Russell Ford was born in Brandon, Manitoba, but moved to the American Midwest with his family as a youngster. It was there that he and his older brother, Gene, who would pitch for the Detroit Tigers in 1905, attracted the attention of big league scouts.

During his minor league stint with the Southern League’s Atlanta Crackers in 1908, Ford accidentally invented the emery-board pitch. After a pitch sailed over his catcher’s head and smacked a concrete grading, a scuff mark appeared on the ball. Using the same ball, his next pitch had an unusually sharp break. Armed with this information, he soon began employing a piece of emery paper on his ring and cut a small hole in his glove because he didn’t want opposing pitchers to find out his secret.

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