[Ads-l] "Official Ephus" and eephus?

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Dec 16 16:52:17 UTC 2019

Interesting topic, Stephen.
In 1943 "eephus" was sometimes followed by "nothing" in parentheses.
(The spellings "eephus and "ephus" both appeared in newspapers.)

Sewell was not pitching a fast ball or a curve ball. He was pitching
a nothing ball. But I have yet to see a convincing explanation for why
"eephus" meant "nothing". The rationale offered further below was

Date: September 4, 1943
Newspaper: The Miami Daily News
Newspaper Location:
Photo Caption Title: 'NOW HERE'S HOW I DID IT'
Author: AP Wirephoto
Quote Page 3B, Column 3
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
Old Honus Wagner, the grand old shortstop of the Pirates and now team
coach, who did a spot of pitching back 40-odd years ago, shows his
technique of balloon-ball chunking to Rip Sewell. Rip, who features
the "ephus" or "nothing" pitch, chalked up victory No. 20 Friday--the
first major league twirler of the year to hit that mark.
[End excerpt]

Date: September 8, 1943
Newspaper: Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, The Evening News
Newspaper Location: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Article: Cooper, Sewell Top Big League Hurlers--Albany Plays Twin Bill
Here Tonight
Author: Judson Bailey (Associated Press Sports Writer)
Quote Page 15, Column 2
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
Truett (Rip) Sewell, of the Pittsburgh Pirates, proponent of the famed
parachute pitch sometimes called the eephus (nothing) ball, already
has won 20 games and lost seven.
[End excerpt]

Year: 2004
Book Title: Too Young to Fight
Author: Ray Slyman
Publisher: Infinity Publishing, West Conshohocken, PA
Quote Page 104

[Begin excerpt]
Chester Smith ... on Rip Sewell’s new pitch: “He throws it in an arc
of about 25 feet, and then it somehow floats down across the plate,
usually in the strike zone. With that buckshot still in him, this
pitch doesn’t put that much pressure on his legs. It’s not a fastball,
and it’s not a curve. Some of the sports writers here with the
Pirates, are calling it the “Dipsy Doodle Pitch.” But Maurice Van
Robays, the Pirates’ starting right-fielder claims, “The pitch should
be called an “Eephus Pitch”, because “Eephus” means nothing... and
that’s what the pitch is.”
[End excerpt]

Year: 2015
Book Title: The Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia
Edition: Second Edition
Authors: David Finoli and Bill Ranier
Unnumbered page
Publisher: Sports Publishing, New York
Database: Google Books Preview

[Begin excerpt]
It wasn't the sterling 21-9 or 2.54 ERA that Sewell is remembered for;
instead the development of a softball-like pitch, dubbed “the eephus
pitch” by Maurice Van Robays, ended up being his calling card. When
asked by Frisch what the term eephus meant, Van Robays responded,
“Eephus means nothing,” which Sewell liked.
[End excerpt]


On Mon, Dec 16, 2019 at 10:09 AM Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote:
> OED's word today is eephus, n. baseball,
>  1.  slang. The quality of pitching exceptionally well. rare. 1935
> 2. A slow pitch having a high arcing trajectory. 1943ff
> Beats me. I thought of Joe as if stretched out fancy to Josephus, adding a little extra something, but that's unlikely.
> FWIW a July 27, 1929 headline in Oakland Tribune [CA] [newspapers.com] has a nonsense story with a photo of an ensign reportedly in a wrong location--too high: "Here's Official Ephus on the Cutter Bear."
> SG
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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