Wednesday, March 02, 2011
Injury report: Ed Walsh’s digestionPosted by Mat Kovach
I have heard from a couple different people that many teams plan on limiting the amount of detail on injuries beyond mentioning DL reports. This could have a serious impact for those that follow injury reports. If true, many injury reports will contain more speculation or information filtered by the team.
It also means there will be less of a chance of a misguided injury report like this one, from 1913.
Spitball Pitching Hurts Walsh.
Excessive use of the moist ball has affected Ed Walsh's digestion and has thus retarded his pitching, so that he has not yet reached his best form this year.
What did they think Walsh did, lick the ball? He threw about 2,246 innings in the previous six years (around 374 innings per season, including 1909, when he sat out part of the year, only logging 230 innings). But, no, the spitball caused digestive problems, which hindered his pitching ability.
Walsh had one of the top ten spitballs* of all time. He learned the slippery pitch from Elmer Stricklett, who often is given credit for creating the spitball**. Walsh turned it into a devastating pitch he mixed with his fastball and the occasional curve. Unfortunately, injuries shortened his career. But even at the end, when he could pitch, he was very, very, good.
* Legal (in his case) or illegal.
** Often with new “pitches” in the early time of baseball, the person that created it probably does not get the credit. Creation of the pitch is often give to the person that popularized it or successfully mastered it first. Most reports have Stricklett learning it from somebody else. He was one of the first successful teachers of the spitball.
His extreme usage lead to what is usually described as shoulder problems, and he often requested the team give him a year off to heal. This was denied until 1916, when the White Sox simply released him. I also found several reports around the middle of 1913 and early 1914 where he was having problems with his thumb and the fingers on his pitching hand, which may hint at other possible injuries. He is quoted several times as saying that the muscles in his shoulder “flipped” upside down. But I never found any further references to his digestive problems.
Indians fan, member of the Duane Kuiper Fan Club, Spitball Researcher, Contact me on twitter, @siddfinch, via email or avian carrier