejo. He rejoined the Cardinals for the 1963 campaign and played 1964 with the Baltimore Orioles. He spent the final three years of his pro career as a relief pitcher with the Columbus Jets of the International League before retiring at the end of the 1967 season.

During his career, Jones was known for his sweeping curveball, in addition to a fastball and changeup. Stan Musial once remarked, "Sam had the best curveball I ever saw... He was quick and fast and that curve was terrific, so big it was like a change of pace. I've seen guys fall down on curves that became strikes." During his career, Jones led the National League in strikeouts, and walks, three times: in 1955, 1956, and 1958. On May 12 of the former of these three seasons, he no-hit the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-0 at Wrigley Field, becoming the first African American in Major League history to pitch a no-hitter. He achieved this no-hitter in the hardest way: after walking Gene Freese, Preston Ward (who was pinch-run for by Román Mejías) and Tom Saffell to begin the ninth inning, he left the bases loaded by striking out Dick Groat, Roberto Clemente and Frank Thomas in succession. His greatest year came with the Giants in 1959, when he led the league in both wins with 21 (tying him with Milwaukee Braves starters Lew Burdette and Warren Spahn) and ERA with 2.83. He was named 1959 National League Pitcher of the Year by The Sporting News, but finished a distant second to Early Wynn of the Chicago White Sox for the Cy Young Award. He was named to the NL All-Star team twice, in 1955 and 1959.

Jones died from a recurrence of neck cancer first diagnosed in 1962, in Morgantown, West Virginia at the age of 45.


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