Jul 22

The Art of Pitching by Al Orth

Al Orth wrote this article in the spring of 1902 just after jumping from the Phillies to Washington.
Orth was 29 years old in 1902 and a veteran of 7 years in the majors. In 1902 he was 19-18 with an ERA of 3.97. In his 15 years in the majors he won 104 games.

In looking over the work of the different pitchers since I have been in the National League, I find the majority of them think that if they can throw a goodly number of curves they are all right, and go in the box with the idea that they can strike out every man who steps up to the plate. This is where they make a serious error, and they will discover later that a good control of your head counts for almost as much as control over the ball. I have found this to be true.

The twirler in these days must know the batman’s weaknesses. All ball players have a particular dislike for one sort of a ball. A pitcher should find the weakness after he has pitched to a man two or three times. The best points that a pitcher can have are a good control and a clear head. A pitcher who has a change of speed in his delivery, that is, being able to throw a fast ball and a slow one with the same motion of the arm, is very effective. Most of the older pitchers work this change of pace with great regularity and success, and, in my opinion, all young pitchers starting into the business should learn to do it at the outset of their careers.

It is very deceiving to the batter, in that, when he is at the plate, and the pitcher delivers a fast ball, he is nerved up to hit it, and if he misses it, and a slow ball is throw with the same motion, nine times out often he loses his nerve, and if he connects with the ball at all the hit can be easily handled before he can get to a base. I also find that a very sharp curbed ball and a slow curved ball with the same arm motion, is very effective. However, a pitcher must have good control to use both the fast and slow ball with success. I find that I have two strikes and three balls against the batsman, to curve the nest ball pitched is nearly always advisable. It is an even chance that the batsman will expect a straight ball.

Another good ball to use, with a very deceiving delivery, is one thrown underhand. It can be thrown very hard, has an exceedingly sharp, quick curve, and it is very often hit for only a pop-fly. It is also possible to throw a slow outcurve with the underhand swing, which gives a change of pace with this one motion. To make a success, a pitcher is compelled to take good care of himself; take a personal interest in the game, and be willing at all times to learn. It is a great strain to stand and throw a ball for two hours and sometimes longer. I think if a pitcher starts out and keeps cool and does his best, even if he does get the worst of it at first, he is bound to come out a winner in the end, as many have done, and will do, as long as the national game is played. The important thing to remember is that there is always something to learn, and I found that the best thing for a young man who wants to play ball to remember is that he is not an old dig, and can be taught all kinds of new tricks.