One in a series of several 1915 advertisements from the Victor Sporting Goods Company featuring Federal League players. Victor produced the league’s official baseball.
Frederick “Cy” Falkenberg made one of baseball’s great comebacks. After an injury plagued 1911 season (8-5 in just fifteen games) the Cleveland Naps sold Falkenberg’s contract to the Toledo Mud Hens in the American Association. The 32-year-old pitcher developed a pitch that saved his career; Hal Sheridan of The United Press said Falkenberg had begun “tossing a sand-papered sphere to the batters.”
Once he started throwing the Emery Ball Falkenberg went 25-8 with a 1.95 ERA at Toledo, and after returning to Cleveland the following season he was 23-10 with a 2.22 ERA. Falkenberg jumped to the Indianapolis Hoosiers in the Federal League in 1914; he was 25-16 with a 2.22 ERA for the pennant-winning Hoosiers.
By the time this ad appeared the Federal League had banned the Emery Ball and Falkenberg had split the 1915 season between the Newark Peppers (the relocated Hoosiers) and the Brooklyn Tip-Tops; he was a combined 12-14 with 2.86 ERA.
Russell Ford, who pitched in the American and Federal Leagues from 1909-1915, is generally credited with developing the Emery Ball, but at least one American League pitcher said Ford didn’t deserve credit for the invention. Bill Steen told The Pittsburgh Press in 1915 that John “Wee Willie” Sudhoff had shown him how to throw the pitch in 1907:
“He had a strip of emery paper glued on the heel of his glove and rubbed the ball on it.”
Sudhoff had retired after the 1906 season, so it’s unclear where and exactly when he would have shared the pitch with Steen.