Must-click link: the vanishing screwball

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Screwballers are all but extinct. Their fire has gone out of the universe. Hector Santiago, my friend, is all that’s left of their religion.

Bruce Schoenfeld of the New York Times Magazine investigates the screwballers today. He talks to Santiago, past practitioners of the dark, screwballing art and tries to find out why the pitch is almost entirely a relic of history these days.

He also reminds us that the screwball made and resurrected a whole host of pitching careers:

When Carl Hubbell was released by the Tigers in 1928, he went to a minor-league team in Beaumont, Tex., perfected the screwball, then won 253 games for the Giants. Warren Spahn began using the pitch in 1956, at 34, with a career that appeared to be winding down. He recorded six more 20-victory seasons for the Braves. After going 4-19 from 1965 to 1967, Tug McGraw remade himself as a screwballer and pitched until 1984. “The screwball has saved a lot of pitchers,” says Ron Swoboda, a former teammate of McGraw’s. “When Tug found it, he found gold.”

Will anyone else find gold like that? It seems doubtful, as there there is now a widespread belief that the screwball is hard on the arm and thus opens pitchers up to injuries. But is this belief well-founded or is it, like so many other baseball beliefs, based on nothing more than gut feeling and received wisdom?

Schoenfeld investigated and got a pretty good answer. Click through to read the article and find out if there is an actual medical reason why we see so few screwballers these days.

Bryce Harper is on paternity leave

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Several years ago, Bryce Harper made news when it was revealed that he thought the word “meme” was pronounced “may-may.” That may be my favorite Bryce Harper moment ever.

As it was announced by the Phillies a little while ago that Harper has been placed on paternity leave, I’m wondering if he pronounces the word “baby” “bébé.”

I wouldn’t think less of him if he did, actually. One of my favorite people in the world does that.

Anyway, congratulations to Bryce Harper on becoming a dad. And it’s good news not just for him but for the Phillies and their fans as well. Why? Because as Bill noted earlier this week, Harper seems to hit better when he’s being taunted and mocked. For now that’s not very important, as the child won’t be talking for some time. As a father of teenagers, I can tell you that eventually the little monsters live to disrespect their dear old dads. If Harper’s current motivational patterns hold, by the time that kid is ten Harper will be winning the dang Triple Crown every year.

But again, congratulations to the Harpers.