off-speed pitches

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Thu Dec 2 13:40:54 UTC 2004

Haven't checked Dickson yet for these...

"off-speed (pitch)" (OED3 has 1962):

  Van Nuys (Calif.) News, Sept 6, 1951, p. 8B
  Matt had men on base in five of the seven frames but his off-speed
  pitches had the opposition swinging off time.

  Los Angeles Times, Oct 9, 1958, p. C2
  Gil McDougald said the l0th-inning homer he hit off Spahn -- the
  blow that snapped a 2-2 tie -- came on what he called an "off-speed
  fast ball."
  "It was some kind of a pitch that didn't break," he added.

"changeup" (OED3 has 1943):

  Coshocton (Ohio) Tribune, Aug 6, 1937, p. 7
  Zumbro was right, and made it tough on the Valley hitters with
  his tantalizing curves and change ups.

  Lima (Ohio) News, Oct 5, 1939, p. 3
  Both used a sharp-breaking curve, a fast ball on the corners and
  each had a change-up at the right time.

  Iowa City Press Citizen, May 24, 1941, p. 11
  "He's as fast as ever," says the Brooklyn second baseman of his
  teammate. "He has control, a good curve, a slider and a change up."

"circle change" (OED3 has 1988):

  (Syracuse, NY) Post Standard, September 16, 1985, p. C2
  There's also a circle change -- held by the back three fingers --
  that he learned from Blue Jay Doyle Alexander.

"junkball" (not yet in OED):

  Reno (Nevada) Evening Gazette, June 28, 1952, p. 7
  (headline) 'Manana Pitch' By Cuban Aids Senator's Drive.
  Old Con Marrero, Junk Ball Artist, Continues to Win. ...
  Ed Lopat, another "junk ball" pitcher, pitched the New York
  Yankees to a 10-0 victory over the Philadelphia Athletics.

"let-up pitch" (not yet in OED):

  Coshocton (Ohio) Tribune, Aug 30, 1943, p. 2
  The next time he came up. Curt Davis gave him another let-up
  pitch and that was the ball that crossed Bedford Avenue on the fly.

"flutterball" (not yet in OED):

  Reno (Nevada) Evening Gazette, May 16, 1938, p. 13
  Nick had a sweeping curve, a flutter ball, and was one of the
  game's best at picking runners off first base.

"nothing pitch" (not yet in OED):

  (Reno) Nevada State Journal, Oct 7, 1938, p. 8
  (headline) 'Nothing Pitch' Baffles Yankees Most of Contest

"nothing ball" (not yet in OED):

  Frederick (Maryland) Post, June 24, 1936, p. 3
  He threw what looked like a nothing ball to Billy Herman, who
  slammed it to left field for a double.

  Los Angeles Times, Jul 18, 1936, p. 15
  Wesley Ferrell, the Red Sox "nothing ball" pitcher, tops both
  leagues with seventeen complete games to his record.

"cripple pitch" (not yet in OED):

  Athens (Ohio) Messenger, May 4, 1930, p. 9
  Berwanger worked Mazdy into a 3-2 count and hit a cripple pitch
  for a long home run down the left field foul line.

"hesitation pitch" (not yet in OED):

  New York Times, Aug 17, 1925, p. 11
  In the first game Johnny Cooney, the left-hander with the hesitation
  pitch, humiliated the Giants with a three-hit performance.

"fade-away" (OED2 has 1909):

  Washington Post, Oct 13, 1905, p. 8
  That siren-like "fade-away" ball of Mathewson's lured the
  Philadelphia hitters on to the strike-out; his drop and his
  trick of slipping them over first one edge of the plate, then
  the other, were a conglomeration so easily put in operation
  that the home hitters were hypnotized.

  New York Times Sep 14, 1907, p. 7
  He was the embodiment of speed, skill, and accuracy combined, and his
  "fade-away" ball so completely baffled the Brooklyns that only five
  were able to make safe hits, and eleven fanned the gentle zephyrs.

"floater" (not yet in OED in baseball sense):

  Los Angeles Times, Aug 14, 1904, p. B4
  Few left-handers affect anything but speed, and a slow "floater"
  coming up to the plate like a balloon is very likely to tempt
  batters to swing their heads off before the ball is in range...
  With his slow ball he combines a good all-around assortment of
  curves, of which the best is doubtless his raise ball or "floater,"
  which he is depicted in the act of sailing up to the plate.

"change of pace" (not yet in OED in baseball sense -- though it appears in
the 1943 cite for "changeup"):

   New York Times, Apr 21, 1883, p. 8
   Welch's pitching was a feature of the game. His change of pace at
   times was very good and met with the approval of good judges of
   the national game.

   New York Times, Jul 19, 1885. p. 5
   His change of pace was the prettiest seen on the grounds this year.
   The ball would come sailing along slow enough for the batsman to
   read the trade-mark, and the very next would fly over the plate
   with the velocity of a cannon ball.

   Fitchburg (Mass.) Sentinel, Apr 22, 1889, p. 2
   Take Keefe, for instance. He does not depend on curves and shoots
   so much as on a change of pace. Ball after ball is sent across
   the plate with the same motion, but with different speed, and the
   batter is either breaking his back at a slow one or hitting at a
   fast one after it is past him.

   Los Angeles Times, May 20, 1892, p. 8
   First fast, then a slow one, now curving this way and then that,
   his change of pace and variations of in an out, up and down were
   altogether too unceremonial for the haughty Dukes, and down they

   (Decatur, Illinois) Daily Review, March 08, 1895, p. 4
   Amos seldom used a straight ball, and never resorted to what is
   known among pitchers as 'change of pace.'

   Washington Post, Sep 29, 1907, p. S1
   This prediction is based on the fact that Johnson has mastered the
   slow ball, and it is figured that with his terrific speed the
   change of pace will be most deceiving to opposing batsmen.

   Los Angeles Times, Aug 18, 1912, p. VII9
   What the most of them use is the out curve, and if it is mixed in
   with a change of pace and a fast ball a pitcher can 'get' most of

   Indianapolis Star, Aug 28, 1912, p. 8
   Link had his change of pace working fine and by mixing his famous
   floater with fast ones he had the Saints swinging futilely.

Apparently "change of pace" originally referred to a pitcher's variation
between fast and slow pitches, and eventually came to refer to a slow
pitch mixed in with fast pitches.

--Ben Zimmer

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