Rip Sewell, Who Threw ‘Eephus’ Pitch, Dead at 82
Truett Banks (Rip) Sewell, the former Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher who delighted baseball fans with his “eephus” pitch and inspired others when he remained active after losing both legs late in life, has died. He was 82.
Sewell, who suffered from kidney failure and pneumonia, died Sunday at South Florida Baptist Hospital, where he had been admitted Aug. 23. He will be buried Wednesday.
The right-hander broke into the major leagues with the Detroit Tigers in 1932 but didn’t stay on the big league level until 1938, when he joined the Pirates and played through 1949. He had a 143-97 career record, including a National League-leading 21 victories in 1943.
The native of Decatur, Ala., also won 21 games in 1944 and pitched in eight All-Star games, the most memorable in 1946 when Ted Williams hit a three-run homer off the blooper. Called the “eephus” by Sewell, the arching pitch reached a height of 25 feet before coming straight down toward the plate.
Williams, who before the game had asked Sewell if he would throw the blooper, was the only player to hit a home run off the pitch.
Sewell wasn’t expected to pitch because of an elbow injury, but with the American League leading, 9-0, National League Manager Charlie Grimm asked the right-hander to warm up “and throw that blooper pitch and see if you can wake up this crowd.”
With two runners on, Sewell worked the count to two balls, one strike with two bloopers and a fastball. Williams then hit what Sewell described as a “Sunday Super Dooper Blooper” into the right-field bullpen.
Sewell, who never made more than $21,500 per year, was instrumental in the formation of baseball’s pension fund. During the train ride to Boston for an all-star game in 1946, he and St. Louis shortstop Marty Marion devised the formula to use receipts from All-Star games to help retired players.