The Sporting News has a good piece about the evolution of pitching, which we read with interest until seeing the dreaded word "gyroball," which tends to provoke in us the same reaction as the word "disco." But until then there are some fun tidbits, such as the fact that until 1881, the distance from the mound to the plate was 45 feet. And for the first few decades, pitchers threw underhand (the Mets continue that tradition). Here are some other highlights:
• 1860s: Changeup and curveball emerge in the pre-'major league' days. (Candy Cummings is most often credited with developing the curve.)
• 1881: Pitching distance grows to 50 feet.
• 1920: Spitball banned, although 17 certified practitioners are allowed to use it for the rest of their careers.
• 1970s: Split-finger fastball emerges. (Cubs minor league pitching instructor Fred Martin teaches the pitch to Bruce Sutter.)
• 1980s: The term cut fastball is added to the game's lexicon, but experts contend that the pitch has been thrown for a long (although unspecified) time.
• 2007: Gyroball.
But here are some key innovations that The Sporting News missed:
• 1946: Bugs Bunny unveils his "powerful, paralyzing, perfect pachydermous percussion pitch" for the Tea Totalers in a game at the Polo Grounds against the Gas-House Gorrilas.
• 1970: Little Leaguer strikes out Superman with gas-filled baseball.
• 1976: Yankees pitcher Joey Turner introduces the "held ball," in which he stands on the mound and refuses to throw a pitch while Chico's Bail Bonds players circle the bases.
• 1993: Chicago Cubs pitcher Henry Rowengartner, 12, becomes the youngest player to throw a 100 MPH pitch in a Major League game. (Filmed in Oak Park, Ill.!).
• 2006: Jose Canseco throws many pitches never before seen by humans.