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Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
The Slider
I learned something a little while ago, though I probably should have learned it long ago. See, I'd been under the impression that the baseball pitch now called the "slider" wasn't consistently given that appellation until the days of Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton. But I was reading Ross Macdonald's 1956 Lew Archer mystery The Barbarous Coast today and came across the following passage:
Sammy caught his breath. He liked to talk. He liked anything that interrupted his work. "I hope this isn't one of your fast ones, Lew."

"You know better than that. I lost my fast one years ago. I'm down to my slider."

"So are we all, boy. With bursitis yet. See you.
While the idea that the slider is a pitch that players resort to when they are past their heat-throwing prime doesn't seem to correspond to a contemporary understanding of its utility, it seems pretty clear that Macdonald wants readers to understand that Archer is "pulling a fast one" here by promoting that idea. That is, he pulls a fast one by making his fast one curve, however slightly.

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4 comments or Leave a comment
masoo From: masoo Date: May 22nd, 2010 06:35 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
That's a great find! And I'm always happy to see people talking about Ross Macdonald.

You've got my attention ... I'm going to dig out my Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers and read the chapter on sliders ...

Well, they quote Bob Feller using the word "slider" in a 1948 book, and Feller seems to have thrown what we think of as a slider. Feller suggests the pitch was developed in the early 30s. Neyer and/or James basically say we'll never know if what was called a "slide pitch" in the 30s was the slider we know today. They say Feller is a candidate for the first person to throw a "great" slider, after WWII.

Re: Lew Archer, they write that a lot of old-timers in the 50s didn't like the pitch, quoting Sal Maglie saying "All pitchers today are lazy" while claiming the slider allows that laziness. As Neyer/James put it, "the basic sentiment, I think, being that the slider was for pansies."
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: May 22nd, 2010 03:49 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
In my passage-inspired reading on the subject, I turned up similar information, though from different sources. Have you ever seen Feller's book? I have no sense of how normal it would have seemed for the best pitcher in the game to publish a book like that at the height of his success.
masoo From: masoo Date: May 22nd, 2010 03:54 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Haven't seen Feller's book, but I assume it's one of those "as told to" things, which wouldn't be uncommon.
elizabeg From: elizabeg Date: May 25th, 2010 02:54 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
This post really fascinates me--you know how I love wordplay, pulling fast ones, etc. But I have very little intelligent to say about baseball. And so instead of trying and failing I will simply leave you this piece from today's "All Things Considered" about baseball cards and collecting (the archive!) which made me think of this piece again, and of you.

4 comments or Leave a comment