Interesting, what one can find when one goes back in the archives a few years. Here's someone inquiring about a knuckle splitter, and another person responding that it all has to do with adding a bit of spin instead of reducing it---and mentioning that there are more than a million knuckleball grips out there and counting. Exaggeration, perhaps, but there are a lot of ways to throw a knuckler and a lot of pitches with which one can use such a grip. Reading this, I was taken back to my playing days and a very amusing story.
It began with Paul Richards, the "wizard of Waxahachie". He was a very good catcher, and he caught in the majors for several years, then disappeared into the minors. In 1939 he surfaced as the playing manager of the Atlanta Crackers, a team in the then-AA Southern Association. He had a pitcher on his staff, an old-timer named Deacon Johnson who threw a bewildering breaking pitch he called a "slip pitch" for want of a better name (not to be confused with a pitch that slips out of a pitcher's hand and plops to the ground, resulting in a balk being called if there's a runner on base). Richards, of course, wanted to know more about it, because after all he had to catch the darned thing---but Mr. Johnson was a selfish coot who wouldn't even show it to his own manager! So Richards had to content himself with watching and making notes on that pitch, and after he got the hang of it he decided that if he ever made it to the majors he would teach that pitch to anyone who wanted to learn it.
After a detour during which he caught for four years for the otherwise catcherless Detroit Tigers, who had lost both their backstops to the armed forces, he got his chance. The White Sox called him and wanted him to come up to the majors and manage them! He came up in 1951, bringing the "slip" pitch with him, and he left it with a few guys on the mound staff there, notably Harry Dorish and Skinny Brown who had a fair degree of success with it when they could get it to work, then went on to Baltimore and managed to teach a couple of pitchers there. The sportswriters were falling all over themselves trying to figure out what that pitch was, but nobody was talking, and so it was assumed that this pitch (which some thought might be a variation of the palm ball) would forever be a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma (the baseball equivalent of a dish called a "turducken").
But what Richards did not know---he never even suspected it---was that there was another pitcher who knew about this pitch, who had been in the Southern Association at the same time and had seen it thrown in games---and who made a mental note for future reference. This pitcher came up to the majors in 1944, spent four seasons as a good pitcher with a lousy team, then was traded to the Yankees just before the 1948 spring training got under way and spent the next 7 1/2 years being a very, very good pitcher with a great team. This pitcher was Ed Lopat. In the 1953 season, just after the All-Star break, he uncorked that pitch, and the batters all over the league were screaming blue murder---not to mention arson, armed robbery, first degree burglary, grand larceny breaking pitch, and every other felony they could think of. They couldn't hit it for sour apples, and this in addition to all the other stuff he threw.
One day I asked him about it. Mr. Lopat's reaction was unprecedented: he absolutely cracked up, and I got caught in that outburst of sheer hilarity, and for a couple of minutes we just stood there outside Yankee Stadium in that late afternoon, unable to stop laughing! Finally we managed to stop, and he said, "I don't get it. I can't understand these sportswriters, the way they come on, trying to make something arcane out of such a simple pitch." And he told me what it was. He said, "Get a knuckleball grip and throw the slider with it." Then he added, "You'll know what to do with it."
And there it was. A slider thrown with a knuckleball grip, or a knuckleball thrown like a slider, take your pick. I knew several knuckleball grips I could use, and being a sidearmer I could use the crossfire, and so I added this pitch to my arsenal. A nasty pitch indeed: the batters I faced had no better luck with it than the guys who had to face Ed Lopat.
You never know what you'll discover when you take a trip back into the archives. 8) :baseballpitcher: