Memo to rckdhouse: Nice pitch, eh? There’s a story behind it, by the way, so if you have a few minutes, here goes.
The story begins with a catcher named Paul Richards (incidentally, the guy who invented the oversized catcher’s mitt for knuckleball pitchers). He caught for the Dodgers, the Giants and the Philadelphia Athletics in the mid-30s, and then in about 1939 or 1940 he surfaced in the AA Southern Association as playing manager for the Atlanta Crackers. There was a pitcher on his staff, an old-timer named Fred (Deacon) Johnson who threw a bewildering breaking pitch which, for want of a better name, he called a “slip pitch”. Of course Richards wanted to know more about it, because after all he had to catch it—but Johnson was a selfish coot who woldn’t even show it to his own manager! He wanted to keep it his own little secret, and here the question arises—if he wanted to keep it a secret, why was he throwing it? Anyway, Richards had to content himself with careful observation and taking voluminous notes, and finally when he felt he had it down cold he resolved that if ever he made it to the majors as a manager he would teach this pitch to whoever wanted to learn it.
After a detour of several years—World War II was raging, the Detroit Tigers had lost both their backstops to the military, and when they heard that Richards was available they tracked him down and signed him. He caught for Detroit for four years and did a very creditable job, and when the war was over he disappeared into the minors again. Then, at the end of the 1949 season he got a call from the Chicago White Sox; they wanted him to come up to the majors and manage them! He did so, and he brought that magical mystery pitch with him, and he taught it to a few guys on the pitching staff, most notably Harry Dorish and Skinny Brown who had a fair degree of success with it when they could get it to work. Of course, the sportswriters were falling all over themselves trying to find out what the pitch was, but nobody was talking, and so it seemed that the pitch would forever remain a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma.
What nobody, least of all Paul Richards, the Wizard of Waxahachie, knew was that there was another pitcher who knew about it. He had been in the Southern Association in the early 1940s, had seen the pitch thrown, and had made a mental note for future reference, and had quietly worked on it—and in 1953, after the All-Star break, had uncorked it. That pitcher was Ed Lopat. And the other batters in the AL were screaming blue murder and every felony they could think of because they couldn’t hit it to save themselves!
As to how I found out about it—one day I went to Yankee Stadium and saw Lopat beat (I think) the Chicago White Sox, and after the game I asked him what was the mystery about the slip pitch? His reaction was unexpected; he burst out laughing, and I got caught up in the hilarity, and there we were, standing outside Yankee Stadium, cracking up. When we were able to stop laughing, he said “I don’t get it. I just don’t understand these sportswriters—the way they come on, trying to make something arcane out of such a simple pitch.” And then he told me what it was. He said, “Get a knuckleball grip and throw the slider with it.” I had to agree that it was indeed a simple pitch. Then he added, "You’ll know what to do with it."
Some sportswriters thought it might be a variation of the palm ball or some such, and some others thought it an unnecessarily compllcated and therefore beyond them delivery. But Lopat knew what it was—a slider thrown with a knuckleball grip—and he told me how to throw it, and I got the hang of it right away, and the next time I pitched I used it in a game, with devastating results—the other team’s hitters couldn’t hit it for sour apples. And so I say—nice pitch. It became a key part of my rapidly expanding arsenal. Have fun with it. 8) :baseballpitcher: