Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

Related Topics

Sporting Philadelphia
A few reflections about sports in and around Philadelphia.

Medical Club of Philadelphia
The Medical Club of Philadelphia was founded in the Nineteenth century, as a social club of doctors devoted to non-medical interests. Lots of famous names, here.

Who Invented the Curve Ball?

{William Arthur}
Candy Cummings

FOR many years, the argument raged as to whether the sudden change of direction of some pitched baseballs was a real movement or just an optical illusion. High-speed photography has apparently settled the question in favor of a real shift, caused by manipulating the spinning laces of the ball to get traction against the moving air. Controversy over which pitcher first discovered how to produce this effect intentionally has centered on the claims of William Arthur "Candy" Cummings of the Boston Excelsiors, and the competing claim of Fred Goldsmith of the Cincinnati Reds. Goldsmith later became the President of the National Association of Professional Baseball Players, which gave him a public relations advantage, and most historians give credit to Cummings. Both men died in 1924.

However, the 1916 minutes of the Medical Club of Philadelphia memorialize the death of Dr. Frederick P. Henry with the notation that it was he who invented the curved ball, while playing for the Princeton Nassaus. That's not exactly scientific proof, but the modesty of the claim makes you want to believe it may have been true.

Originally published: Monday, May 18, 2009; most-recently modified: Friday, May 31, 2019