“I am Sure I would have been a Better Pitcher”

26 Sep

In 1922, Hearst Newspapers’ International News Service asked Walter Johnson to share his pitching philosophy:

“If a pitcher has a good fast ball that is always his one best bet.

“I don’t mean just an ordinary fast ball, but one with a lot of ‘swift’ on it, as Nick Altrock would say.”

Johnson claimed he came to the major leagues with just one pitch:

“When I came to the American League I scarcely knew there was anything other than a fast ball in a pitcher’s repertoire.

Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson

“For three years I used a fast ball entirely, to fool the great hitters of the American League.  I really believe I enjoyed my greatest success during those three years.”

From 1907 to 1909, the period of his “greatest success, “Johnson was 32-48 with a 1.94 ERA; he was 385-231 with a 2.20 ERA over the next 18 seasons.

“In those first three years, I could just about throw my fast one by the batsman, as we put it in baseball.  No pitcher could retain forever the terrific speed that I had when I came to the American League.  At the close of my third year (when he was 21).  I began to realize that I was slowing up a bit.

“I had been working on a curve ball in the meantime, and when it became evident to me that I was losing a bit of my speed, I began to resort to the curves to cross the batters up.

“I met with almost as much success with my curve as my fast one.  However, I will always believe that I made a mistake in using too many curve balls, after once acquiring a good ‘hook.’”

Johnson's grip

Johnson’s grip

Johnson, on his way to 417 career victories, concluded that had he been a more “wise” pitcher, he would have been a better

“I am convinced that the wise pitcher who has dazzling speed, holds his curve in reserve.  That is what I should have done.

“When I switched from to a curve ball pitcher from a fast ball pitcher exclusively, I still had perhaps more speed than any other pitcher in the American League.  I should have continued the use of the fast ball, with the curve as a constant threat.

“I am sure I would have been a better pitcher had I done so.”

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