A New York State Of Grind

Recalling a New Pitch and a Strange Death – NYTimes.com.

Far be it from me to suspect ill will from my classier friends in Detroit, who are too all busy enjoying their pennant win to exult in the health issues of opponents.  But the specter of Jeter writhing on the infield nonetheless came (briefly) to mind when our Motor City correspondent @DawnMGibson forwarded along the story of 19th-century hardballer from Gotham James Creighton, who may have invented the fastball shortly before dying in circumstances shrouded in greater mystery than that surrounding any decision to play Nick Swisher in the post-season.

Despite the pitch that Creighton introduced, he is best known for his mysterious death. On Oct. 14, 1862, when he was just 21, Creighton played in his final game for the Excelsiors against the Unions of Morrisania and died four days later in Brooklyn at his father’s home on Henry Street, writhing in agony.

In 1862, a man named John Chapman played first base for the Excelsiors, replacing a man who joined the Confederate Army. In the 1890s Mr. Chapman said that Creighton, in his final at-bat, swung so hard that he burst an internal organ but still cracked a home run. Almost immediately this Robert Redfordian myth became Mr. Chapman’s legend.

No known record can verify Mr. Chapman’s story, but historians like Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Thorn who have delved into Creighton’s life believe that he probably had a chronic hernia that was exacerbated by his penchant for throwing around 300 pitches a game. Eventually it became infected.


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