No one might choose to be a knuckle ball pitcher. Most pitchers would rather throw fire over being forced to be one of those who flock to that fluttering pitch. That is why it is fitting that the appointed man as the inventor of said pitch found it in his own strange way.
Introducing Thomas “Toad” Ramsey. The streamer “discovered” the knuckle ball after an unfortunate accident. Working as a laborer, Ramsey cut the tendon on his index finger, forcing him to grasp the ball almost with his fingernails. This produced two different “curves” or what they called drop-balls.
Although it wasn’t properly a knuckle ball – and the 19th century media failed to realize the glory this pitching would receive – it was a kind of such a shot. We can call it the prototype of the knuckle ball, with movement similar to the knuckle curve.
It was a devastating pitch and hitters couldn’t figure it out. The Chattanooga Daily Times said Ramsey threw his “drop-ball” with his “left hand like a wizard and his arm was the magic wand.”
That ability resulted in one of the best seasons in baseball history. With the Louisville Colonels in 1886, Ramsey led the league with 588.2 innings and pitched 66 complete games. In addition, he struck out 499 batters. He practically doubled that performance the following season, including 17 fans in a game against the Cleveland Blues – this during a time when a pitcher needed four strikes to retire a batter.
That’s why Ramsey was a big proponent of striking out strikeouts – long before the sabermetric revolution brought such an aspect into the picture.
“If one of my pitches is hit to shortstop, who fields it and throws it to first base in time, the result is an out to first baseman and an assist to shortstop. But nothing for me, ”Ramsey explained. “But if that shortstop had been in another position and the ball passed him, it would be recorded as a hit conceded by me. It doesn’t make sense because everything is out of my control when the ball leaves my hand.
Here’s the best example of his love of punch: The knuckleman was once offered $ 100 to pitch a game, but Ramsey instead asked for $ 5 per swing.
Naturally, Ramsey’s goal was to get every out via strikeout – even letting batted balls pass onto the mound. He ended up with 24, but had to settle for $ 50 and a week’s lodging.
Unfortunately, all those innings – and the love of the drink (he is also seen as the inventor of a cocktail – resulted in a brief career for Ramsey. After his first performance in 1885, his retirement came after 1890 (although in That year he was the league leader in strikeouts per nine innings).
So the next time you see a knuckle pitch confuse a hitter, it’s worth reminding yourself of Toad Ramsey.
Michael Clair / MLB.com
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MLB: The History of the Invention of the Knuckle Toss