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

Mark Mandel markamandel at GMAIL.COM
Mon Dec 16 18:35:59 UTC 2019

Looking for more information about Maurice Van Robays, I found this. Scroll
down to the second Q&A on the page.

Q: Where does the term "eephus pitch" come from? What does eephus mean?
-- Kristen E. Voights
A: According to Paul Dickson's The Baseball Dictionary, the "eephus pitch"
was first used by Pittsburgh Pirates starter Rip Sewell.

In an exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers in 1942, Pirates catcher
Al Lopez called for a changeup on a 3-2 count to Dick Wakefield. Sewell
threw a high, arching lob to the plate, and when the pitch finally arrived,
Wakefield swung and missed.

After the game, manager Frankie Frisch asked Sewell what he called the
pitch, and Pirates outfielder Maurice Van Robays replied "that's an eephus
pitch." When Sewell asked him what an eephus was, Van Robays said, "Eephus
ain't nuthin'." From then on, Sewell called it the eephus pitch.

Sewell said he created the pitch after a war injury forced him to alter his
wind-up. Unable to pivot on his right foot, he had to adopt an overhand
delivery which led to the development of his new pitch.

So according to this, it was Sewell's pitch but Van Robays's word, and the
sense of what he said was not "*Eephus* means ‘nothing’", but rather "
*Eephus* means nothing" [= is meaningless].

Unfortunately, this page doesn't give a date or source for the original
information, and substrings of the original url as taken from the archive
url always go to the current main page.


On Mon, Dec 16, 2019, 11:52 AM ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>

> 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
> weak.
> 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
> https://books.google.com/books?id=dnOCDwAAQBAJ&
> [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]
> Garson
> 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

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