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Lights Out For The Shine Ball:

HOD ELLER

         

When baseball outlawed the "shine ball" in 1920, no pitcher was hurt more than Cincinnati right-hander Horace "Hod" Eller who had helped the Reds to the National League pennant in 1919.

 

Eller's favorite "out" pitch was the "shine ball." In 1919 when he was 20-9 with a 2.39 earned run average, the "shine" was the talk of the country.

 

Eller worked long and hard on perfecting the delivery and had his own special way of throwing it. He rubbed the cover of the baseball with talcum powder, creating the unnatural and very slick surface. When delivered properly, the pitch did unbelievable things on its path to the plate. The ball might dip sharply at the last second. It might dart inside or out, confusing the batter. Or it might hop upward. It acted much like today's knuckle ball except that it was delivered with the speed and the motion of a fastball.

 

After the 1919 season, baseball's rules-makers decided the pitch was unfair and they declared it to be illegal. Eller, his best pitch outlawed, appealed to the president of the National League. His appeal went unanswered and in 1920 Eller had to resort to conventional weapons - fastball, curve or changeup. 

 

 

His record dipped to 13-12 in 1920. The next year Eller pitched his last games in the major leagues. In addition to losing his best pitch, Eller began having arm problems. When he had a 2-2 record after 13 appearances, Eller was traded to Oakland of the Pacific Coast League. The Reds needed a third baseman and they came up with Babe Pinelli in exchange for the pitcher.

Eller originally might have made it to the major leagues with the Chicago White Sox, but that American League team wanted to pay only $1,500 to Moline of the Three I League for Eller's contract. Moline was asking $2,500. After training with the White Sox during the spring of 1916, Eller was returned to Moline. He encountered contract problems and the result was that he got his biggest break.

 


 

 

 

 

Eller joined a semipro team In Henryville, Illinois. Late in the season, the team played an exhibition game against Cincinnati. Eller pitched so well that Reds manager Christy Mathewson drafted Eller for the 1917 season.

Eller came back to haunt the White Sox during the 1919 World Series. He pitched the Reds to two victories, one a three-hit shutout, and he set a World Series record that still stands - fanning six consecutive batters. His victory in Game No.8 clinched Cincinnati's first World Championship.

After the Reds sent Eller to Oakland in 1921, he played in the minors until 1925 when he retired. He returned to Indianapolis where he was a member of the police force for 22 years. He died in 1961.

One has to wonder how Eller's career might have prospered had the "shine ball" not been outlawed.

         
       

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