Props to the New York Times for the work they’ve been doing with the Bats blog. Last year, Bats was functional but uninspired. This season, however, they’ve not only been updating the blog frequently, but they’ve included some terrific posts, like this one on the history of the Eephus pitch. Absolutely monstrous post.
One of the funniest things I recall seeing in recent years came in the late summer of 2002. It was an afternoon game at Yankee Stadium, the Rangers were in town, and it was brutally hot.
El Duque had been tinkering with the old lob ball for a few games when he uncorked one to Alex Rodriguez in the first inning of an afternoon game. Rodriguez was caught off guard, and so was the ump: the pitch looked like a strike, but was called high. Rodriguez stepped out of the box, and smiled. Duque tried it again on the very next batter, Raffie Palmerio. The pitch was in the dirt and it skipped away from Jorge Posada.
The second time Rodriguez came up, Duque threw him another floater, again for a ball. Not willing to let well enough alone, Duque thought he would fool Rodriguez by trying it again in the same at-bat (chutzpah is not something Hernandez ever lacked). So he floated another one to the plate, arching his back in an exaggerated manner that gave away his intention. Rodriguez waited, then pounced, popping the ball over the left field fence.
Joe Torre shook his head and grumbled. It was the last Eephus of the day for Hernandez, who gave up a homer in the next at-bat to Palmerio (fastball). Those were the only two times Texas scored all day, Duque settled down and pitched wonderfully and the Yanks won the game.
Of course, who can forget Dave LaRoche, throwing a true Eephus to Gorman Thomas at the Stadium back in the Eighties?