Posted on 22 February 2010 by Wanna Be Sports Guy
There are some baseball traditions which have faded forever into obscurity. Relics such as the spitball, the screwball, and the eepheus pitch have all gone the way of the dinosaur.
But there is one man who, through his shenanigans, is keeping baseball tradition alive. His name is Mike Lowell, and he’s the last, best practitioner of the “Hidden Ball Trick.”
The trick is exactly what its name suggests. It’s a deceptive play in which the runner on base is fooled as to the location of the ball, and is then tagged out by a nearby defender. Most often, this involves one of the basemen making a fake throw back to the pitcher who, for the play to be legal, must be positioned off of the mound.
According to multiple sources, there have been fewer than 300 successful instances of the Hidden Ball Trick in the recorded history of the Major Leagues. Considering that the game has been around for over a century, with each team playing more than 100 games, it’s an astonishingly low number.
One of the earliest known practitioners of the trick was Bill Coughlin, a third baseman who played for the Washington Senators and Detroit Tigers in a career which spanned nine years (1899-1908). While there is no way to verify his claim, Coughlin was said to have been responsible for seven successful executions of the Hidden Ball Trick. His most high-profile exhibition came in Game Two of the 1907 World Series, when he caught Jimmy Slagle of the Chicago Cubs. It is the only recorded instance of the trick in World Series History.
But back to modern times. Mike Lowell, currently a third baseman in the Boston Red Sox organization, has been responsible for two of the last three Hidden Ball Tricks in the majors. The first came against the Expos’ Brian Schneider on September 15, 2004. His most recent came a year later, on August 10, 2005 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Check the link for a look at the video. Lowell, then a member of the Florida Marlins, managed to dupe Luis Terrero with a little help from reliever Todd Jones. The play saved the game for the Marlins, and Lowell was once again a hero.
It’s innovation and traditions like this that make baseball truly one of the most entertaining sports in the world. While it may possess neither the raw power of football nor the showmanship of basketball, it has some of the most finesse and deception-based gameplay available.
And it comes, in large part, thanks to heroes of the game like Mike Lowell.
- Taylor Maxwell
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