Eephus – The Arc of Triumph

If the pitcher Rip Sewell is remembered at all these days, it's for two things - a noted 1934 fistfight with Hank Greenberg, and the 1940s invention of the bloop pitch, which has appeared since from time to time in various guises, under various names. Sewell was a right-handed pitcher whose career took place almost entirely in the National League from 1932 to 1949.  He was a Southern country boy born May 11, 1907 in Decatur, Alabama and like the bloop pitch he invented, his career had an unusual and slow trajectory. His major-league debut came with the Detroit Tigers in 1932 when he was already 25, fairly late. He only pitched about 10 innings in relief that year and, if his bloated 12.66 ERA wasn't enough to earn him a ticket back to the minors, then Jimmie "The Beast" Foxx sealed the deal by belting one off Sewell that nearly left the actual ballpark. Sewell was sent down to the  AAA Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League and bounced around that league for years, making it back to the majors with the Pirates in 1938, when he was 31. Again he didn't pitch much that year - 38 innings of relief, with only slightly better results (0-1, 4.23 ERA). For a ballplayer trying to establish a toehold in the majors, Pittsburgh was a good place to be back in those days: the Pirates were pretty awful then and just desperate for pitching. From 1939 on, Sewell got himself together, became a starting pitcher and began to win some games - he was 10-9 in 1939, then 16-5 in 1940. more [...]