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“That 's a pretty good fast ball you 've got, there,” declared Davis. “Now let 's have a look at your curve.”
I threw him the “old roundhouse” out-curve, my
From photograph by Paul Thompson.
AT THE FINISH OF THE “FADEA way."
pride and joy which, as the newspapers said, had been “standing them on their heads” in the Minor League. He stepped up into it, and drove the ball over the head of the man playing center field and beyond the old ropes. So was an idol shattered, and my favorite curve wrecked “No,” he said, “that ‘old roundhouse curve' ain't any good in this company. You can see that start to break, all the way from the pitcher's box. A man with paralysis in both arms could get himself set in time to hit that one. Have n't you got a drop ball?” “Yes,” I answered; “but I don't use it much.” “Well, let 's have a look at it,” he said.
I threw him my drop ball, and he said that it was a pretty fair curve. “Now that 's what we call a curve ball in the Big League,” declared Davis. “As for that other big one you just threw me, -forget it! Got anything else?” “I 've a sort of a freak ball that I never use in a game,” I replied, brimful of ambition. “Well, let 's see it.” Then I threw him my fadeaway, although it had n't been named at the time. He missed it by more than a foot (I was lucky enough to get it over the plate '). I shall never forget how Davis's eyes bulged “What 's that ball 2' he asked. “That 's one I picked up, but never use,” I answered. “It 's a kind of a freak ball." “Can you control it?” “Not very well.” “Try it again " he ordered. I did, and got it over the plate once more. He missed the ball. “That's a good one ! That 's all right !” he declared enthusiastically. “It 's a slow in-curve to a right-handed batter. A change of pace with a curve ball. A regular fallaway or fadeaway. That's a good ball !” And there, in morning practice, at the Polo Grounds in 1900, the “fadeaway” was born, and christened by George Davis. He called some lefthanders to bat against it. Nearly all of them missed it, and were loud in their praise of the ball. “Now," said Davis, in the club-house after the practice, “I 'm not going to pitch you much, and I want you to practise on that fadeaway ball of yours, and get so that you can control it. It 's going to be a valuable curve.” So, every morning I was out at the grounds, trying my fadeaway, and always aiming to get control of it—absolute, sure precision. I worked hours at a time on it, and then Davis would try me out against batters to see how it was coming along. He did n't give me a chance in a regular game until toward the end of the season, when he put me into a contest that had already been lost by some other pitcher who had been taken out. But, the next spring, just before the opening game of the season of 1901, Davis came to me and said: “Matty, I want you to pitch to-morrow.” This command was a big and sudden surprise to me. I went home and to bed about nine o'clock, so as to be feeling primed for the important contest. And the next day it rained Again I went to bed early, and once more it rained I kept on going to bed early for three or four nights, and the rain continued for as many days. But I finally outlasted the rain, and pitched the opening game, and won it. Then I worked along regularly in my turn, and did n't lose a game until Memorial Day. And that brought me up to be a regular Big-League pitcher. Many persons have asked me how I throw the fadeaway. The explanation is simple: when the out-curve is thrown, the ball is allowed to slip off the end of the thumb with a spinning motion that causes it to bend away from a right-handed batter. The hand is held up. Now, if the wrist were turned over and the hand held down, so that the ball would slip off the thumb with a twisting motion, but, because the wrist was reversed, would leave the hand with the thumb toward the body instead of away from it, I figured that an incurve to right-handed batters would result. That is how the fadeaway is pitched. The hand is turned over until the palm is toward the ground instead of toward the sky, as when the out-curve is thrown, and the ball is permitted to twist off the thumb with a peculiar snap of the wrist. The ball is gripped in the same way as for an outcurve. Two things make it a difficult ball to pitch, and the two things, likewise, make it hard to hit. First of all, the hand is turned in an unnatural position to control, or throw. a ball when the palm is toward the ground. Try to throw a ball with the hand held this way, and you will find it very difficult. Next, that peculiar snap to the wrist must be attained. The wrist is snapped away from the body instead of toward it, as in the throwing of an out-curve, and it is an unnatural motion to make. The secret of the curve really lies in this snap of the wrist. Many times I have tried to teach other pitchers in the Big League—even men on opposing clubs – how to throw this ball; but none have ever mastered it. Ames, of the Giants, can get it once in a while, and Drucke oftener, but it is a ball which requires a great deal of practice. It is a hard ball to control, and unlimited patience must be used. If any boy desires to try it, let him practise for control first, and then try to make the curve bigger. Be sure to turn the hand over with the palm toward the
ground, and throw the ball by snapping the wrist away from the body, which will send it spinning slowly up to the batter. It comes up “dead,” and then drops and curves in. In conclusion, as at the beginning, I want to emphasize the value of control for young pitchers. Let a boy practise control, always, before he starts to learn curves; for again let me assure him he will win many more games if he can throw the ball where he wants to and has n't a curve, than if he has a big curve but can't control the ball. Another thing that a young pitcher must be careful about is the way in which he holds the ball. When I went to Norfolk to pitch, I was wrapping my fingers around the ball when I was going to throw a curve, so that it was evident to the batter what was coming. “Phenom John" Smith came to me one day and said: “Matty, you 'll have to cut that out. You telegraph to the batter by the way in which you wrap your fingers around the ball every time you are going to throw a curve. It won't do in this League.” I began to practise holding the ball in the same way for each kind of delivery, and then adjusting my fingers as I made the motion to let the ball go from my hand. Boys should practise this, also, as it is fatal to wrap the fingers around the ball
From photograph copyright by Paul Thompson. A FAST ON E.
in such a way that a batter can see when a curve
is coming. A pitcher should cover the ball up
with his glove when facing the batter, anyhow. I always hold the ball in the same way for
every curve, that is, with my whole hand around Many persons have asked me about the “moist," it, and not with two or three fingers wrapped on or “spit," ball. I seldom use it, because I think it is hard on a pitcher's arm, and
difficult for the catcher to handle - and for the players to field. It has - many disadvantages. Occasionally, I used to try one on “Hans' Wag
ner, the great batter of the Pittsburg club, because it was generally believed that he did n't care for a moist ball; but this, too, is only one of the many “theories” of baseball. He can hit a moist ball as well as any other kind' and I have stopped pitching it altogether now.
The only reason that I ever used it was to “mix 'em up.” Next to control, that is the whole secret of Big-League pitching—“mixing 'em up." It means inducing a batter to believe that another kind of a ball is
to be delivered, and thus preventing him from “getting set" to hit it. That is what gives the fadeaway its value. I pitch it with the same motion as a fast ball, but it comes up to the plate slowly. The result is that the batter is led to believe a fast one is coming, and sets himself to swing at a speedy shoot. The slow ball floats up, drops, and he has finished his swing before it gets to the plate. I often pitch the fadeaway right after a fast ball; and, as for reports that I can't control it, I use it right along when I have three balls and two strikes on a batter, which is the tightest situation a pitcher has to face. For it is a ball that will usually be hit slowly, on the ground to the infielders, if the batter hits it at all. Its value, as I have said, lies in the surprise that it brings to a batter when he is expecting something else. I have often been asked, if it is such a difficult ball to hit, why I don't use it all the time. The answer is that such a course would make it easy to bat, and, besides, it is a ball which strains and tires it. For a change of pace, I hold it loosely so that the arm of the pitcher, if thrown continuously. the ball can be thrown with the same motion as Finally, I want to say that “Phenom John” for a fast one. Sometimes, for a drop, I hold my Smith did a great deal toward developing me as a fingers on the seam, to get more purchase on it. pitcher. He pointed out my weaknesses as he
‘‘ on THE FIRING-LINE."
coming from the one that is really
By permission of the American Sports Publishing Co., New York.
MATH E W SON'S FA DEA WAY BALL. “A. How the ball is gras
ed for start of the “fadeaway.” “B. The ball is held #. with the forefingers and thumb, and a slow twist is given to it. It sails up to the plate as dead as a brick, and, when mixed in with a speedy straight or in-ball, often causes the batter to strike at it before it reaches him. It is a “teaser' for the third strike. “C. The ball leaving the hand as it gets the final twist of the wrist for the “fadeaway.’”
saw them, and gave me a great deal of valuable advice. If any of my readers expect to play BigLeague ball, let them find some friendly “Phenom John” Smith, and get his advice. There are scores of old ball-players ever ready to help an ambi
tious youngster, and they are the best-natured men in the world. And once more—as I said at the beginning—remember that control is the thing in pitching ! No man was ever a Big Leaguer for long without it.