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
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
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.