In Case You Ain’t Up On Game, Chris Archer Is MLB’s Next Black Ace 

Some would call Tampa Bay Rays pitching phenom Chris Archer the Arnold Jackson of this MLB thing. His adopted family wasn’t affluent and enjoying a fairy tale existence like Phillip Drummond. However, his story shares some similarities to the TV show that featured the diminutive Gary Coleman. Archer commands a game like Coleman did a TV audience. Both are captivating and openly expressive in demeanor.  

Archers legal parents are Donna and Ron Archer, his 63-year-old maternal grandmother and her 55-year-old husband, who raised Archer essentially from birth, adopting him at age 2.

And they are of the caucasian persuasion.

Archers biological mother is Sonya Clark, Donnas daughter from her first marriage. His biological father, whom he met for the first time in 2013, is an African-American firefighter in Raleigh, NC.

Sonya wasn’t ready to settle down when she had Chris at 19, and Donna and Ron decided to step in and take responsibility for a baby that no one seemed to want. Archer had a rough time growing up bi-racial, in rural and diminutive Clayton, N.C., especially being raised by a pair of white southern parents in their 30s and 40s, who didnt have much money.

Thats where his story differs from Arnold Jacksons in Different Strokes. There was no palace and endless stream of money to check racists and insulate Archer in a perfect world free from prejudice.

Archer told the Tampa Bay Times that he didn’t know anything wasn’t normal until middle school, when a classmate (to be mean) asked him if he knew his “real” parents.

“I’m like, ‘These are my real parents,’ ” Archer said when recalling the attempted insult. “I was literally colorblind the first 11 years of my life because I didn’t know any different.”

Once middle school hit Archer began to experience some harsh lessons about discrimination, even being cut from his seventh-grade baseball team.

Helping him through these times was his unofficial “brother,” Ron Walker, Archers former high school JV coach, who served as a positive male influence and mentor. As Archer spent his teenage years big-balling on the diamond and searching for a personal identity, Walker kept Archer in tune with his black side and the culture he lacked with the absence of his dad. Over time Archer built his own extended family and support systems.

He credits the loving environment provided by his surrogate parents with his ability to stay focused, ignore the BS and ascend to the MLB euphoria that hes currently immersed in.

Archer blossomed as a pitcher at Clayton High School in Clayton, North Carolina and signed a letter of intent to attend Miami before being drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the fifth round of the 2006 Major League Baseball Draft. He chose to embark on his MLB journey, signing with Cleveland. Archer was traded to the Cubs in 2008. 

In 2010, Archers elite pedigree began to surface. He had a 153 record with a 2.34 ERA with the Daytona Cubs of the Class A-Advanced Florida State League and Tennessee Smokies of the Class AA Southern League. 

With Daytona, he had a 41-inning scoreless streak without allowing an earned run. For putting in that work, he was named the Cubs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year. It was obvious that the kid was special even if the Cubs didnt see it when they traded Archer to the Tampa Bay Rays in January of 2011.

Fast forward to 2015 and Archer is duplicating the success he had in Class A ball, but at the highest levels. 

In our 2014 MLB Preview Part III, The Shadow League told you about the future Black Ace who was gaining steam and about to rock the game:

Chris Archer (Tampa Bay Rays): Archer is as intelligent and eloquent as he is effective on the mound. “Talking to Arch is like talking to Einstein,” teammate Price said. Archer established himself as a force after his June call-up, going 9-7 with a 3.22 E.R.A. and finishing third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting, behind rookie teammate Wil Myers, who hit .293 with 13 homers, 53 RBIs and a .911 on-base plus slugging percentage while winning the honor. The Tampa Bay Rays already have one of the deepest rotations in baseball and they obviously consider Archer an important part of their future, as they signed the 25-year-old to a $25.5 million, six-year deal on Wednesday.

“It’s a contract and its guaranteed money, but I think it’s just the beginning of six or eight great years, “Archer, a Raleigh, NC native said.

Look out for this golden-armed, young G.

Despite being on a janky 77-win Rays team that finished 19 games out of first, Archer still posted a formidable 3.33 ERA and went 10-9, constantly showing flashes of his future brilliance. This season, he is virtually unhittable and has finally arrived. Hitters, fans and analysts alike, are getting familiar with the 6-foot-3 mulatto kid from NC that can gas it at 99 mph if stressed. He also has some sick changeup and slider action to accompany his live wire fastball.

Archers been prolific through his first five starts of the season. He has given up a total of three earned runs in 32.1 innings. Since surrendering those three runs in an Opening Day loss to B-More, Archer is riding a four-start, 26.2 innings scoreless streak. Hes on his Orel Hershiser steez. Heads aint ready for the gifts he got. Heads ain’t ready and I swear, they not.

The boy has a league-leading 37 Ks, including an 11-k shutout gem against the potent Toronto Blue Jays squad on April 16th. And the young gunners 0.84 ERA is the lowest ever by a Rays starting pitcher at this juncture in the season.

Hes been a metrics monster too. His 25.8 BB-K% ranks top five among all starters, and among the top 10 in that stat, only Felix Hernandez has a higher GB/FB ratio than Archers 2.33. Archers 13.8 SwStr% is also top five in MLB.

His dope 2013 rookie season put Archer on MLBs heavy hurler radar. He began the season with Triple-A Durham and was called up in June. It didnt take long for Archer to get in the swing of things, finishing the season 9-7 with a 3.22 ERA in 23 starts.

He quickly rose to the top of the rookie food chain and ranked first among new jacks in ERA, opponents’ average (.226), complete games (two), shutouts (two), hits per nine innings (7.5) and WHIP (1.13). As his teams hopes for playoff ball waned, Archer heated up. He was named the AL Pitcher of the Month and AL Rookie of the Month for July. He finished third in voting for AL Rookie of the Year, behind Detroit’s Jose Iglesias and former teammate Meyers.

All of that success led to a big payday for Archer (over $25 million guaranteed). However, I see a contract restructuring or holdout coming soonlike after this season, because if Chris keeps crushing competition at his current pace, he’ll quickly become the most underpaid ace in the sport.

The Rays have righted the ship after losing David Price and longtime manager Joe Maddon who after years of frustration with Tampas frugal and close-to-the-vest ways opted out of his contract in October 2014. Now hes in Chi-Town trying to bring the Cubs back. There is a new Black Ace in Tampa Town shutting them down and he has the Rays back in first place in the AL East. Archers on baseball fleek. Hes a must see ticket and hes changing the AL arms race.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.