Eephus pitch

An Eephus pitch, (also spelled Ephus) in baseball, is considered a "junk" pitch with very low speed. The delivery from the pitcher has very low velocity and usually catches the hitter off-guard. Its invention is attributed to Rip Sewell of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1930s. According to manager Frankie Frisch, the pitch was named by outfielder Maurice Van Robays. When asked what it meant, van Robays replied “Eephus ain’t nothin’.” But when Sewell asked why he named it that he said "Eephus means nothin' and so does the pitch."

The Eephus pitch is thrown overhand like most pitches, but is characterized by an unusual high arcing trajectory and corresponding slow velocity, bearing more resemblance to a slow-pitch softball delivery than to a traditional baseball pitch. It is considered a trick pitch because, in comparison to normal baseball pitches (which run from 70 to 100 miles per hour), an Eephus pitch appears to move in slow motion (60 miles per hour or less).

Instances of Its Use in Major League Baseball

After appearing in over 300 major league games, Rip Sewell only gave up one career home run off the Eephus, to Ted Williams in the 1946 All-Star Game. Williams challenged Sewell to throw the Eephus. Sewell obliged, and Williams missed the pitch. However, Sewell then announced that he was going to throw the pitch again, and Williams clobbered it for a home run. Years later, however, Williams admitted that he had been running towards the pitcher’s mound as he hit the ball, and photographs reveal that he was in fact a few feet in front of the batter’s box when he made contact. Since under Rule 6.06(a) of the Official Baseball Rules a batter is out for illegal action when he hits a ball with one or both feet on the ground entirely outside the batter’s box, Williams would have been out had it been spotted by an umpire.

Pitchers known to have employed the Eephus pitch include: Dave LaRoche (whose pitch was known as LaLob), Bob Tewksbury, Tim Wakefield, Kazuhito Tadano , and Orlando Hernández. Left-hander Bill Lee, known as “Spaceman”, threw a variant of it he called the Space Ball, or, occasionally, the Leephus. In Game 7 of the 1975 World Series, Lee twice retired Tony Perez of the Cincinnati Reds with the pitch. The third time Perez came up, however, Lee tried it again, only to have Perez hit a homer that set the stage for a Reds come-from-behind win of the game and the World Series. There were reports that Perez hit the ball so hard that the Boston outfielders did not even bother turning their heads to watch it fly. After the game, the ever-philosophical Lee quipped, “Live by the slow curve, die by the slow curve.”

Steve Hamilton of the New York Yankees was known for throwing the folly floater. He also developed a pitch called the hesitation hummer. This pitch started with the classic slow delivery of the “folly floater” but then would be “hummed” in as a fastball. The “hesitation hummer” worked with the “folly floater”, and contributed to Hamilton's modest success. Fans at Yankee Stadium, during the mid- to late 1960s, loved to see Hamilton work these novel pitches in his relief appearances. One of Hamilton's most famous moments involving the "Folly Floater" occurred during a June 24, 1970 game against the Cleveland Indians. Hamilton threw the pitch to Tony Horton, who fouled it out of play behind home plate. Horton asked for another "Folly Floater", and Hamilton again threw one, and again Horton popped it into foul territory behind home plate—this time into Thurman Munson's mitt. Embarrassed, Horton crawled back into the Indians' dugout .

Pascual Perez, who was best known for his antics on and off the field, threw his version of the Eephus during the late 80's and early 90's, which was dubbed the Pascual Pitch. On July 19, 1988, while playing for the Montreal Expos, Pascual made the mistake of throwing the Pascual Pitch to Glenn Davis of the Houston Astros. It just so happened that Glenn Davis was a former softball home-run leader, so he was not fazed at all by the pitch, and hit it into the upper deck down the left field line. The Astros won that game 4–3.

During a five-hit performance by Ichiro Suzuki versus the Chicago White Sox on September 4, 2004, Mark Buehrle threw up an Eephus pitch during Suzuki's fourth at-bat. Buehrle later claimed that he had tried every pitch in his repertoire against Suzuki and had resorted to making up new pitches in his futile attempts to get him out.

Dave Stieb was known to occasionally throw a form of the Eephus pitch, called the "Dead Fish".

Casey Fossum, a middle-relief pitcher for the Detroit Tigers now throws a form of the Eephus that is known to dip below 50 miles per hour. It has been dubbed the Fossum Flip .

Orlando Hernández of the New York Mets has also been known to throw the Eephus several times throughout his career. In 2002, while playing for the New York Yankees, he threw one to Texas Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez, who hit it for a home run. He threw one on June 23, 2007 to strike out Oakland A's cleanup batter Eric Chavez, thereby preserving a 0–0 tie. The pitch to Chavez was clocked at 53 MPH; the Mets went on to win that game in the bottom of the ninth inning on a double by David Wright. On July 4, 2007, he threw two Eephus pitches in the same at-bat against Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies with the bases loaded. Helton took a big swing at the first, which came on a 2-2 count, just catching the top of the ball to foul it off. After working the count full, Helton merely watched the second eephus go by and took a walk.

In the 2007 NLCS, Liván Hernández offered up an eephus to Colorado Rockies player Yorvit Torrealba. Torrealba didn't swing at the pitch but hit the game winning home run three pitches later in the sixth inning of Game 3. Hernandez's pitch registered at 60 MPH on the Coors Field scoreboard. Hernandez still regularly employs the pitch, now playing for the Colorado Rockies.

At Comerica Park in Detroit on May 7, 2008, Armando Galarraga of the Tigers tossed what looked to be an Eephus pitch to Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, which actually was a 12-6 curveball, effectively striking him out and sending him off with a perplexed and stupefied look.

In a interleague game of Nippon Professional Baseball in 2008, Nippon Ham Figther's Kazuhito Tadano threw an Eephus pitch to ground out Hiroshima Toyo Carp's Scott Seabol. The speedgun in Hiroshima Municipal Stadium records as a 67mph(107kmh) slowball, but media in Japan found that the speed was mistaken and should be much slower, and they estimated the speed was only 30mph(48kmh) after their rough calculations. Tadano used the Eephus pitch once to ground out Alex Rodriguez when he was in the majors.

R. J. Swindle of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a 55 mph curveball that has been described as an eephus pitch.

Carlos Zambrano of the Chicago Cubs threw an Eephus pitch to Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez in the 2008 All-Star Game. Ramirez ducked underneath the off-line toss and took it for a ball.

On July 27, 2008, Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks was in the middle of his delivery to Fred Lewis of the San Francisco Giants when a horn went off from a nearby boat in McCovey Cove. Johnson inadvertantly threw an Eeuphus pitch to a stunned Lewis, who took it for a called strike 2. Lewis later singled in the at-bat.

On October 2, 2008, in Game 1 of the 2008 American League Division series, Evan Longoria hit a home run in the third inning (his second homer of the night) off Javier Vazquez on an eephus curve clocked at 65 mph.

Another nickname for the Eephus pitch is the Bloop Curve or the Bugs Bunny Curve (a reference to the Bugs Bunny cartoon where batters swing three times at a pitch before the ball reaches the plate.)


See also

External links

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