Hershberger: The Terry Larkin story

From SABR member Richard Hershberger at Ordinary Times on July 1, 2016:

First the necessary preliminary:  This is about Terry Larkin, not Barry Larkin. Barry seems to have his act together. Terry, was we shall see, did not.

Terry Larkin was born in Brooklyn circa 1856. He made his way up through the amateur ranks, and first appears as a semi-professional with the T.B.F.U.S. Club of Bridgeport, Connecticut. (There is a difference of opinion as to what T.B.F.U.S. stood for. The official version is “The Bridgeport Friendly Social Union” but there is also a claim that it was “The Best Fucking Team in the United States.” I am skeptical of the latter claim. If that was what they were aiming for, they could have come up with an official name that incorporated a “T.”)

Terry pitched one professional game in 1876, but 1877 was his real professional debut. He went on to have three very good seasons, before developing a sore arm in 1879. He was washed up as a pitcher, but moved to the infield, playing for various proto-minor league clubs, most notably the Brooklyn Atlantics in 1881 and the New York Metropolitans in 1882.

So far, this was a pretty standard career progression for the time. Pitching was in a transitional era in the second half of the 1870s and first of the 1880s. Pitching at the beginning of the 1870s was underhand, with the arm kept straight (at least in theory). Teams typically had a starter and a backup “change” pitcher. Pitchers succeeded with speed and change of pace and good control. Some pitchers were developing a curve ball, but only a few could throw it effectively, and the delivery restrictions meant that it wasn’t really all that good a curve. Then the restrictions on the straight arm were removed. This led to the spread of the curve ball, 1875 being the breakout year. The old straight-arm pitchers quietly retired and a new generation of curve pitchers replaced them. These in turn systematically fudged on the underhand delivery, working for a faster fastball and a curvier curve, with the new arm angle becoming the de facto standard. In the meantime batters adjusted, so pitching never totally dominated.

Read the full article here: http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/2016/06/27/the-terry-larkin-story/

Originally published: July 6, 2016. Last Updated: July 6, 2016.