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Baseball's curve ball born in the Carolinas

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The historians at the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources have posted a 1933 obituary of baseball pitcher Alphonse Martin, including his connection to North Carolina. 

While stationed at Fort Reno on the northern end of Roanoke Island during the occupation of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Union soldiers often had free time. Martin, a native New Yorker, had played on a pre-war team called the Unions, one of 16 teams that competed regularly in the metropolitan New York area. Union soldiers brought baseball down South during the war, as it had originated in Maine as “town ball” and spread through New England. 

Martin was known for a slow, curved pitch that was incredibly difficult for batters to hit, and he earned the name “Phoney Ball.” After the war, Martin returned to New York and pitched for the New York Mutuals and the Brooklyn Eckfords. Although Martin pitched the curve during the Civil War, Arthur “Candy” Cummings is credited with inventing the pitch in 1867, playing for the Brooklyn Excelsiors. 

A plaque for Cummings at the Baseball Hall of Fame states “Inventor of the Curveball,” but Cummings admitted to baseball historian Alfred H. Spink that he felt Martin had first pitched a curve ball. Cummings reportedly said of other pitchers, “But none of those pitchers knew they had a curve, and I suppose it is fair to say I was the first to find out what a curve was and how it was done.”

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