The most important man on the defense is the pitcher. He has the job of making the opposing batter miss the ball or else hit it where it can be fielded by one of the members of the defensive team. A good pitcher has a fast ball, a curve ball, and a change of pace. He puzzles the batter by mixing up these pitches with baffling irregularity. Above all, he has control the ability to throw the ball where he aims it.
The trick of throwing curves lies in the spinning motion given the ball as it leaves the pitcher's hand. The diagram shows why a ball curves. If a right-handed pitcher throws a ball that breaks toward a right-handed batter it is an incurve; if it breaks away from the batter it is an outcurve. Each of these basic types has several different forms. A sharply breaking incurve may be a screwball. An outcurve that breaks horizontally may be a slider. The break of a curve may vary from an inch to a foot or more.
Perhaps the greatest pitcher in baseball was Walter Johnson. His lightninglike fast ball and superb control enabled him to strike out more men and pitch more shutouts (no runs allowed) than any other pitcher in the history of the game.
Other great pitchers were Christy Mathewson, Grover Alexander, Cy Young, Lefty Grove, Carl Hubbell, Dizzy Dean, Warren Spahn, Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax, and Nolan Ryan. Ryan was still pitching in his mid-40s. Feller's fast ball was once timed at 145 feet per second.