Memory Lane: Toothpick Sam

Image result for images of 1959 topps sam jones

Something about the light outside today whisked me back to an early Sunday afternoon in 1959, in my Grandpa’s gardens. They’re all gone now, along with the house, the chicken coop: dogwoods, roses, black and red raspberries, grapes, butterfly  bushes. All torn down as a sacrifice to Progress.

So I was standing there in the sunshine, ten years old, opening a pack of baseball cards which Grandma had just given me. And as the wrapper came off, the top card was, as pictured above, Sam Jones: aka “Toothpick Sam,” because he often chewed on a toothpick.

What a treat! This was one of my favorite players ever. I don’t know why. Something about his face, I think: it made me feel like it would be just so wonderful if this man someday took me fishing. It wasn’t exactly hero-worship at first sight: no. Just something in this man’s face that made me really, really like him. Until I had his baseball card, I’d never seen him before.

And oh, bliss! A few days later he was traded to the Giants–my family was a Giants family–and went on to win 21 games for them that year.

Maybe it was the way the light came down on the gardens, behind a houseful of my family. They’re all gone now, too. And as far as it goes for me, baseball’s gone, too–changed so much, I just don’t care about it anymore.

But the memory remains; it’s a very vivid memory. And I’m thankful that I have it.


9 comments on “Memory Lane: Toothpick Sam

  1. What a precious memory, Lee. It came alive as you shared it. I remember times at my uncle’s farm in Pennsylvania. Cows, horses, family cook-outs, elderberry bushes (and the elderberry pies and jams grandma made from our pickins’), the spring-fed creek that ran out back, salamanders, jack-in-the-pulpit flowers that hid in the woods, wild berries. As we look longingly back, at least we can say we have those memories to cherries. Sadly, many today won’t.

    1. Jack-in-the-Pulpit–yeah, Grandpa had those, in the very deeply shaded space between the pear tree and the chicken coop. I remember Aunt Millie first showing them to me.

    2. Yes, I thought they were such beautiful flowers – with hoods 🙂 My aunt told us not to pick them. She said they were poisonous. I never did check to see if that was true or whether she just knew they weren’t plentiful and didn’t want us pulling them up. Either way, I was always grateful each time I found them.

    1. Sam Jones once pitched a no-hitter. The post-game interviewer, who was too excited for his own good, was able to do no better than to blurt out, “Sam! Sam! Uhhh… how’s the family?”

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