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Friday, May 22, 2015

Keri: the History of the Eephus

That slow curve from El Duque that A-Rod launched into orbit was magnificent. But I wish I could have seen more of the true, 15-25 foot high eephus pitches.

If you ever want to watch 45 seconds of baseball magic, I direct you to this 1981 This Week in Baseball feature on Yankees relief pitcher Dave LaRoche. In the clip, LaRoche describes an at-bat against Brewers slugger Gorman Thomas: “Bob Lemon had just become the manager,” the veteran left-hander says. “He wanted to know if I wanted to put Gorman on, or what we wanted to do. And I said, ‘Well, how about if I just throw him my curveball?’”

Lemon had never seen LaRoche’s curveball in action. The skipper, and the 27,337 spectators at Yankee Stadium, was in for a treat. LaRoche’s curve was in fact a big ol’ blooper pitch. Unaccustomed to facing the pitch, Thomas swung hard, hitting a line-drive foul down the third-base line. Then came another one, this time ending with Thomas bunting the pitch foul. LaRoche tried to finish him with a fastball to the outside corner, but missed.

Then came another lob: A sloooow, high-arcing offering that went a good 15 feet in the air. To Thomas, the pitch had to look like a 24-ounce porterhouse, fat, juicy, and ready to be devoured. But to LaRoche, the pitch was a weapon, a tantalizer that could make a batter swing from his heels and come up with nothing but air. This was no ordinary curveball. This was “LaLob.”

If I were ever granted the power to become any type of pitcher, I’d want to become the greatest junkballer to ever live.


 

 

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