The Next Best Thing
The Sportsman's Daily Talks with Whiffle Ball Legend Biff Wallace About New “Gyroball” Pitch Expected to Wreak Havoc on MLB
Tom Alexander, Host of JockStraps Radio, recently interviewed baseball writer Will Carroll, champion of the “Gyroball,” which has been described as the “first entirely new baseball pitch to emerge since the split-fingered fastball in the 1970s.” According to Carroll, “Hitting it is pretty much an accident." The Gyroball was invented by two Japanese scientists and breaks as much as three feet before entering the strike zone (standard breaking balls curve only a matter of inches). Japanese All-Star pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka has been tinkering with the pitch; reports that he will be playing for a US team next season have been the subject of several secret meetings among top baseball executives who fear that the pitch, if even narrowly embraced, can pose a serious threat to the way the game is played. And not everyone thinks for the better.
We were hoping to fly to Japan to see the Gyroball for ourselves, but we missed our flight due to a severe bout of food poisoning – coincidentally caused by an ill-considered outing at an all-you-can eat Japanese buffet. So we did the next best thing and tracked down Whiffle Ball’s home run and ERA king Biff Wallace, to give us insights into throwing and hitting pitches that seem to defy the laws of physics.
The Sportsman's Daily: Biff, thanks for taking time out and joining us.
Biff Wallace: Yeah, sure.
TSD: To those of you who don’t follow professional whiffleball, Biff Wallace is the Babe Ruth of his sport. In the truest sense since whiffleball requires players to both pitch and hit…and Biff is the all-time leader in both home runs and earned run average. In 1958, his finest season – arguably the finest ever -- Biff walloped 118 home runs and had an ERA of .013. This in a 12 game season. Biff, we thought you’d be the perfect guy to speak to since you both hit and threw a ball not unlike the Gyroball. If I’m not mistaken, you are actually credited with creating the “Tingler,” which was generally unhittable.
BW: Yeah, the Tingler. Actually I threw three kinds of Tinglers. The first one broke left, the other broke right, the third one didn’t break at all – it just kind of fluttered and died.
TSD: The Gyroball is described as breaking some three feet. That’s amazing.
BW: Three feet ain’t shit. I got my ball to take a 45 degree turn, stop for traffic, comb its hair, have sex with your girlfriend, and drop in at your knees…if your knees were still there when the ball reached home plate. Those white boys? Man, they couldn’t hit it with their daddy’s bank account, know what I’m sayin?
TSD: Yes, that’s another piece of little known information. Whiffle ball back then was a predominately white man’s sport.
BW: Far as I know still is. Hitting a white plastic ball with a yellow plastic bat? Not something you’re going to see black people do.
TSD: How did you, a poor kid from Macon, Georgia, get his start in a sport usually played in white suburban neighborhoods?
BW: Back then I went by the name Ben Stein. Now, the South in the late 30’s was no place for a Jew to be wandering around, but you it sure beat bein’ black. And I could play ball. So there was always a game. One thing lead to another.
TSD: And Ben Stein went on to become Biff Wallace. Whatever became of Ben Stein? .
BW: He’s my accountant. Ain’t no one making a living whifflin, you can bet the house on that. I got a degree. Ben Stein, CPA. Retired five years now.
JS: Fascinating. So back to the Tingler. Considering its movement, how long did it take to master? I’m wondering since the Gyroball would also seem difficult to throw with consistent control.
BW: What a lot of people don’t know is before the Tingler I had the Malingerer. It was a stepping stone to the Tingler. It just took longer to get to the plate.
JS: In the case of the Gyroball, it’s radically different from any pitch that came before it. I have to believe pitchers using it will have a harder time finding anything like consistent location. But hitting it, that’s another story. You threw the Tingler, I assume you hit pitches that had Tingler-esque movement…how should hitters approach the Tingler?
BW: I’m assuming that the pitcher’s gonna be some Japanese cat, am I right?
JS: Initially, yes, until it catches on, assuming it ever does.
BW: I played two years in Japan. Serious dudes. This here Gyroball, you say it breaks three feet? You’re standing in there, a ball coming from between the breasts of some fine 28 eight year old sitting behind the visiting dugout…90 miles an hour looking like it’s gonna be turning your kidneys into spicey tuna? You kidding me? Now how are you gonna hit something like that, fool?
JS: I suppose, after a while, you figure out how to read its movement, you make adjustments…I mean, these are professional hitters.
BW: That thing makes it over here, forget it. Game over. Sayonara. Baseball go bye-bye. Ok, Joe? Me no like it.
TSD: Biff, are you saying that this is in fact an unhittable pitch for which the Jeters and the Ortiz’s will have no answer?
BW: Jeter-son, he no hit big breaking Japanese baseball. Ortiz, he no hit. Baseball go bye-bye. Players feel great shame. Game no good no more.
We politely ended the interview as Biff, for reasons unknown, began talking in voice-over English. The idea of the Gyroball must have hit close to home. We can’t say for sure,. But we thank Biff (and his nurse, Wilma Cunningham, who intervened in the nick of time) for taking time to talk to us and giving us a better appreciation for the Gyroball and its potentially devastating impact on the game of baseball.
The Authors of The Sportsman’s Daily