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Candy Cummings

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Candy Cummings
Candy Cummings 1872.jpg
Cummings in 1872
Born: (1848-10-18)October 18, 1848
Ware, Massachusetts
Died: May 16, 1924(1924-05-16) (aged 75)
Toledo, Ohio
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 22, 1872, for the New York Mutuals
Last MLB appearance
August 18, 1877, for the Cincinnati Reds
MLB statistics
Win–loss record145–94
Earned run average2.49
  National Association of Base Ball Players
Excelsior of Brooklyn (1866–1867)
Star of Brooklyn (1868–1871)
  League Player
New York Mutuals (1872)
Baltimore Canaries (1873)
Philadelphia White Stockings (1874)
Hartford Dark Blues (18751876)
Cincinnati Reds (1877)
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Election MethodVeteran's Committee

William Arthur "Candy" Cummings (October 18, 1848 – May 16, 1924) was an American professional baseball player. He played as a pitcher in the National Association and National League. Cummings is widely credited with inventing the curveball. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.

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  • ✪ Baseball's first curveball was thrown underhand and inspired by seashells
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- [Narrator] The pitcher's ability to throw a ball, that moves while approaching a plate, is a fundamental cornerstone of the game of baseball, but that wasn't always the case. The role of the pitcher has humble beginnings, and the name itself indicates that the ball wasn't meant to be thrown, it was meant to be pitched underhand like a gentleman. (Upbeat Music) In 1845, the Knickerbocker rules formalized the way the game of baseball was played. It was considered the New York game, and it was chosen as the basis of modern baseball, over its competitor, the Massachusetts game. However, the New York version, unlike its Massachusetts counterpart, did not allow overhand pitching, stating in rule nine that the ball must be pitched, not thrown for the bat. At the time, the pitcher's role was merely to get things started. He would lob the ball towards the plate, with no intent of tricking the batter, and resume normal fielding duties. (Upbeat Music) The rules surrounding pitching grew alongside the sport. At first, a swing and a miss was the only strike. A called strike didn't exist until 1858. It wasn't until 1879 that there was a limit placed on called balls. And in 1884, the National League voted to lift the ban on overhand pitching. Throughout this time the pitcher evolved from the initiator in a gentleman's game, to a major competitive force in a national sport. And to put the growth of competition in context, the creation of the first professional league, with the first players to legally get paid, was in 1871. The story of the curveball however, starts in 1863, two years after the start of the American Civil War. As the tale goes, a 14-year-old boy by the name of William Arthur Cummings, was throwing seashells with his friends on a beach in Brooklyn. They noticed that the shells curved in the air when they threw them. And Cummings thought to himself, what if I could make a baseball move like that? Throwing a curve ball is one thing, but doing it underhand is quite another. And he found it difficult to snap his wrist, and keep his feet on the ground. In the book Catcher by Peter Morris, Cummings is quoted saying that he was holding the ball in many different ways, and throwing with a variety of motions. Of course, many of the ways in which I held or threw the ball were useless. Four years after beginning his quest to throw a curveball, Cummings was a star pitcher for the Brooklyn Excelsiors, an amateur team. It was here that he earned the nickname Candy, a slang term for the best in the 19th century. And he did so without unveiling the pitch he had spent years figuring out. According to the Society of American Baseball Research, that moment finally came on October 7th, 1867, just shy of his 19th birthday. The Excelsiors were playing Harvard College at Jarvis Field in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cummings had already given up a run, when Archibald Bush came to the plate. Years later, he would admit that he was afraid of Bush's prowess at the bat, so Cummings decided to unleash the curve. He later recounted the moment to the Boston Daily Globe. Snapping the ball with a wrist movement and getting it to spin through the air, caused an air cushion to gradually form around the ball, turning it in the direction of the least resistance. When he struck at the ball it seemed to go about a foot beyond the end of his stick. I tried again with the same result, and then I realized that I had succeeded at last. Candy Cummings had done it, but he hadn't quite perfected it. And the day was bittersweet, as the Excelsiors lost 18 to 6, but he continued to practice the pitch, and when he went pro in 1872, Cummings with his curving pitch, was considered one of the best. In each of his six professional seasons, he placed in the top 10 in strikeouts. So can we definitively say that Candy Cummings was the first person to throw a curveball? No, like when you heard your teacher smoked pot with the cool kids, it's basically just a series of uncorroborated stories. In 1869 a reporter watching Brooklyn Eckfords pitcher Phonney Martin described him as “an extremely hard pitcher to hit, for the ball never comes in a straight line, but in a tantalizing curve.” New York Mutuals pitcher Fred McSweeney, claims to have thrown a curve in 1866, but perhaps the biggest name, opposite Cummings in the curve ball debate, is Fred Goldsmith. Goldsmith claimed that he was the first to publicly demonstrate the feat in 1870, when he set up poles on a field and threw a pitch that curved around them. There are however people who claim that demonstration was another man, not Goldsmith, and others say there's no evidence to support any such demonstration ever took place. But one man who sides with Fred Goldmith is Bill Stern, a sportscasting legend enshrined both in the Radio Hall of Fame and on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Stern wrote about Goldsmith's invention of the curve ball in his 1949 book, Bill Stern's Favorite Baseball Stories. In it he writes, “Freddy Goldsmith lived happily in the knowledge that posterity would always know him as the inventor of the curveball. However, another pitcher named Arthur Cummings popped up, claiming to be the inventor, and quite a few baseball men believed him. When Freddy Goldsmith heard about this, it broke him up completely. Ill and bed-ridden at the time, he died a broken-hearted man, pathetically maintaining to the end that he, and only he, was the original inventor of the curveball.” Goldsmith died in 1939, the same year Arthur "Candy" Cummings was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Upbeat Music)


Early life

Cummings was born in Ware, Massachusetts. He later said that he thought of the idea of the curveball when fooling around with clam shells as a teenager in Ware.[1] At the age of 17, Cummings made his professional baseball debut in the National Association of Base Ball Players with the Excelsior baseball club of Brooklyn.[2] His first game with the team was on August 14, 1866 against the New York Mutuals. Ten days later he led his team to a 24-2 win against the Newark Eurekas.[2] After the latter game, baseball writer Henry Chadwick commented on the skills of the young Cummings and his promising future with the Excelsior club.[3] Cummings played for the Excelsiors next season and continued as the main pitcher for the Stars of Brooklyn from 1868 to 1871.

His pitching skills led to his being called "Candy", a popular 19th century nickname for a man who was the best at his craft.[4]

Major league career

Cummings, who stood 5'9" and weighed 120 pounds,[5] compiled a 145-94 career record and 2.49 earned run average while playing for five different teams from 1872 to 1877. Between 1872 and 1875, Cummings pitched in the National Association (NA) with the New York Mutuals, Baltimore Canaries, Philadelphia White Stockings and Hartford Dark Blues. Cummings won between 28 and 35 games in each of his NA seasons.[6] He spent two seasons in the National League (NL), earning a 16-8 win-loss record with Hartford when the league began in 1876 and a 5-14 record with Cincinnati the next year.[5] Among other records, Cummings was the first player to record two complete games in one day: September 9, 1876 when he beat the Cincinnati Reds 14-4 and 8-4.[7]

Cummings left the NL after pitching only 19 games with the Cincinnati Reds to become the President of the new International Association for Professional Base Ball Players.[2]

Invention of the curveball

Plaque of Cummings at the Baseball Hall of Fame
Plaque of Cummings at the Baseball Hall of Fame

Cummings is often credited with being the first pitcher to throw a curveball, reportedly in 1867 at Worcester, Massachusetts while playing for the Brooklyn Excelsiors; some sources say later with the Brooklyn Stars.[8] It was not until the Stars acquired catcher Nat Hicks that Cummings was able to use his curveball. Most catchers of his era stood 20 to 25 feet behind the batter, which made it impossible to field a curveball. It was Hicks' catching technique of standing directly behind the batter that allowed Cummings to introduce his curveball.[8] The introduction of the curveball radically changed pitching, and also changed the way catchers fielded their position.[8]

Cummings said that he discovered the idea of the curveball while studying the movement sea shells made when thrown. After noticing this movement, he began trying to make a baseball move the same way, and thus created the new pitch.[2] He would later recall from that game: "I became fully convinced that I had succeeded ... the batters were missing a lot of balls; I began to watch the flight of the ball through the air, and distinctly saw it curve."

Another pitcher to claim inventing the curveball was Fred Goldsmith. Goldsmith is credited with the first publicly recorded demonstration of the pitch on August 16, 1870, at the Capitoline Grounds in Brooklyn, New York. Sportswriter Henry Chadwick covered it in the Brooklyn Eagle on August 17, 1870.[2] According to a 2002 article by ESPN's Steve Wulf, Cummings was "fairly well-connected" in baseball, as evidenced by his position with the International Association. Baseball leaders Chadwick, Harry Wright and Albert Spalding supported Cummings' contention.[1]

Later life

After baseball, Cummings received a small royalty from the invention of a railway coupling device. He owned a paint and wallpaper shop in Athol, Massachusetts.[1] Cummings died in Toledo, Ohio.[9] He is buried at Aspen Grove Cemetery in Ware, Massachusetts.[10] He was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.[4]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Wulf, Steve. "Ball Breaker". ESPN The Magazine. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e David L. Fleitz (2004). Ghosts in the gallery at Cooperstown: sixteen little-known members of the Hall of Fame. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Co. ISBN 0-7864-1749-8.
  3. ^ Charlton's Baseball Chronology – 1866 Archived 2011-06-04 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b "Cummings, Candy". Baseball Hall of Fame. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
  5. ^ a b Gold, Eddie (February 21, 1981). "Candy Got the Credit". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
  6. ^ "Candy Cummings Statistics". Retrieved September 1, 2013.
  7. ^ Nemec, David (2004). Great Baseball Feats, Facts, & Firsts (2004), Signet Books, New York, p. 134.
  8. ^ a b c Morris, Peter (2010). Catcher: How the Man Behind the Plate Became an American Folk Hero. Government Institutes. p. 42. ISBN 1-56663-870-4. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Cemeteries". Town of Ware, Massachusetts. Archived from the original on November 5, 2013. Retrieved August 26, 2013.

External links

This page was last edited on 9 April 2019, at 01:27
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