The Birth of the Curve Ball Happened in North Carolina during the Civil War

[This blog post comes from a Dept. of Cultural Resources press release – you can find other news related to NC Cultural Resources here.]

Baseball’s Birth of the Curve Ball Happened in North Carolina during Civil War

RALEIGH – The pitchers in the World Series probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the Civil War. But a little-known fact is that a form of the curve ball, one of the hardest pitches to hit in baseball, was first thrown in 1862 by Union soldier Alphonse “Phoney Ball” Martin, 9th NY Infantry.

As the nation observes the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, military and social aspects of the time are being officially commemorated in the state by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources (www.nccivilwar150.com) through 2015.

While stationed at Fort Reno on the northern end of Roanoke Island during the occupation of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Union soldiers often had free time. Martin, a native New Yorker, had played on a pre-war team called the Unions, one of 16 teams that competed regularly in the metropolitan New York area. Union soldiers brought baseball down South during the war, as it had originated in Maine as “town ball” and spread through New England.

Martin was known for a slow, curved pitch that was incredibly difficult for batters to hit, and he earned the name “Phoney Ball.” After the war, Martin returned to New York and pitched for the New York Mutuals and the Brooklyn Eckfords. Although Martin pitched the curve during the Civil War, Arthur “Candy” Cummings is credited with inventing the pitch in 1867, playing for the Brooklyn Excelsiors.

A plaque for Cummings at the Baseball Hall of Fame states “Inventor of the Curveball,” but Cummings admitted to baseball historian Alfred H. Spink that he felt Martin had first pitched a curve ball. Cummings reportedly said of other pitchers, “But none of those pitchers knew they had a curve, and I suppose it is fair to say I was the first to find out what a curve was and how it was done.”

About the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources

The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources annually serves more than 19 million people through its 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, the nation’s first state-supported  Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the N.C. Arts Council, and the State Archives. Cultural Resources champions North Carolina’s creative industry, which employs nearly 300,000 North Carolinians and contributes more than $41 billion to the state’s economy.  To learn more, visit www.ncculture.com

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