An Eephus pitch (also spelled Ephus) in baseball is a very low-speed junk pitch. The delivery from the pitcher has very low velocity and usually catches the hitter off-guard. Its invention is attributed to Rip Sewell of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1940s, although according to historians John Thorn and John Holway, the first pitcher to throw a big blooper pitch was Bill Phillips, who played in the National League on and off from 1890 through 1903. The practice then lay dormant for nearly 40 years until Sewell resurrected it. According to manager Frankie Frisch, the pitch was named by outfielder Maurice Van Robays. When asked what it meant, Van Robays replied, "'Eephus ain't nothing, and that's a nothing pitch." Although the origin is not known for certain, "Eephus" may come from the Hebrew word אפס (pronounced "EFF-ess"), meaning "nothing". The Eephus pitch is thrown overhand like most pitches, but is characterized by an unusual, high arcing trajectory. The corresponding slow velocity bears more resemblance to a slow-pitch softball delivery than to a traditional baseball pitch. It is considered a trick pitch because, in comparison to normal baseball pitches, which run from 70 to 100 miles per hour (110 to 160 km/h), an Eephus pitch appears to move in slow motion at 55 mph (89 km/h) or less, sometimes into the low-40s mph (66–69 km/h).
Development and use in Major League Baseball
Sewell's earliest recorded use of the pitch came in a game against the Boston Braves at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh on June 1, 1943, although as early as the spring training season of 1942 Sewell may have been experimenting with the pitch. Sewell went on to win 20 games with the pitch in 1943.
After appearing in over 300 major-league games, Rip Sewell gave up only one career home run off the Eephus, to Ted Williams in the 1946 All-Star Game. Williams challenged Sewell to throw the Eephus. Sewell obliged, and Williams fouled off the pitch. However, Sewell then announced that he was going to throw the pitch again, and Williams clobbered it for a home run. When describing the mechanics of the pitch and why he was able to succeed where others had failed, Williams remarked "A little girl could hit that pitch, but you had to provide all the power yourself." Years later, however, Williams admitted that he had been running towards the pitcher’s mound as he hit the ball, and photographs reveal that he was in fact a few feet in front of the batter’s box when he made contact. Since under Rule 6.06(a) of the Official Baseball Rules, a batter is out for illegal action when he hits a ball with one or both feet on the ground entirely outside the batter's box, Williams would have been out had it been spotted by the home plate umpire.
Bill "Spaceman" Lee threw an Eephus referred to as the "Leephus," "spaceball," or "moon ball." Pitching for the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the 1975 World Series, the Red Sox were up 3–0 when, on a 1-0 count, Lee threw an Eephus pitch to Tony Pérez with a runner on base. The pitch resulted in a towering two-run home run over the Green Monster that Lee often said afterward "is still rising." The Red Sox would go on to lose the game 4–3, costing them the chance for their first World Series championship since 1918.
Other pitchers known to have employed the Eephus pitch include: Pedro Borbón, Yu Darvish, Casey Fossum (called the Fossum Flip), Steve Hamilton (the folly floater), Liván Hernández, Phil Niekro, Orlando Hernández, Dave LaRoche (LaLob), Vicente Padilla (dubbed the soap bubble by Vin Scully), Satchel Paige, Pascual Perez (the Pascual Pitch), Kazuhito Tadano, Bob Tewksbury, Carlos Villanueva, Alfredo Simón, Clayton Kershaw,[a] Rich Hill, and unique wind-mill windup 1930s to 1950s pitcher Bobo Newsom.
Other nicknames for the Eephus pitch include the balloon ball, blooper ball, gondola, parachute, rainbow pitch – distinct from the rainbow curve, gravity curve, The Monty Brewster (a reference to the titular character in Brewster's Millions), and Bugs Bunny curve (a reference to the 1946 Bugs Bunny cartoon 'Baseball Bugs' in which batters swing three times at a pitch before the ball reaches the plate).
- Kershaw later said the pitch was not what he had intended to throw.
- The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary. Harvest Books. January 1999. p. 284. ISBN 0-15-600580-8. Retrieved January 21, 2009.
- Paul Jackson (July 17, 2008). "The something pitch". ESPN. Retrieved January 16, 2009.
- John Donovan (April 16, 2004). "'LaLob' it in". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on 2004-09-26. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
- Paul Dickson (13 June 2011). The Dickson Baseball Dictionary. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 287–288, 686. ISBN 978-0-393-34008-2. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
- Morris, P. (2006). A Game of Inches: The Stories Behind the Innovations That Shaped Baseball: The Game on the Field. Ivan R. Dee. p. 124. ISBN 9781566639545. Retrieved December 12, 2014.
- "The Green Weenie: June 1 Bucco History: The Eephus & Bob Veale's 16 K Night". oldbucs.blogspot.com. Retrieved December 12, 2014.
- "Baseball History in 1943 National League by Baseball Almanac". baseball-almanac.com. Retrieved December 12, 2014.
- Virginia Hanley (July 2, 1999). "Ted Williams and the Eephus Pitch". The Melrose Mirror. SilverStringers. Retrieved January 16, 2009.
- "Rip Sewell, 'Eephus Ball' Pitcher For Pittsburgh Pirates, Dies at 82". New York Times. September 5, 1989. Retrieved January 16, 2009.
- Plimpton, George. "Greatest Sports legends (Se 1, Ep 8)". IMDB. ESPN. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
- John Shea (2007-06-30). "The Day Rip Got Ripped by Ted". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved June 30, 2007.
- Kirkpatrick, Curry (August 7, 1978), "In An Orbit All His Own", Sports Illustrated, ISSN 0038-822X, archived from the original on November 2, 2012, retrieved August 9, 2012
- "October 22, 1975 World Series Game 7, Reds at Red Sox". Baseball-Reference.com. 1975-10-22. Retrieved 2016-03-14.
- Gurnick, Ken (August 9, 2010). "Padilla's 'Soap Bubble' baffling hitters". MLB.com. MLB Advanced Media. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
- Townsend, Mark (May 18, 2014). "Yu Darvish strikes out Adam Lind with 63 mph eephus pitch". Big League Stew. Yahoo Sports. Retrieved May 20, 2014.
- Pingle, Brad, "Notes: Fossum introduces new quirk", MLB.com, July 31, 2005
- Litsky, Frank (December 4, 1997). "Steve Hamilton, 62, 'Floater' Pitcher for Yankees". New York Times.
- "Sox bats knuckle under". Chicago Tribune. July 10, 1986.
- Jackson, Tony (July 7, 2010). "Masterful on the mound". ESPNLosAngeles.com. ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
- James, Bill; Neyer, Rob (2004). The Neyer/James guide to pitchers: an historical compendium of pitching, pitchers, and pitches. New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 333–37. ISBN 9780743261586.
- Bob Hohler (May 5, 2004). "Despite dramatics in ninth, Red Sox lose fifth straight". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 23, 2009.
- AP (28 June 1998). "Speed bump: Tewksbury slows down McGwire with 44 mph lobs". CNN/SI. Archived from the original on 2013-12-21. Retrieved August 5, 2012.
- Brown, David (August 23, 2013). "Carlos Villanueva's 57-mph Eephus pitch vexes Jayson Werth". Yahoo Sports. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
- Fenech, Anthony (March 5, 2015). "Tigers' Simon adds sixth pitch, a 56-m.p.h. Eephus split". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
- Clair, Michael (April 21, 2016). "Watch Clayton Kershaw unveil his newest pitch: the Eephus". MLB.com. Retrieved April 21, 2016.
- Rymer, Zachary D. (June 2, 2016). "How 36-Year-Old MLB Journeyman Rich Hill Has Become a Potential All-Star". Bleacher Report. Retrieved August 24, 2016.