// you’re reading...


The Invisible Gem Who Invented the Curveball

Imagine a day at the beach on a day more than 150 years ago. The sand is warm, the sky is blue, and the sea rolls in and out. Some boys throw seashells into the water.
To any eye, this is a day like any other. But it is not a day like any other. Because one of the boys is an invisible gem in plain sight. His name is Arthur Cummings.
Here is what happened:
Watching the shells after they threw them, the boys noticed that they curved. They wondered if they could make a baseball do the same thing.
All the boys except one quit after a few tries. Not Cummings. There was something inside him that would not let go. With no instruction manuals, no deep history from which to learn, Cummings tried for years. All he had was his own belief in the possibility of a “curved ball,” plus the willingness to go through long and uncertain trial and error.
Experimenting with grips, well past the point where others would have given up, Cummings finally succeeded. To the everlasting frustration of batters, he made a baseball curve. This invention made him “Candy,” slang in his era for best. Today Candy Cummings, whose 5-feet-9, 120-pound frame hardly suggested physical greatness, is enshrined in the baseball Hall of Fame.
“I don’t know what made me stick at it,” he reflected years later. “The great wonder to me now is that I did not give up in disgust, for I had not one single word of encouragement in all that time, while my attempts were a standing joke among my friends.”
Three elements stand out.
“I don’t know what made me stick at it.” Yes, some people do hang on, for reasons we do not understand. What makes some people hang in there while others fall away in disgust? This is a great, wonderful puzzle.
“I had not one single word of encouragement.” No teacher was there to guide Cummings. No parent was there to help him with his homework. He worked tirelessly at something that he didn’t even know was possible.
“… my attempts were a standing joke among my friends.” Most people cannot stand any kind of ridicule. Peer pressure drives most people to conform. Not Cummings. He kept doing what he was doing, no matter what people said.
In sum, Cummings changed baseball history and won honor in his field by exploring an uncertain outcome. He got an idea and stuck with it without any guarantee of payoff. He kept going when others laughed.


No comments for “The Invisible Gem Who Invented the Curveball”

Post a comment