Jordan: Whatever happened to the overhand curveball?

From Pat Jordan at Sports on Earth on August 7, 2014:

Three major league scouts were talking over lunch, in the cafeteria of the Orioles’ spring training stadium in Sarasota, Fla., in early March. An old, fat guy with a drinker’s blotchy complexion. A tall man as thin as a blade, with a hatchet face. A younger man with an unreal tanning-salon glow. I sat down across from them with my lunch. They lowered their voices now, in that conspiratorial way of men who assume that other, lesser people — fans and sportswriters — are just dying to be privy to their expertise.

I interrupted them with a question. “Hey, you guys should know,” I said. “Why don’t pitchers throw the big overhand curveball anymore?” All three looked at me in disbelief. He spoke to us! The nerve! I flapped my press badge at them and said, “I’m doing a story on the big overhand curveball.”

The drinker dismissed me with a gruff, “Nobody throws it anymore.” They went back to their muffled conversation.

I interrupted them again, with my disdain now. “I know that! That’s why I’m writing this f—ing story.”

Their conversation froze, their mouths still open. Finally the drinker grumbled, “Too hard to throw.”

“Really?” I said. “I used to throw it in 1959, when I was at County Stadium with Warren Spahn.” (I omitted the minor detail that I was only there for two days, to sign my contract with the Braves, after which they sent me packing to the flat prairie of McCook, Neb., to start my professional career at 18, in the Nebraska State League — Class D Rookie, lowest of the low minor leagues.)

They perked up a bit now. Curious. Warren Spahn? The tanning-salon guy said, “Umpires don’t like to call it.”

The hatchet face said, “Teams discourage it.”

The drinker said, “Too hard to throw for a strike.”

I said, “I saw Herb Score throw it for a strike one day in 1956, when he struck out a ton of Yankees. He had the best curve I ever saw in person.”

The drinker said, “No, Koufax’s was better.”

“The best ever?” I said.

The drinker thought for a bit and then said, “One of the best ever. Camilo Pascual had the best curveball ever.”

The tanning-salon guy was grinning to himself, as if seeing an image in his mind’s eye. He shook his head, still grinning, and said, “Man, hitters really hate — I mean hate — to face a pitcher with a big overhand curveball.”

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Originally published: August 7, 2014. Last Updated: August 7, 2014.