Eephus (blooper, floater), scuff ball (emery ball), spitball (spitter), screwball (fadeaway)
Though most aren’t categorized by any modern pitch tracking system, there are still plenty of trick pitches thrown throughout contemporary major-league baseball. The eephus is one of the more interesting and rare of the trick pitches. When thrown it comes in at speeds around 50 mph, by far the slowest pitch thrown in baseball, and makes a big, looping movement. It’s equal parts danger and hilarity. An unsuspecting batter can be helpless standing in against one as he either freezes in place or swings wildly through it. But for a hitter with great bat speed or an inkling that it’s coming, it’s an easier home run than a batting practice fastball. Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez was a recent practitioner of the pitch.
The spitball has been outlawed since 1920 (although pitchers who already threw it as a major part of their arsenal were allowed to keep using it) when baseball banned applying any foreign substance to the ball.
But don’t be fooled by the name “spitball”. Pitchers would generally apply anything they could to the ball in order to get it to oscillate in all kinds of wild fashions.
Despite its abolition nearly a century ago, many pitchers have been accused of doctoring the ball since, and it’s likely that not a season goes by without someone throwing a ball embellished with some substance.
Neyer and James credit Bobby Matthews with the invention of the spitball, and his use of it apparently was documented as early as 1868, when pitchers threw underhand.
A scuffed ball, either cut with an emery board, catcher’s shin guard or some other kind of abrasive tool, is used to achieve the same result of unnatural break when delivered. It’s also probably just as rampant (if not moreso) in contemporary baseball as are variations on the spitball.
Baseball Reference gives credit for the discovery to Russell Ford in 1907, though others have contended that this brand of baseball doctoring had been around for a while before that.
A screwball, or fadeaway, is essentially a “reverse curve,” breaking in the opposite direction of a pitcher’s curve or slider. It has been used since the 1800s and was popularized by Christy Mathewson. Other than that, its origins are murky.