Ben’s Baseball Alphabet: Fadeaway

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We all know that you shouldn’t spook the horse. If you don’t know this then you’ve probably never had the pleasure of listening to Neil Young and Crazy Horse. And if you’ve never had the pleasure, then pick up a turntable, some decent speakers, and a copy of “Rust Never Sleeps” by Young and the Horse. It’s an album that is half live and soft and half studio and loud. These juxtapositions are a trademark of Neil and the boys. While Uncle Neil has many classic songs and albums, there is a song titled “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)” on this collection of tunes. In the song, Young states “It’s better to burn out than to fade away”. And while you may or may not agree with this statement, it is the reason why F Is for Fadeaway.

F Is for Fadeaway

What do the lyrics from a Neil Young song have to do with baseball? Nothing as far as this writer knows. “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)” is just a great song that happened to have the words “fade away” in it. So when “fadeaway” was discovered in The Dickson Baseball Dictionary it was hard to avoid singing this song on a loop. Go ahead, if you know the song, try to stop singing it, it’s almost impossible.

Done singing? You sounded great. Back to the word at hand. Fadeaway is a portmanteau word, meaning that it is a blend of “fade” and “away”. Simple enough, right?

Real World Fade Away

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life to fade away simply means to disappear slowly, think credit card debt or a rash.

Baseball Fadeaway

In 1908 Christy Mathewson of the New York Giants was the cat’s pajamas. He was just finishing up his seventh consecutive season of 20 or more victories, including an amazing 37 that season. It is safe to say that even at this midpoint in his career he would have been Cooperstown bound. It was during the ’08 season that Mathewson invented and named the precursor to the screwball, which he aptly called the fadeaway. So dubbed because of the way the pitch would lose speed as it approached the batter. The ball would “fade” away from the hitter at the last second.  Although there has also been some evidence that points to the name being derived from the way the pitcher fell off the mound after he delivered the pitch, although the former seems to be more likely.

Mathewson was the only pitcher who was able to master the fadeaway, although he only used the pitch in tight situations because it wasn’t easy to throw and was taxing on his wrist. Thus when Mathewson retired, the fadeaway did what fadeaways do, it faded away. Or maybe it would be better to say that it burned out. What do you think, Neil?

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Players Mentioned:

Christy Mathewson