Watson: Searching for the modern screwball

From SABR member Owen Watson at FanGraphs on February 5, 2016:

Before I wrote for FanGraphs – in what might be considered the dark ages – I was in a small grocery store in my Oakland neighborhood. I was in line to pay, A’s hat perched forlornly on my head, when I struck up a conversation with a guy in line who looked to be in his 60s. We talked about baseball for five to ten minutes, and, toward the end of the conversation, he introduced himself as Mike Norris: a former screwballer who pitched for the A’s during the ‘70s and ‘80s. It was a fluke meeting — a simple coincidence, if there ever was one — but looking back on it, the meeting was somewhat of a turning point for me in respect to writing about baseball.

I ended up putting together a few articles about him for The Hardball Times during the past couple of years, and the hours of interviews I’ve conducted with him form the basis of a large project about social issues in baseball and the state of the game in urban America. Every couple of weeks, I sit down with him and he tells me stories, like the time he almost killed/got killed by Dave Winfield. It’s strange how things work out.

This article is peripherally about Norris. He’s the historical basis for what we’re talking about today, because he threw what can only be described as a dying (or dead) pitch: the screwball. There’s a mythological lifeblood to baseball – it courses through every home run and every outfield assist to the plate, popping up to offer its comparisons to the longest, the fastest, the hardest, the immeasurable. The screwball lives in this mythology, somewhere among its fellow defunct and rare pitches: the Spitter, the Eephus, the Gyroball.

Read the full article here: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/searching-for-the-modern-screwball/

Originally published: February 5, 2016. Last Updated: February 5, 2016.