At the time of his now-legendary demise, nineteenth-century pitcher Jim Creighton was already one of the superstars of the fledgling sport of baseball. Creighton’s exploits on the diamond (which included hurling the first shutout in history, and being put out only four times in an entire season) were remarkable enough to begin with, but — as with Shelley, or Hendrix, or Princess Diana — his shockingly premature death catapulted him from star to mythic hero. Later generations looked back with awe, unable to fathom how he had attained such dominance on the mound.
Using a cutting-edge tool known as Image Enlargement (IE), a team of researchers has now uncovered conclusive evidence that Creighton used not a baseball, but rather fresh produce, to stymie contemporary batters. That the onion seems to have been his vegetable of choice certainly helps account for a few mysteries surrounding Creighton’s pitching — including reports of unusually irregular movement on his pitches, allegations that balls sometimes “flew apart” before reaching the plate, and anecdotes involving the peculiar stench that often accompanied the young hurler.
“Rules about equipment were notoriously lax during that period,” says Nerdley Wentwhistle of the Society for American Baseball Research. “Creighton could have gotten away with using just about any roughly globular object. His genius was in picking just about the last thing anyone would have expected. The element of surprise is a powerful thing.”
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