I can still hear my High School baseball coach yelling out to me “Contursi, make ’em hit the ball for God’s sake”. Of course this ran against my grain since I wanted to strike everyone out………but that’s another story.
Oddly though, in the late 19th Century that was what pitchers were paid to do….let the batters hit the ball. Jim Creighton (below)
was the first pitcher to ever challenge a hitter with a fastball and for this he was jeered by most fans and players. Later, he was elected to the Hall of Fame even though his fastball could never really be “fast” since the catcher was (essentially) catching pitches barehanded.
In the late 1860’s, another baseball pioneer came along and his introduction of the curveball changed the game even more dramatically. Enter another less heralded Hall of Famer – Candy Cummings (below).
Defying the laws of physics, he insisted that he could make a ball take a downward path. At the time and even today, many people reduced his claim to an optical illusion. Of course none of these people ever stood in a batters box watching Sandy Koufax’ s 12 to 6 drop in for a strike.
From there on, the game between batters and pitchers was “on”. Today, it is not uncommon to see three successive relievers come in the game throwing (not pitching) 98mph heat.
For some, this causes much consternation since these critics believe that the sound of the ball leaving the bat when Mike Stanton cracks one high and deep is the reason why fans come to a game.
Maybe so. But nothing gets me going more than a Matt Harvey challenging a hitter on 2-2 count with a high inside fastball. Or even the reverse…..a crafty Bartolo Colon tossing 85mph “fastballs” to a hitter and painting the corners nearly every time.
The debate continues…….wanna go back to the old days when pitchers had to “make ‘m hit the ball”?