When I was a kid, there weren’t any millionaires. Just politicians and the working poor. The richest guy I knew owned a junk yard. A local major league ball player lived in a house alot like mine. His kid was humble and friendly. All that has changed. Except for umpires.
Well said Coach B and Dino
…but you say that once in a while you would throw a pitch that no one in this generation had ever seen. Have you ever stopped to think that a lot of those never-before-seen pitches are really just variations of existing ones?
Paul Rapier Richards, the Wizard of Waxahachie (Texas), was a good catcher who spent some time with the Giants, the Dodgers, the Philadelphia A’s and—later on—the Detroit Tigers. Well, in 1939 or so he turned up as playing manager of the AA Atlanta Crackers, and here the story begins. There was a pitcher,an oldtimer named Deacon Johnson, on the team, and he threw a most bewildering breaking pitch that for want of a better name he called a “slip pitch” (not to be confused with the kind of 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). The batters were having a lot of trouble with it. Of course, Richards wanted to know more about it—after all, he had to catch it—but this Johnson was a selfish coot who wouldn’t even show it to his own manager! So Richards had to pick it up the hard way, by careful observation and copious notes in a notebook. He decided that if he ever made it to the majors as a manager he would teach that pitch to whoever wanted to learn it.
Some years later the Chicago White Sox called him. They wanted him to come up to the majors and manage them! So he came up in 1951, and he proceeded to teach this slip pitch to a few guys on the staff; his best pupils were Harry Dorish and Skinny Brown, who had a fair degree of success with it when they could get it to work. It was thought that it was a variation of the palm ball, but nobody was talking, and the sportswriters were falling all over themselves trying to find out what it was—and so it was decided that this pitch would forever be a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma.
What nobody, especially the Wizard of Waxahachie, knew was that there was another pitcher who knew about this pitch. He’d been in the Southern Association in the early 40s, had seen it thrown, and had made a note of it and had started working on it. He quietly developed it during his four years with the White Sox, was traded to the Yankees just before the start of the 1948 spring training—and in 1953, after the All-Star break, he uncorked the pitch. The opposing batters started 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!
I got curious about the pitch, and so I decided one day to ask the guy who was throwing it: Eddie Lopat. I caught up with him after a game and asked him what was all the mystery about this slip pitch. His immediate response was to burst out laughing, and I got caught up in it, and there we were, standing outside Yankee Stadium, cracking up. When we finally were able to stop, he got philosophical and said, “I don’t get it. I just don’t understand what it is with those 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.” That’s what it was: a slider thrown with a knuckleball grip. I had to agree that it was indeed a simple pitch. And then he added, in a quiet hypnotic undertone, "You’ll know what to do with it."
Another pitch for my arsenal. An interesting variation of the slider. So you see, there’s no such thing as a never-before-seen pitch—just another variation on a theme by an imaginative pitcher. 8)
Here we go again: my stupid computer repeating itself.
Great story Zita