Friday, May 12, 2006

Camilo Pascual

Does a curveball really curve?

The issue has long been debated.

Initially, scientists claimed that the knee-buckling pitch was merely a figment of the batter’s imagination. They argued emphatically that the curveball was simply an optical illusion.

Well, if that’s true, then Camilo Alberto Pascual was a master illusionist, a veritable Harry Houdini on the pitching mound.

A native of Havana, Cuba, Pascual threw one of the best curveballs in baseball history. It was a classic 12-to-6 curveball, meaning the pitch tumbled from the 12 on the clock to the 6.

“He’d come straight over the top with it and it would just dive off the table,” said former New York Yankees' shortstop and baseball announcer Tony Kubek. “The spin was so tight, you couldn’t identify the pitch until it was too late. It didn’t flutter, it didn’t hang, it just kept biting.” Kubek added, “[w]hen Pascual was right, nobody had a chance. That curve was unhittable.”

Pascual pitched in the big leagues for 18 seasons with six different teams, including the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1971. He posted a lifetime 174-170 record, not bad considering he had a 28-66 mark after his first five seasons (1954-1958).

He had his greatest success between 1959 and 1964 pitching for the old Washington Senators and Minnesota Twins. During this six year stretch, he won 100 games, completed 90 games, tossed 26 shutouts, and fanned 1,170 batters. That's an average of 16 wins, 15 complete games, 4 shutouts and 195 strikeouts. A 20-game winner in 1962 and 1963, Pascual led American League in strikeouts, complete games and shutouts three times in his career.


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