Doing something a little different today. Not to my knowledge (and I’m pretty certain about this one), has a baseball pitch been inducted on this screwy blog. But I figured I’d throw you all a bit of a curve by inducting the most legendary pitch in all of baseball. And no, it’s not the slurve, palm ball, straight change, circle change, cutter, sinker, knuckleball, splitter, slider, knuckle curve, or even the dreaded spitball.
The pitch of the hour, of course, is the Eephus pitch. The pitch is an extremely uncommon one in Major League Baseball, being rarely thrown despite its awesomeness. The casual fan is probably unaware of what Wikipedia describes as “a very low speed junk pitch.” The idea behind the pitch is to catch the hitter by surprise by throwing the ball with an extremely high trajectory at a very low speed. In comparison to standard pitches, which commonly range in speed between 70-100 miles per hour, the Eephus comes in below 55 miles per hour, throwing off the batter’s timing.
The pitch was invented by four-time all-star Truett Banks “Rip” Sewell. Sewell sustained a toe injury in 1941 after being shot with buckshot in a hunting accident. (One thing that seems to be timeless throughout baseball are hunting accidents!) The damage to Sewell’s big toe forced him to alter his pitching motion, and this gave rise to his “blooper pitch.” According to Sewell, the first time he threw the pitch, batter Dick Wakefield “started to swing, he stopped, he started again, he stopped, and then he swung and missed it by a mile. I thought everybody was going to fall off the bench, they were laughing so hard.” Using his new pitch, Sewell became a great pitcher, winning 17 games in 1942 followed by back-to-back 21 win seasons in 1943 and ’44. The pitch also had a famous moment in the 1946 All-Star Game. Sewell warned Hall of Famer Ted Williams he was going to throw him the pitch during the game. Sewell threw the blooper, and Williams fouled it off. So he kept throwing it. On one pitch, Williams ran toward the ball and hit a home run. Photographs would later reveal that Williams exited the batter’s box at the time of contact. Williams would have been declared out had the umpire spotted it. Sewell, despite giving up the homer, received a standing ovation as he walked toward the dugout.
The awesome name of the Eephus pitch is credited to outfielder Maurice Van Robays, who proclaimed that “Eephus ain’t nothing, and that’s a nothing pitch.” It is believed that the name Eephus may have come from the Hebrew word “efes” which means “nothing.”
Here’s a video of an Eephus pitch by former big leaguer Kaz Tadano:
Although Sewell was the first, there have been many pitchers since who have adopted the Eephus, and the pitch has been given many names.
Among them are Bill “Spaceman” Lee (who used to sprinkle marijuana on his pancakes, FYI) and his “Leephus” pitch, Casey Fossum and his Fossum Flip, Steve Hamilton’s folly floater, Dave LaRoche’s LaLob, Vicente Padilla and his Eephus, (which Vin Scully called the “soap bubble”) Pascual Perez and his Pascual Pitch, and Dave Stieb and his Dead Fish.
As if that weren’t enough names, the Eephus has also been referred to as the balloon ball, the gondola, the parachute, the rainbow pitch, and for good measure, the Bugs Bunny curve.
You learn something new everyday. I hope this was that something. You go, Eephus Pitch!