Known as Red in the Negro leagues for his reddish complexion, in the majors Jones became Sad Sam, after the original Sad Sam Jones, and Toothpick Sam for the toothpick he always chewed on the mound. Jones pitched the Cleveland Buckeyes to the Negro World Series in 1947. He signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1950 but never got a chance in the rotation of Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, and Mike Garcia, spending most of five years in the minors. Swapped to the Cubs in a deal for Ralph Kiner, on May 12, 1955 Jones no-hit Pittsburgh, walking seven in the process. He led the NL in losses (20), strikeouts, and walks (185, while allowing only 175 hits). He repeated as strikeout and walk leader in 1956, and again in 1958 after his trade to the Cardinals. With the Giants in 1959, he was both a leading starter and most effective reliever in a tight race. On June 30 of that season, at Los Angeles, a bobble by Giant shortstop Andre Rodgers was scored a single, depriving Jones of a second no-hitter; he got it instead on September 26, though it was a rain-shortened, seven-inning one against St. Louis. His 21 wins in 1959 led the NL, as did his 2.83 ERA and 109 walks. After an 18-14 1960 season, Jones was hampered by arm trouble, winning 12 more over four seasons.
Recalled Hobie Landrith, who caught Jones with the Cubs, Cards, and Giants, “You’ve never seen a curveball until you’ve seen Sam Jones’s curveball. If you were a righthanded hitter that ball was a good four feet behind you. It took a little courage to stay in there because he was wild and he could throw a fastball very hard. He wasn’t very expressive, he wasn’t the gregarious type (but) he injected humor.”