December 2, 2008

Cicotte was forking around before Bush

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , — skeptisys @ 9:24 am
Eddie Cicotte won 50 games over his last 2 seasons in MLB

Eddie Cicotte won 50 games over his last 2 seasons in MLB

Walking through the Guggenheim museum is always a pleasure, and I had the opportunity today while I was waiting for friends to arrive for lunch.  A recent brilliant exhibit included photographs of human hands, taken from the collection of Henry M. Buhl: Speaking With Hands.   The photographs are stunning, and I recommend the exhibit to everyone (and everyone should visit New York).  I believe the exhibit book is available here, but the issue I saw had a different cover.

One noticeable photograph I saw in this collection is of the great BlackSox pitcher, Eddie Cicotte gripping a baseball in 1913, taken by Charles Conlon.  The text explains that Cicotte was gripping his famous ‘knuckleball’ – but it is very clear from the closeup photo that the grip was not a knuckleball.   The grip was more of a split fingered pitch or forkball (index and middle fingers spread on opposite sides of the ball).   This photo is the only photographic evidence I have seen that Cicotte threw a splitfingered pitch, and that that pitch was thrown prior to Joe Bush in 1923, although Rob Neyer, in “the Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers”, provides compelling evidence that the pitch was thrown by Bert Hall as far back as 1908.

The forkball and splitter are different pitches, held in a similar manner.  Apparently, the forkball is thrown at a slower velocity, with the ball resting deeper between the fingers.  Most likely, Cicotte was gripping a forkball.

I could not find another photo of Cicotte with a grip similar to the one in the “Speaking With Hands” book.  I neither reproduced the photograph nor bought the book, so the photo is unavailable here.

Here is a photo of Cicotte’s knuckleball from Knuckleball 101:

eddie cicotte knuckleball grip

eddie cicotte knuckleball grip

And this is the type of grip he displayed in the “Speaking with Hands” book (this photo is not from the book, but from The Pitching Professor:

forkball grip baseball

forkball grip baseball

Nothing in the “Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers” suggests Cicotte threw a splitfingered pitch or forkball, but they quote Ty Cobb as saying Cicotte threw a ‘sailor’ that could mimic a forkball action – if thrown sidearm.

As the photo of Cicotte from BlackSoxFan mentions in the caption, Cicotte won 50 games over his last 2 seasons before being banned from baseball in the BlackSox scandel.  David Strathairn played Cicotte in the 1988 movie, “Eight Men Out”. Here he is, via Broadway World.

Nilaja Sun, David Strathairn, and Daphne Rubin Vega

Nilaja Sun, David Strathairn, and Daphne Rubin Vega

I have no idea who plays Eddie Cockcute in the porn movie “Ate men out”, nor do I know of the existence of such a movie.


  1. Great research work! This discovery will help re-writing baseball history

    Comment by Bishop Nikki — December 3, 2008 @ 4:00 pm

  2. Great stuff-

    Thought provoking with a laugh and babes, too. What more could you want?

    How about a career path somewhere between Wakefield & Wilhelm for Eri Yoshida?

    Comment by Malcolm the Falcon — December 4, 2008 @ 11:18 pm

  3. Thanks Bishop and the Falcon. The Eri Yoshida link is excellent! Looks like she is throwing a screwball, from the action or maybe a Gyroball.

    Comment by skeptisys — December 9, 2008 @ 1:55 pm

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