Saturday, August 9, 2008

He Discovered the Curve


An Old Brooklyn Player Brought About a Revolution In Baseball.

It is said that a Brooklyn man, Arthur Cummings, a member of the Amateur Stars in 1867, was the discoverer of the curve that has revolutionized baseball and made it so largely a pitcher's game. Murnane, member of the famous old Boston team of 1877, says that Cummings became a professional about 1872, and played in the Hartford, Cincinnati and other clubs until 1878, when he retired from pitching.

He was of light build, and bore the nickname Candy. He stood 5 feet 8, and had a remarkably long arm and long fingers.

"Cummings," said Murnane, "was one of the few men to this day who could make a ball curve with a pendulum or underhand swing, and his curve was the widest I ever saw.

"For the last seven years after this discovery, Mr. Cummings had the field to himself, and was looked upon as the phenomenon of the times.

"Having faced all the great pitchers from 1871 to 1879, I was well posted on the progress of the pitcher's art. In the spring of 1879 I was in Albany, connected with the club of that city, where Mr. Cummings was acting as manager, now and then playing a game.

"During a reminiscent chat one evening Mr. Cummings told of his triumphs with the curve on the fields around Brooklyn. I was interested, and asked how he learned to get the ball to curve.

"'Purely accidental,' said he. 'I never heard of such a thing, and couldn't believe my own eyes at first.

"'I was pitching to some boys in the open lots outside of Brooklyn, where I lived, one afternoon, and noticed the ball would work away from their bats. I was pitching easy, for in those days you were obliged to keep your arm straight.

"'The idea came to me that by snapping the ball with the wrist I could get it to sail away from the batter. When I went home that night, I commenced to think about what effect the twisting of a pitched ball would have, and went out the next day to show some friends what I had discovered, and, to my astonishment, the ball would go perfectly straight, and I went home that night disgusted.

"'In two or three days I went out again and found I could get the same curve as the first day, and after experimenting for awhile I learned that the wind was blowing slightly against the ball as on the first day, and that a fast ball would not curve as well as one thrown in at a medium pace.

"'I worked on the secret the rest of that season, and the next spring had all the amateur clubs after me.'

"Mr. Cummings was at that time working hard, trying to invent a coupling for steam cars, and had about given up the idea of following baseball as a profession. I have never heard of this player making any statement before or since of how he discovered the way to curve a baseball, and being thoroughly interested in the subject I can remember the description as if it were made but yesterday." — New York Press.

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