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February 26, 2007

The Supernatural Demon Miracle Pitch

Does the gyroball—the mysterious Japanese pitch supposedly invented by physicists and perfected by hurlers such as Red Sox $103 million man Daisuke Matsuzaka—exist? Figuring that out sounds like it would make for a great story; indeed, major sports media companies ESPN and Sports Illustrated both ran features on the subject, as did the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe. (With its multi-part investigation, Yahoo Sports probably did the best job of covering the story.)

While the authors of the different articles come to slightly different conclusions about the authenticity and distinctiveness of the pitch, they generally cover the same bases. Most of them talk to the gyroball's foremost proselytizer in the States, Baseball Prospectus's Will Carroll. Several of them mention Joey Niezer, a potential big-league prospect who was supposedly taught by Carroll to throw the gyroball. As a counterbalance, some articles quote baseball-physicist Robert Adair, who says that the pitch has been invented before (for cricket), and that it's useless; and former Mets manager Bobby Valentine, who's now managing in Japan and says he hasn't ever seen the pitch used in a game.

All of the articles mention a five-year old book called Makyuu no Shoutai that was co-written by a physicist and a baseball trainer. Makyuu supposedly outlines how the authors conspired to develop the gyroball and details the pitch's movement as it travels through the air. But what does the book's title mean in English? Like many of the stories about the gyroball, this translation seems to be open to interpretation.

SI.com: "The Truth about the Supernatural Pitch"
ESPN.com: "Natural Shape of the Demon Sphere"
New York Times and Washington Post: "Secrets of the Demon Miracle Pitch"
Boston Globe: "The Secret of the Miracle Pitch"

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