Baseball’s annals are full of zany bloopers, dramatic walk-off home runs, and thunderous grand slams. However, perhaps more so than other sports, baseball is renowned for its occasional eccentricity—bizarre twists of fate in the course of a sport that normally is played with machine-like efficiency. Over time, entire videos devoted to goofy baseball plays have been produced and sold, and some of baseball’s most famous moments (think of Randy Johnson beaning a bird with a pitch) are some of its oddest.
One of the greatest eccentricities in all of baseball is the Eephus pitch, a rare bird in Major League pitching which rears its head from time to time. The Eephus pitch is an extremely low-speed junk pitch, which comes with a high arc and is almost exclusively used as a trick pitch in modern times.
Invented by Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Rip Sewell in the 1940s, the Eephus pitch has a name strange enough to match the pitch’s outlandish nature. Then-Pirates manager Frankie Firsch insists that outfielder Maurice Van Robays named the Eephus; when Van Robays was asked about the term’s meaning, he said, “Eephus ain’t nothing, and that’s a nothing pitch.” Indeed, Eephus is phonetically similar to the Hebrew word for “nothing,” which may explain its linguistic origins.
Sewell’s experiments with the pitch met with surprising success in the Major Leagues. Over the course of his career, Sewell only once allowed a home run off of one of his Eephus pitches—to the great Ted Williams, in the 1946 All-Star Game. Though the Eephus pitch has never been popular in the Major Leagues, it still makes appearances from time to time and refuses to die out—much like the also-rare, but more respected, knuckleball pitch. The most recent big-name pitcher to employ the fabled Eephus pitch was Texas Rangers star Yu Darvish, who tossed one to Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter in May 2014. Hunter, a five-time MLB All-Star, was so baffled by the pitch that he awkwardly hesitated as the ball came toward him. The pitch was outside the strike zone, but Darvish struck Hunter out later in the at-bat.
Whether you are preparing for fastballs, knuckleballs, or Eephus pitches, it’s never too late to start practicing your swing! Order your Wheelhouse batting cage today and start hitting in your backyard within a week. Why travel to a batting cage facility and wait in line when you could swing at pitches in your own yard? Find out more today!