"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Rip Sewell, who would have been 100 this past May, was celebrated as the originator of the "Eephus" or "Blooper" pitch. One of the most famous moments in All-Star Game history came in 1946 when he threw one to Ted Williams.
For four years, National League batsmen had been trying to fathom Rip Sewell's pet pitch. Rip called it an ephus ball after an old crap-shooting phrase, ephusiphus-ophus; sportswriters called it a blooper. Whatever its name, it was lobbed up to the plate, fat and inviting, with lots of backspin—and, if hit, usually popped up high in the air to the second-baseman.
Just before last week's all-star game at Boston, Sewell promised the American League's Ted Williams a chance at one. It came in the eighth inning, with two on. It floated up, as advertised. Lanky Williams stepped into it, put his powerful wrists into the swing at the right moment, just like a golfer. The ball sailed 380 leet into the right field bull pen for a home run, his second of the afternoon. It was the first time anybody had ever smacked Rip's ephus ball for a homer.
Rip Sewell, creator and master of the ephus pitch said, "Before the game Ted (Williams) said to me, 'Hey Rip, you wouldn't throw that damn crazy pitch in a game like this.' Sure, I'm gonna throw it to you, so look out."
During the eighth inning Ted Williams came to the plate with Rip Sewell on the mound. Sewell described what happened to the media after the game, "He shook his head from side to side, telling me not to throw it. I nodded to him - you're gonna get it, buddy. So I wound up like I was going to throw a fastball and here comes the blooper. He swung from Port Arthur and just fouled it on the tip of his bat. He stepped back in, staring out at me, and I nodded to him again - you're gonna get another one. I threw him another one, but it was outside and he let it go. Now he was looking for it. Well, I threw him a fastball and he didn't like that. Surprised him. Now I had him one ball, two strikes. I wound up and threw him another blooper, on an arc about twenty-five feet high. It was a good one. Dropped right down the chute for a strike. He took a couple of steps up on it - which was the right way to attack that pitch, incidentally - and he hit it right out of there. And I mean he HIT it!"
Rip Sewell yelled at Ted Williams when he was rounding the bases, "The only reason you hit it is because I told you it was coming!"
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* Red Sox pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee threw a modified version of the pitch, the "Leephus," to the Reds' Tony Perez in the seventh game of the '75 Series, with similar result.
* YouTube has footage of Sacramento minor-league pitcher Kaz Tadano tossing an eephus pitch in a recent game against the wonderfully named Albuquerque Isotopes.
* Manhattan correspondent Steve M. will appreciate this vintage clip of New York's Steve Hamilton throwing his "Folly Floater" to Cleveland's Tony Horton in a 1970 game at the old Yankee Stadium. Horton literally crawls back to the dugout after managing only a foul pop. That's Thurman Munson making the catch.