Charles William Eliot on the curve ball

Geoffrey Nunberg nunberg at ISCHOOL.BERKELEY.EDU
Sat Sep 8 05:45:53 UTC 2012

There's a widely repeated story that Harvard's president Charles Eliot objected to the idea of Harvard baseball players using the curve ball because it was deceptive. It has always sounded bogus to me-- the sort of story someone would make up about a character like Eliot.  I asked John Thorn, the official MLB historian and the author of Baseball in the Garden of Eden, about this and he responded:

> Geoff, once upon a time I tried to find in Eliot's published writings the famous quote, used in the Burns Baseball film and uttered by George Plimpton but could not. (""Well, this year I'm told the team did well because one pitcher had a fi
> ne curve ball. I understand that a curve ball is thrown with a deliberate attempt to deceive. Surely this is not an ability we should want to foster at Harvard.") It is in several quotation books, but always (as far as I can detect) unsourced. Boston Globe printed the quotation June 27, 1963, and I am aware of no earlier citation.

I bet the story goes back earlier than that. Fred? Ben? Barry? Anyone?


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