The Eephus Pitch

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!

For Amb, Courtesy of Dave and Eartha Kitt

For Amb, Courtesy of Dave and Eartha Kitt

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About Rob

Huge San Diego Padres fan, working as an economic consultant in Pasadena, CA. Contributor to the Funny Names Blog. funnynamesblog.wordpress.com
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29 Responses to The Eephus Pitch

  1. Liz says:

    Awesome. Yep, this definitely is “that something” for me. Very funny with the “you go”at the end. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined finding such hilarity in baseball names–players (Truett Banks “Rip” Sewell is golden) and pitches!

    • Rob says:

      Awesome! I’m glad to get non-baseball fans to enjoy at least some aspects of the game, even if it’s just the awesome names!

  2. amb says:

    Rob! Look at you, switching things up on this screwy blog. I love it.

    Also, “Dave Stieb and his Dead Fish” made me laugh almost as much as Arto’s Scandinavian manlove from the other day. You guys are on a roll this week!

    • Dave says:

      Wait, Arto had Scandinavian manlove this week? How did I miss this?!?

      • amb says:

        It’s somewhere in the epic comment threads from Fannie’s post yesterday. After you ditched me to do, like, actual real work or whatever, Arto stepped up!

        • Dave says:

          That’s why I pay him the big bucks! Catching up on that comment thread was a lot of fun!

          I wish I could’ve gotten more juicy gossip about Fannie, but knowing she’s a Barry Manilow and Jonas Brothers fan is pretty awesome!

          • amb says:

            There have been a lot of good comment threads happening lately! Liz and I had fun over at wdydfae’s today, too.

            Fannie is already about 7 kinds of awesome. Barry Manilow is just the icing on the cake!

    • Rob says:

      Haha, I gotta give Dave Stieb the credit for that one, he invented the Dead Fish after all! You gotta love Scandinavia too – especially the Swedish (hopefully not dead) fish.

  3. Arto says:

    Well Rob, I never knew it until this very moment, but it turns out that I love baseball. Everything about this article was golden.

    When he throws that lolly flopper in the video, the guy says something like “Holy Kadelka!” What’s that all about?

    Yeah, let’s go watch baseball and describe stuff. That’s just the best. And then we’ll all go hunting afterwards.

    • Dave says:

      I was wondering about Holy Kadelka too… Baseball and hunting sounds awesome though! Let’s do it!

      • Rob says:

        Thanks Arto! I didn’t notice the Holy Kadelka until now. I have no explanation for that one! But I don’t think baseball and hunting sounds like a good idea, even if Ryan Klesko did have a hunting show on the Outdoor Channel. We might end up like former Padre Carlton Loewer, whose career was pretty much ruined after he broke his leg falling out of a tree stand while hunting

  4. marksackler says:

    As the resident “old geezer” baseball fan on this blog, I need to interject. Late in his career, c.1970, Yankee pitcher Steve Hamilton threw a version of this pitch he called “The Folly Floater.” In this you-tube video, is a famous incident from a game vs. the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium. He threw two of them consecutively to Tony Horton, who popped out to catcher Thurman Munson on the second one, and then crawled back into the dugout in shame. 😀 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFvp7kMraAw

    • Dave says:

      Wow, that was an amazing clip! Loved Horton’s response after all of that. I can’t see a modern player throwing his hands up in that way.

  5. marksackler says:

    While we are at it, this video demonstrates the origin of the term “Bugs Bunny Curve Ball.” However, it’s not really a curve, just really really slow. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3I1hlNEdC4

  6. unfetteredbs says:

    Enjoyed learning something new about the sport I love.

  7. Very creative. I need to comeback

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