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.
With the emery pitch in his arsenal, Ford would won 26 games as a rookie for the New York Highlanders (later the Yankees) in 1910. His eight shutouts that season remain a major league rookie record. He followed that up by posting 22 wins in 1911 to become the first Canadian to collect 20 wins in back-to-back seasons. He would win 20 games again in 1914 with Buffalo of the Federal League. It wasn’t until an interview with The Sporting News in 1935 – 18 years after his retirement – that Ford would admit to throwing the emery pitch.
Career Major League Statistics
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