Mystery Pitch?

Posted on Sep 14, 2018 by Joey

Yes, and how...

Gaylord Perry, the Seattle Mariners' Pitcher, was ejected from the ballgame at which he was pitching on August 23rd, 1983. Until that moment, what many had suspected, in fact, believed, was that Perry owed some of his success on the mound to something that is illegal in baseball: throwing a spitball. On that day, the umps caught him!

According to Hardball Times, “the Boston Red Socks demanded Perry be investigated for throwing the spitter, and sure enough the umpires found Perry holding a ball covered in Vaseline”.

Many actions are associated with someone who throws a spitball: pulling on the visor of your cap, tugging on your collar, wetting your fingers on your tongue.

In magic, we call such moves, “feints”. A feint is a natural movement that you do a couple of times, so as to make it seem a normal movement. Then when the audience (in a magician's case) is used to that movement, you do it again, but now, because the audience is expecting it, the movement can be part of the secret of the effect.

In fact, there are many ways a magician can use this subterfuge.

Gaylord Perry's ejection was the first since the 1940's. Since his ejection, at least two more pitchers have been ejected when the ump suspected some kind of “help” was being used on the ball. Several years later, Roy Honeycutt would be found with a thumbtack in his glove.

My favorite is Joe Nieko. He was caught with an emery board in his back pocket. Indeed, other pitchers have also been forced to take the spitter walk of shame.

Joe Nieko's walk of shame is “celebrated” at his appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman a few days after his ejection. On the Letterman clip you get to watch Niekro, in slow motion, throwing the contents of both back pockets to the ground as the umps are talking to him.