Friday, September 24, 2010

There is No Clever Play on Words for 'Eephus'

With Dodgers pitcher Vicente Padilla currently on the shelf with back trouble, I don't know that we'll have the pleasure of seeing any more eephus pitches this season.

The eephus pitch is, of course, the cartoon-slow lob that pitchers sometimes try to sneak by hitters.

According to the book Big Hair and Plastic Grass, the eephus dates back to 1930s pitcher Rip Sewell.

Padilla would rely on the pitch now and then, prompting broadcaster extraordinaire Vin Scully to call the pitch the "soap bubble."

So where does "eephus" come from? From Hebrew--and the 1940s Pirates, apparently. Writes Wikipedia:

According to [Pirates] manager Frankie Frisch, the pitch was named by outfielder Maurice Van Robays. When asked what it meant, Van Robays replied, "'Eephus ain't nothing, and that's a nothing pitch." Although the origin is not known for certain, Eephus may come from the Hebrew word "efes" (pronounced "EFF-ess"), meaning "nothing."

The cool thing about the eephus, at least for those who are obsessed with the language of baseball, is that each practicioner of the funky slowball gets his own nickname for it, courtesy of, presumably, the local beat writers.

Bill "Spaceman" Lee threw one in the 1975 World Series, the pitch dubbed the "Leephus." (Big Hair and Plastic Grass calls the Leephus "a psychedelic variation" on Sewell's original Eephus.)

Says Wikipedia, Casey Fossum owns the "Fossum Flip," Dave LaRoche famously threw the "LaLob," and Dave Stieb had the "Dead Fish."

Wikipedia says Mark Buehrle is among the increasingly short list of current guys with an eephus. Whether Mark throws a Buehrle Bleeder at the Red Sox Monday will be determined.

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