Baseball’s first curveball was thrown underhand and inspired by seashells


– [Narrator] The pitcher’s
ability to throw a ball, that moves while approaching a plate, is a fundamental cornerstone
of the game of baseball, but that wasn’t always the case. The role of the pitcher
has humble beginnings, and the name itself
indicates that the ball wasn’t meant to be thrown, it was meant to be pitched
underhand like a gentleman. (Upbeat Music) In 1845, the Knickerbocker rules formalized the way the game
of baseball was played. It was considered the New York game, and it was chosen as the
basis of modern baseball, over its competitor,
the Massachusetts game. However, the New York version, unlike its Massachusetts counterpart, did not allow overhand pitching, stating in rule nine that
the ball must be pitched, not thrown for the bat. At the time, the pitcher’s role was merely to get things started. He would lob the ball towards the plate, with no intent of tricking the batter, and resume normal fielding duties. (Upbeat Music) The rules surrounding pitching
grew alongside the sport. At first, a swing and a
miss was the only strike. A called strike didn’t exist until 1858. It wasn’t until 1879 that there was a limit placed on called balls. And in 1884, the National League voted to lift the ban
on overhand pitching. Throughout this time the pitcher evolved from the initiator in a gentleman’s game, to a major competitive
force in a national sport. And to put the growth of
competition in context, the creation of the
first professional league, with the first players to
legally get paid, was in 1871. The story of the curveball however, starts in 1863, two years after the start of the American Civil War. As the tale goes, a 14-year-old boy by the name of William Arthur Cummings, was throwing seashells with his friends on a beach in Brooklyn. They noticed that the shells curved in the air when they threw them. And Cummings thought to himself, what if I could make a
baseball move like that? Throwing a curve ball is one thing, but doing it underhand is quite another. And he found it difficult
to snap his wrist, and keep his feet on the ground. In the book Catcher by Peter Morris, Cummings is quoted saying that he was holding the ball
in many different ways, and throwing with a variety of motions. Of course, many of the ways in which I held or threw the ball were useless. Four years after beginning his
quest to throw a curveball, Cummings was a star pitcher
for the Brooklyn Excelsiors, an amateur team. It was here that he
earned the nickname Candy, a slang term for the
best in the 19th century. And he did so without unveiling the pitch he had spent years figuring out. According to the Society of
American Baseball Research, that moment finally came
on October 7th, 1867, just shy of his 19th birthday. The Excelsiors were
playing Harvard College at Jarvis Field in
Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cummings had already given up a run, when Archibald Bush came to the plate. Years later, he would
admit that he was afraid of Bush’s prowess at the bat, so Cummings decided to unleash the curve. He later recounted the moment
to the Boston Daily Globe. Snapping the ball with a wrist movement and getting it to spin through the air, caused an air cushion to
gradually form around the ball, turning it in the direction
of the least resistance. When he struck at the
ball it seemed to go about a foot beyond the end of his stick. I tried again with the same result, and then I realized that
I had succeeded at last. Candy Cummings had done it, but he hadn’t quite perfected it. And the day was bittersweet,
as the Excelsiors lost 18 to 6, but he
continued to practice the pitch, and when he went pro in 1872, Cummings with his curving pitch, was considered one of the best. In each of his six professional seasons, he placed in the top 10 in strikeouts. So can we definitively
say that Candy Cummings was the first person
to throw a curveball? No, like when you heard your teacher smoked pot with the cool kids, it’s basically just a series
of uncorroborated stories. In 1869 a reporter watching
Brooklyn Eckfords pitcher Phonney Martin described him as “an extremely hard pitcher to hit, for the ball never comes
in a straight line, but in a tantalizing curve.” New York Mutuals pitcher Fred McSweeney, claims to have thrown a curve in 1866, but perhaps the biggest name, opposite Cummings in
the curve ball debate, is Fred Goldsmith. Goldsmith claimed that he was the first to publicly demonstrate the feat in 1870, when he set up poles on a field and threw a pitch that curved around them. There are however people who claim that demonstration was
another man, not Goldsmith, and others say there’s no evidence to support any such
demonstration ever took place. But one man who sides with
Fred Goldmith is Bill Stern, a sportscasting legend enshrined both in the Radio Hall of Fame and on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Stern wrote about Goldsmith’s
invention of the curve ball in his 1949 book, Bill Stern’s
Favorite Baseball Stories. In it he writes, “Freddy Goldsmith lived happily in the
knowledge that posterity would always know him as the
inventor of the curveball. However, another pitcher named
Arthur Cummings popped up, claiming to be the
inventor, and quite a few baseball men believed him. When Freddy Goldsmith heard about this, it broke him up completely. Ill and bed-ridden at the time, he died a broken-hearted man, pathetically maintaining to
the end that he, and only he, was the original inventor
of the curveball.” Goldsmith died in 1939, the same year Arthur “Candy” Cummings was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Upbeat Music)

98 thoughts on “Baseball’s first curveball was thrown underhand and inspired by seashells

  1. David Attenborough voice And thus, with a whole two and a half hours of Jon Bois content released, the timid SB Nation emerges from the nest with its usual content series, knowing that they have a limited time before the cries for a third season of Breaking Madden begin anew

  2. Well sb…youve done it again!!!!…another captivating mini doc…can u plz do more of the (fighting in a time of loneliness) type series….id pay for it

  3. So whats the deal with Comcast subsidiaries and Army advertising? I just saw it on the PL on NBC Sports too, not to mention that Verge video.

  4. Imagine being run by people aware of the materialist implications of capitalist countries and their armed forces and taking on sponsorship from them to farm your own audience.

  5. I don't really know who invented the curveball, but I think it is possible that multiple people invented it without knowledge of each other at the same time

  6. Howdy! I’d like to give my recommendation for a future episode of 1st, entitled:
    “The First Episode Of 1st”
    Thanks for your time and consideration.

  7. I think multiple people could have invented it without realizing they weren't the only one doing it, but I'm calling bullshit on the 3 pole demonstration

  8. I wonder what the role of the pitcher would be if technology for pitching machines had existed back then? A machine can pitch nearly the same way every time, which seems to be what they were going for.

  9. I just wanted to say thanks SBNation for taking the U.S. Army’s money and using it to create interesting content on a global platform for viewers around the planet to enjoy, everywhere, for everyone.

  10. /finish Fighting In The Age Of Loneliness

    /watch this thinking it'll cheer you up after watching that mostly depressing thing

    /finish this and shoot self because life is thankless and unfair unless you're Nate Diaz

  11. My favorite team was the Brooklyn Excelsiors. I hated the New York Mutuals. I also despise the Staten Island Haberdashers, and the Newark Ninnies. My mom was Rochester Rapscallions fan who were rivals to the Portsmouth Picaroons during the Pennysworth Chesterfieldshire era.

  12. Didnt Fighting in the Age of loneliness lambasted the us for fighting a war that was not needed. Now there is an army sponsor on this video? HUH???

  13. Sounds like another Tessa/Marconi story. Sometimes a thing gets invented twice but sepeately. I don't think it's despare-worthy. Cool video!😎

  14. Reminds me of the episode of the Simpsons when they made a boy band and were singing songs subliminally tricking kids to enter the Air Force..

  15. Nicknames have changed drastically we had a pitcher for another HS team tht we called cake because thts what he threw, he had decent speed 85-86mph but it was always right over the plate so it just like taking bp. Someone being called candy i figure would mean bout the same thing today

  16. I wish more of my “defense” tax dollars went to sbnation and not blowing up civilians for corporate interest!! Motherfunk the army..sweet vid- you should do a first game debate on Elysian field vs. Cooperstown

  17. So many people commenting here are worried that they might succumb to join the United States army because they were exposed to an advertisement. Breath easy, you don't need to worry. The army tests for intelligence and they won't take anyone who scores as low as you are on I.Q.

  18. SB Nation: Alright! Time to get those sweet Bois/Biederman clicks!

    Also SB Nation: Alright! Time to get those sweet US Army dollars!

  19. interesting that sb nation just posted "fighting in the age of loneliness" which was decidely anti-US army yet they're sponsored by them lol

  20. Fredrick Goldsmith is my great great grandfather. This truly means so much to see this. My uncle John wrote a biography on him and how he had grown up with him in his later years of life. And did a wonderful job expressing details on how Fredrick was as a husband, father, and a fantastic baseball player. Thank you SB Nation!

  21. I watched the clip of Will pitching like 100 times. Will is a national treasure that should be preserved at all costs.

  22. To add to the confusion, Cummings is quoted as saying that Martin was throwing a kind of slow curve before him, but not like his curve ball. Martin also mentions that he experimented with the pitch while in the Union army during the Civil War on Roanoke Island, North Carolina.

  23. There is no such thing as the inventor of curve ball. You can claim you're the first one to do it, but still, not an inventor

    Same thing as there is no such thing as the inventor of football (soccer)

  24. I just found this channel and Jon Bois yesterday. That means I have hundreds of hours of Jon Bois content and it's all fresh and new. Are you old timers jealous?

  25. Ok so I figured this guyu was innovative to be able to throw a curveball but then he describes how he did it to the paper using essentially the same understanding we have today, that the ball follows the path of least resistance which is different than straightforward because the spin of the ball create pressure zones around the ball. It's called the magnus effect and apparently this amateur athelete was fully aware of it during the civil war

  26. Not for nothing, but I figured out how to throw a ninja star in a curve.

    … this is not a useful skill and it took forever, but I am still proud

  27. Don't remember the league but it was in the late 1890's or so, a Catholic church banded the pitch because it was unethical to deceive the batter.

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