Pat Venditte is an ambidextrous pitcher
May 1, 2006 12:26 PM   Subscribe

Pat Venditte is an ambidextrous pitcher. He's not quite in the Big Leagues, but pitching with both arms is extremely rare. The last time it happened in the Majors was 1995. Before that it was 1893.
posted by turbodog (27 comments total)
That is a wild story, turbodog; nice post. I like this story from your third link:
When he was in the Minors, with Muskogee in the Western Association, [Paul] Richards was confronted with the ultimate dilemma: the switch-pitcher vs. the switch-hitter.

Summoned in ninth-inning relief, Richards was ready to pitch right handed to Charlie Wilson, a switch-hitter. Wilson countered by crossing the plate and stepping into the left-handed batters' box. The amusement continued for several minutes as Wilson jumped from one side to the other.

If Venditte tears his rotator cuff, or throws out his elbow, he'll still have another one left over.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:54 PM on May 1, 2006

Oh man. An infinite, never-ending platoon switch. Tony LaRussa just came.
posted by Simon! at 1:07 PM on May 1, 2006 [2 favorites]

a special reversible six-finger glove, which had two thumbs

posted by Faint of Butt at 1:07 PM on May 1, 2006

I take it pitching chirality with respect to the batter can confer a benefit to the pitcher or batter? I was wondering why anyone would train themselves that way, other then redundancy in case one arm goes bad.
posted by delmoi at 1:13 PM on May 1, 2006

What would happen if a switch hitter got in the box with a switch pitcher on the mound? Would it be like a game of Roshambo with each of them trying to out wit the other before the pitch? Or would it be madness while they contiually switched from side to side further slowing the already sloth-like pace of baseball? This boggles my mind.
posted by clubfoote at 1:18 PM on May 1, 2006

Great post. It's odd (and unfortunate) that the pitcher must state his throwing arm prior to each batter -- no switching in mid-at-bat (which sounds damn entertaining).

Surely if this guy makes it to the bigs, Selig would nix that rule. He's just too marketable for them not to do so.
posted by diastematic at 1:19 PM on May 1, 2006

"The rules require Venditte to declare which way he's going to pitch before each batter steps into the box. If a switch hitter is due up, pitching coach Travis Wyckoff will signal to Venditte which arm to use based on the scouting report."
posted by davidnin at 1:24 PM on May 1, 2006

Throwing two balls at once? That must be confusing for the hitter.
posted by jouke at 1:24 PM on May 1, 2006

Delmoi, yes that's the idea. Besides reducing fatigue (by resting one pitching arm while switching to the other), he'd be able to switch to the side that gives him the best statistical chance vs. the current hitter.
posted by Gamblor at 1:27 PM on May 1, 2006

Great post. It's odd (and unfortunate) that the pitcher must state his throwing arm prior to each batter -- no switching in mid-at-bat (which sounds damn entertaining).

What a shame! The best thing about this skill would be the ability to throw a lefty fastball followed by a right handed breaking ball. Hitters would be hopelessly confused. Of course, you'd need to have better than Venditte's "average" stuff from both hands to be effective.
posted by kosem at 1:37 PM on May 1, 2006

In the immortal words of Andy Van Slyke, Pat Vinditte is an amphibious pitcher!

six-finger glove

Antonio Alfonseca has already got one of those!
posted by nflorin at 2:15 PM on May 1, 2006

Nixon died too soon.
posted by rob511 at 2:19 PM on May 1, 2006

"The rules require Venditte to declare which way he's going to pitch" -- Does anyone know what rule they're talking about?

I don't see a need to declare a pitching hand in the MLB rules. But I also don't see how his glove would fit Rule 1.14 governing the construction of fielder's gloves.
posted by ?! at 2:37 PM on May 1, 2006

Yeah ?! I can't find it in the rules either.
posted by edverb at 2:38 PM on May 1, 2006

I did find this.

Q: Is there any rule that prevents an ambidextrous pitcher from throwing with either hand to the same batter?

A: No.

posted by edverb at 2:43 PM on May 1, 2006

There's also this (google cache; the original seems to be off It's a Q&A with Tom Leppard, who runs the umpires for MLB:

I have a question regarding pitching. Is there any rule that stipulates that a pitches must either right-handed or left-handed?

No, there is no such rule.

Based on the answer to the first question: If not, it is feasible to say that a pitcher could deliver the ball right-handed one pitch and then left-handed on the next?

Ambidextrous pitchers are rare but do exist. An example was Greg Harris, who pitched with the Boston Red Sox. When such pitchers pitch in the Major Leagues, they must pitch with the same hand during a batter's entire at-bat. Such pitchers may change pitching hand for the next batter, but again must continue with that arm for that batter's entire at-bat.

I clearly remember the rule on declaring a hand to pitch with come into being in the run-up to Harris pitching both ways (he talked about it for a long time before he actually did it). But no, I can't find it in the rulebook. I think it's probably in the umpires' Case Book, which details examples and interpretations and esoterica not worth fitting into the full rulebook.
posted by nflorin at 3:18 PM on May 1, 2006

It was only a matter of time. I dreamed of doing this as a kid.

Also, discussion regarding same link 4 days ago (for more commentary).
posted by justgary at 3:29 PM on May 1, 2006

Great post, and Tony Mullane (the "1893" link) is my new hero:

Mullane was a free spirit who routinely ignored the game's reserve clause. He jumped to the Union Association and then to Toledo after winning 35 games for the Browns in 1883 without stopping to play in the UA. He was suspended for all of 1885 when he signed with Cincinnati after Toledo had resold him to the Browns. And in 1892 he sat out half the season to protest the NL's pay cuts. When he wasn't pitching, Mullane played every position except catcher, and switch-hit his way to a .243 batting average in 2,720 at-bats.

posted by languagehat at 3:43 PM on May 1, 2006

Wow - I know absolutely nothing about baseball, but this is really interesting stuff. Great post, turbodog.
posted by terpsichoria at 4:38 PM on May 1, 2006

Great post. We've had a bunch of good baseball posts of late.
posted by CRM114 at 5:49 PM on May 1, 2006

Tony Mullane (the "1893" link) is my new hero

Unfortunately, he was also racist and a teetotaler. But I have to admit that "The Apollo of the Box" is a pretty good nickname.
posted by turbodog at 8:42 PM on May 1, 2006

For the Brits out there who've asked, ("wait, I'm an American but I don't know anything about baseball, either, so screw you, buddy!") a right-handed pitcher puts (mostly - some righties are capable of putting right-hand spin on their splitters and change-ups) left-hand spin (to throw a curve ball, grip the ball along the laces to the right [or left, if lefty] of the meridian. During release, rotate the throwing hand counter-clockwise [clockwise for lefties], so that during follow-through your palm faces third base [or first for a lefty]. The common somatic allegories are "turn the doornob" and "pull the lampcord.") on his breaking pitches, which cause them to (mostly) tail away from a right-handed batter, and towards a lefty. Since pitches down (curveballs, despite their name, mainly invovle placing forward spin on the ball, so that they sink under a hitter's bat. In the process of imparting forward spin, however, many pitchers add some lateral spin to mix things up) and in are easier to hit than those down and away, hitting from the lefty (right) side of the plate against a right-handed pitcher is considered to be easier.
posted by ChasFile at 9:23 PM on May 1, 2006

This is excellent. As someone who's always enjoyed the finer points of baseball more than regional rivalry, this is a great post.
posted by Plutor at 4:43 AM on May 2, 2006

If you're interested in more crazy-pitching-lore, read up on submarine-pitching (an extreme form of side-arm pitching). Unlike "regular" baseball pitches (3/4's), submaring pitches are released below horizontal, doing some nasty things to the spin (sinkers become risers, etc.). It's my personal favorite type of pitching (though I'd have about 0% accuracy if I tried it myself).

The biggest problem with sidearm pitching is that it accelerates the wear-and-tear on your arm, closely followed by the second-biggest problem, which is that (in general) your accuracy suffers. But not always... Walter Johnson was a side-arm pitcher, after all.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:47 AM on May 2, 2006

BTW, the "rules" they refer to are the NCAA Division I baseball rules (PDF). Rule 9, Section 2, Paragraph k: "[The pitcher shall not:] Pitch both right-handed and left-handed to the same batter during a plate appearance (ambidextrous-pitcher rule)." Also, the gloves/mitts section (Rule 1, Section 13) of the rules appears to not restrict extra fingers.
posted by Plutor at 4:53 AM on May 2, 2006

Unfortunately, he was also racist and a teetotaler.

Damn. It's pretty hard to find white guys of that period who weren't racist, but a teetotaler to boot? Once again, a hero turns out to have feet of clay...

Like Civil_Disobedient, I'm very fond of sidearm pitchers, and I still revere the memory of Terry Leach, who won something like ten straight games for the Mets in the summer of '87, when the better-known pitchers were all on the fritz for one reason or another, and singlehandedly rescued the season. Of course he didn't get any respect because he didn't throw 98-mph fastballs, and he's since been forgotten, except by me. I can still see him reaching that long right arm back and down, then whipping it around and flinging the ball towards the baffled batter...
posted by languagehat at 7:26 AM on May 2, 2006

Once again, a hero turns out to have feet of clay.

I'll start calling you "The Apollo of the Hat" if it makes you feel better...
posted by turbodog at 10:52 AM on May 2, 2006

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