Henry James on Eliot on "a curved ball"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Sep 11 17:45:49 UTC 2012

Does Henry James display confusion about baseball, or is he referring
to two different types of "deception"?

At 9/11/2012 01:34 PM, Garson O'Toole wrote:
>Stephen: I've been trying to get the 1930 bio also because it contains
>a passage that about "deception on the diamond" that is connected to
>the following action: "making a feint to throw a ball in one direction
>and then throwing it in another". This is the kind of story that could
>be used to synthesize the curve ball quote:
>Cite: 1930, Charles W. Eliot: President of Harvard University,
>1869-1909: Volume 2 by Henry James, GB Page 69, Houghton Mifflin,
>Boston. (Google Books snippet; Not verified on paper)
>[Begin extracted text]
>"Baseball," said Eliot in 1883, "is only fit for professional players,
>because success in it  depends chiefly upon one man, the pitcher, who
>must needs be professionally expert." 1 To pitch a curved ball seemed
>to him to be a resort to a low form of cunning.

A pitcher, throwing what is still today called a "curve ball" --
although there are various kinds and additional terminology for variants.

>Coaching the runner on
>bases, and interlarding instructions to him with gibes intended to
>rattle the other side, offended his taste. When, on a certain
>occasion, a baseball player was put on probation because of a poor
>record in his classes, Eliot remarked that there was no occasion to
>regret that he was thereby automatically put off the Nine, because it
>was admitted that he was a player who resorted to deception on the
>diamond. Professors Briggs and Wendell, much puzzled by this, went to
>Eliot to ask what warrant he had for such a statement. "Why!" said the
>President, drawing himself up and speaking in his most impressive
>manner, "Why! They boasted of his making a feint to throw a ball in
>one direction and then throwing it in another!"

This must be the old pitcher's "feint to third, throw (or not, as the
case may be) to first" deception.  And it is not "pitching", although
James (or Eliot?) may have thought so.


>[End extracted text]
>Looking forward to seeing what you find. I think you will probably
>obtain the 1930 book first.
>On Tue, Sep 11, 2012 at 8:04 AM, Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote:
> > ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> > Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> > Poster:       Stephen Goranson <goranson at DUKE.EDU>
> > Subject:      Henry James on Eliot on "a curved ball"
> >
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > I already sent back to storage James' biography of Eliot. But,
> FWIW, the words "To pitch a curved ball seemed to him to be a
> resort to a low form of cunning" appear about midway between two
> sentences with footnotes. It may be that this is James'
> characterization or memory or paraphrase of Eliot. In other words,
> possibly, maybe, drawing on personal acquaintance rather than a document.
> >
> > Stephen Goranson
> > www.duke.edu/~goranson
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list