Candy Cummings

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William Arthur Cummings

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1939

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Biographical Information[edit]

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Candy Cummings had a brief but influential career. From 1872 to 1877, he compiled a 145-94 career record and 2.49 ERA while playing for five different teams in both the National Association and National League. He is credited with being the first pitcher to throw a curveball, which he first threw at a game in Worcester, MA while playing for the Brooklyn Stars, a non-major league team. However, his claim has been disputed; in particular, his contemporary Fred Goldsmith made a successful demonstration of the curveball before a large crowd of witnesses on August 16, 1870, an event that is well attested, but Cummings claimed he was already using it in amateur games by that point. The two most likely developed the pitch independently, and Cummings did teach it to a number of others, such as Bobby Mathews and Tommy Bond, so it quickly became a standard part of the baseball repertoire.

Cummings issued only 4 bases on balls in 416 innings in 1875. His 82 strikeouts led the league that season, and his 20.5-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio is the best mark of all time for anyone with 80+ innings pitched. He is listed at 120 lb., a weight that is attested by contemporary accounts, which makes him one of the smallest men to ever play professional baseball. His lack of size is one of the reasons he was done as a pitcher before the age of 30, although this was in an age when players had short careers generally.

He served a president of the International Association, established as a rival to the National League in 1877, while also being a player for the Lynn Live Oaks. However, the Lynn team folded after just 10 games, and he was back pitching in the senior circuit, albeit pretty unsuccessfully as he went 5-14, 4.34 for the Cincinnati Reds, while still holding the title of president of the rival circuit. It was his last season as a player. He then moved to the small town of Athol, MA where he operated a paint and wallpaper store and zealously defended his claim of having invented the curveball in various newspapers whenever the question came up.

Cummings was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1939.

Cummings became interested in the curve ball around 1863, and later pitched for several years for the junior and then varsity team of the amateur Brooklyn Stars. Even after the National Association started in 1871, Cummings stayed with the Stars, but joined the National Association in 1872. By that point, he was the best and most famous pitcher in the country due to his prowess as an amateur, and he was instrumental in changing the role of the pitcher from someone who simply delivered the ball for batters to hit, to a player who could limit their hitting by dint of his own skill.

"I asked Start if there was any doubt about Arthur Cummings being the inventor of curve pitching. 'No doubt whatever', said he, warming up to the subject. 'I remember all about the circumstance, as I was brought up in Brooklyn, and was playing around the same lots with Cummings from 1866 to '70. Cummings was the first to get the curve . . . Cummings was fooling the boys with a perfect curve long before any other pitcher could get it." - Tim Murnane's interview of Joe Start, published in Sporting Life, Nov. 16, 1895

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • NA Games Pitched Leader (1872)
  • NA Innings Pitched Leader (1872)
  • NA Complete Games Leader (1872)
  • 2-times NA Shutouts Leader (1872 & 1875)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 4 (1872-1875)
  • 30 Wins Seasons: 2 (1872 & 1875)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 5 (1872-1876)
  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 4 (1872-1875)
  • 400 Innings Pitched Seasons: 3 (1872, 1874 & 1875)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1939

Further Reading[edit]

  • David L. Fleitz: "Candy Cummings", in Ghosts in the Gallery at Cooperstown: Sixteen Little-Known Members of the Hall of Fame, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2004, pp. 18-31. ISBN 978-0-7864-1749-0
  • Stephen Robert Katz: Candy Cummings: The Life and Career of the Inventor of the Curveball, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2022. ISBN 978-1-4766-8037-8

Related Sites[edit]

Some or all content from this article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Candy Cummings".