The knuckleball and slurve are probably the weirdest pitches we have most recently heard of, but there is a list of “weird” baseball pitches out there, maybe a quite arbitrary one, which shows that there have been some real weirdo’s. Add to that a weird pitching stance or just a weird guy in general, and you got yourself some mystique and a possible cult guy, like Zack Greinke.
Zack Greinke has thrown some really slow pitches, with a logical big drop, but I guess a real avid baseball writer (in other words: not someone like me) would have trouble calling his slow pitches an “eephus”. As a fact, not even Casey Fossum’s slow pitch with high arch is named a true “eephus”, but got the name “Fossum flip”. Just like Dave LaRoche had the “LaLob” and Steve Hamilton the “Folly Floater”. Funny fact, by the way, the mentioned “list” at the beginning of the article, actually ranks a lot of pitches that are commonly squared into the “eephus”-box.
What is or, better said, what was the eephus?
“The eephus is the antithesis of modern pitching. A weapon of deception and surprise, the eephus is deployed only by a few men brave enough to face the possible repercussions.” - Jake Mintz in a 2014 article about the eephus on FanGraphs
Think of that description for a moment and you see a key element: “a weapon of deception and surprise”. That includes, theoretically, Zack Greinke’s slow curves, but it excludes the pitches position players throw, since their pitches lack especially the “deception” and “surprise” element. Don’t let YouTube fool you.
Maybe the die hards on this baseball blog know where the “eephus” comes from. It was “invented” by Rip Sewell. Well, that isn’t really true. Apparently there was a 19th century pitcher called Bill Phillips who threw one too, but it is hearsay and there is no footage of it, so that’s how modern baseball gives credit to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitcher.
How the man got to it makes for a nice juicy story.
The hunting trip story has been told several different ways, but the one that seems closest to the truth is that Sewell was with some buddies in the bushes, waiting for some deer, when he stood up and made a bit too much noise. One of his friends thought it was a deer and opened fire. Sewell’s legs were hit with 14 pellets of buckshot. He lost the use of his big toe. “My legs were so full of holes,” he would say, “they looked like a screen door.” - Storytelling on the background of Rip Sewell’s eephus. Article published in 2023 on equire.com
Well, making it back to the mound after blasting off a toe and severely injure your foot and leg is one thing, making it back and become even better is even more astonishing.
The damage done to his right foot required him to learn a new delivery and a new pitch to make up for his diminished fastball and curve. Sewell gripped his new baby with three fingers. He’d throw it sky-high, sometimes as far up as 25 feet, bearing down on the hitter with loads of backspin. And while velocity measurement was a primitive science back then, the pitch was said to max out at around 50 mph. - Storytelling of how Rip Sewell got to his eephus. Article published in 2015 on grantland.com
The name of the pitch is granted to a teammate of Sewell, who called the pitch “eephus”, which according to him meant nothing. But it gave the slow tossing Sewell a new career and at the age of 35 he revived his career and would make it to 4 All-Star teams, pitching into his 40s.
His pitch was rather successful although one of the available footages show Ted Williams homer off an eephus, an expected outcome if you have to believe the tale.
Ted Williams’ was waiting for the eephus, although he had never seen it before, and adjusted to the pitch in time. The surprise element was gone, which is an essential ingredient to the pitch.
“When an eephus gets blasted over the fence for a home run, the mistake lies solely in the planning. The quality of the eephus has no bearing on whether the hitter rips it. It’s not like you can hang an eephus, seeing as an eephus is purposely hung. There are two main ways the pitch can fail: either the eephus is thrown in a count that features high swing rates or it is thrown more than once in an at-bat.” - Jake Mintz in a 2014 article about the eephus on FanGraphs
To pitch like today’s Random D-Back Casey Fossum did requires a lot of courage and to be able to do it for 8 seasons, like he did, shows how well Fossum was able to survive in the MLB with his “fossum flip”, his eephus pitch, considering that he threw it regularly.
If you look at some footage you’d see that his “eephus” doesn’t reach those altitudes of Sewell’s eephus, but then again the baseball world most probably won’t ever see Sewell’s one ever again.
Fossum was able to throw his Fossum Flip just like he would throw his fastball, which is extremely difficult if you think about it, and which might be one of the reasons why he was around in the majors for so long.
I couldn’t find out where and when the Fossum Flip started, but it could be that he was already showing it at an early age.
Fossum grew up in New Jersey, but moved with his family to Texas when his father saw that his son had potential and wanted him to pitch in warmer weather and closer to more colleges. He has a successful career at high school and the Arizona Diamondbacks draft Fossum in the 7th round of the 1996 draft but he decides to commit to Texas A&M.
In his third and final season for the Aggies he becomes one of the pitchers that leads the team to the college world series. Fossum is a name on the 1999 All American team and his “curve” is seen as an interesting weapon, despite not throwing hard. The Boston Red Sox select Fossum in the 1999 MLB Amateur draft as pick 47 in the 1st round.
Fossum dominates A+ in his first full season in 2000 and after achieving similar and impressive results in AA for the Trenton Thunder in 2001 he is called up to the big leagues, just two years after getting drafted and skipping AAA altogether.
Then I got called up in July and Jimy Williams was the manager at the time. I just remember the first time Pedro shook my hand and said hi to me. I’m just like, “Oh my God, I’m here in the Majors.” There were other guys like Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra, Bret Saberhagen, David Cone. Everywhere I looked in the locker room there was a superstar. - Casey Fossum about his call-up to the majors in 2001 in a 2020 interview for ballnine.com
But 2001 is a weird season. He is happy to play, but the Red Sox are struggling and 9/11 leaves an impact as well. He starts the 2002 season in the minors again, but is soon back in the majors.
They actually called me up in 2002 because they wanted to trade me. I was literally about to get traded for Kenny Rogers and he told me this story about ten years later. We ended up playing Anaheim and I pitched great. I gave up like one run and got the win. There was a press conference set up to announce a trade, that’s how close it was. But after that start, at the last minute, the Red Sox were like, “Well now we’re gonna keep him.” - Casey Fossum about not getting traded in 2002, in a 2020 interview for ballnine.com
After converting full time to a starting role during the 2002 season, Fossum is a fixed name in the 2003 starting rotation of a Boston Red Sox team that is starting to click. But towards the end of the season he gets injured and the Red Sox have a bigger fish on the hook.
Well, I didn’t even know that you could get traded after having surgery. I remember it was Thanksgiving Day [in 2003] and they hadn’t announced anything yet, but momentum was building. I remember seeing my name scrolling across the bottom of the screen on ESPN. Curt had accepted the trade and I was going to Arizona, which was OK. My dad is from Phoenix and I was drafted by them once before, so I guess it was ironic that’s where I eventually ended up. - Casey Fossum about getting traded to the Diamondbacks in 2003, in a 2020 interview for ballnine.com
Grind, injuries and horses.
Although Fossum remembers his time as pleasant in Arizona, many fans probably do not. The Arizona Republic, in 2021, names the 2003 Curt Schilling trade as one of the worst trades in the franchise history. Jorge de la Rosa is soon a part in the Richie Sexson trade, Mike Goss is soon released and Brandon Lyon is midly successful. The headliner of the trade, Casey Fossum, has a season to forget: 6.65 ERA, 4-15 W-L, 2.0 HR/9.
Fossum’s biggest problems are his command and right-handed batters. In just 2 of 8 seasons did Fossum sport a K/BB higher than 2. He had problems striking batters out and in limiting the walks. In other words: he wasn’t really fooling anyone. Add to that his problems with keeping the ball in the park and it is understandable that MLB teams, while intrigued by the left-handedness and his rep his, would eventually shy away from Casey Fossum.
In 2004 the Diamondbacks swap Fossum for Jose Cruz and cash. The pitcher settles in for a season in Tampa Bay. From then on it is downhill and in 2009 he makes his final appearance in the major leagues with the New York Mets. He pitches in Japan in 2010 and then returns to the United States on a few minor league contracts that don’t pan out. He eventually throws his final pitches in the Independent Leagues in 2015.
Injuries started to take a toll. I was a smaller guy, not the most intimidating pitcher in the league but I could still throw hard. I had a different kind of delivery and just used every part of my body and eventually it just took a toll. - Casey Fossum about injuries, in a 2020 interview for ballnine.com
Nowadays, Fossum has set back in Texas and “rescues, adopts and rehomes” horses, together with his wife, giving the animals a second life.
Baseball was fun, but it really was a grind. I had to pick up and move so many times. I’d be somewhere for three or four months, then have to pick up and move somewhere else and then do it all over again a few months later. I spent a lot of time going to the field wondering if I would be traded or be sent down, you just never knew what was going to happen day to day and that’s tough. So now things are settled down and I am very happy with what we’re doing now. - Casey Fossum about his post-baseball life, in a 2020 interview for ballnine.com
Do you remember the "Fossum Flip"?
This poll is closed
Let me think...ummm...no!