1859.54

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First Reference to Change-of-Pace Pitching?

Salience Noteworthy
Tags Base Ball Stratagems
Location Greater New York City
City/State/Country: New York City, NY, United States
Game Base Ball
Immediacy of Report Contemporary
Age of Players Adult
Text

In a discussion of the early evolution of fast ("swift") pitching, Richard Hershberger noted:

 "For what it is worth, my earliest reference to a change of pace is from 1859:

 "[Eckford vs. Putnam 7/1/1859] Mr. Pidgeon (their pitcher) at first annoyed the strikers on the opposite side somewhat, by his style of pitching–first very slow, then a very swift ball; but the Putnam players soon got posted, and were on the look-out for the 'gay deceivers.'"

Sources

New York Sunday Mercury July 3, 1859

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Submitted by Richard Hershberger
Submission Note email 2/4/2014
Has Supplemental Text Yes



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Supplemental Text

Email from Richard Hershberger to Protoball, 2/4/2014:

 

The earliest items I have in my notes are from 1858:

 

Mr. Burr, of the Oriental Club, is a splendid player, and with a little more practice, will make a capital pitcher. He delivers a ball with lightning speed, and throws to the bases with quickness and unerring precision. New York Sunday Mercury July 11, 1858

 

The pitching of Jones was much swifter than anything of the kind they had been accustomed to, and prevented them from making any great display of batting. New York Atlas September 12, 1858

 

Any first dating up through 1858 should absolutely not be taken as indicative of actual novelty, as 1858 is about when we finally have numerous extensive game accounts.  I am not shocked that Bob found a swift pitch from 1855.  This is consistent with my take on the early development of baseball strategy, with 1855 being the breakout year when things first started getting competitive.  Swift pitching is an obvious technique, and so it is unsurprising that it was tried early.  Anything before 1855 would force me to reevaluate matters.

 

Note also these, from 1859 and 1860, showing that swift pitching was not universal:

 

Norton pitched in his old-fashion style, putting lightning-speed on the ball, causing the striker frequently to tip, and occasionally to strike out three times. He is "pisen" [i.e. poison] to a batter not accustomed to swift balls. ["Old-fashion style" may refer to Norton’s earlier performance as a swift pitcher.] New York Atlas October 9, 1859

 

Better pitching is seldom seen in a game of ball than that exhibited by Shields, of the Charter Oaks and Jackson and Dunphy of the Manhattans. There were none of those slow, easy balls, that enables even an ordinary batter to send sky-rockets over the fielders’ heads, but every ball was delivered swiftly and with vigor. New York Atlas July 1, 1860

 

For what it is worth, my earliest reference to a change of pace is from 1859:

 

[Eckford vs. Putnam 7/1/1859] Mr. Pidgeon (their pitcher) at first annoyed the strikers on the opposite side somewhat, by his style of pitching–first very slow, then a very swift ball; but the Putnam players soon got posted, and were on the look-out for the "gay deceivers." New York Sunday Mercury July 3, 1859