GG’s pioneer of the ‘slider’

CLAYTON KERSHAW made his career partly with a great slider (Flickr/Malingerer).

One of the enduring charms of Major League Baseball is its long history. The sport itself that evolved from the games of “town ball” and “rounders” took its familiar shape (mostly) in 1845 when Alexander Cartwright codified the rules which define the game as we know it today.

“Firsts” such as the first completely professional team – Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1869 – and the hero who broke the big league color barrier – Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 – are woven into the history and appeal of the game.

Garden Grove has its own piece of baseball lore. George Blaeholder was not only the community’s first big league ball player, but is credited with popularizing the slider pitch, which has been the bane of many a batter.

The slider – still very widely used – is a breaking pitch that courses on a lateral path down through the batter’s hitting zone. It’s slower than a fastball, but more deceptive.

NEWSPAPER CLIPPING from the 1930s (Courtesy Karl Knickrehm)

Great pitchers such as Steve Carlton, Bob Gibson, Clayton Kershaw (above) and Rollie Fingers have used it effectively, but in the 1920s and 1930s, many hurlers avoided using it on the grounds it would allegedly injure their arm.

Blaeholder spent 11 years in big league ball, playing mostly for the St. Louis Browns (now the Baltimore Orioles) from 1925 to 1936. He posted a 104-125 record for usually awful Browns teams.

Born in Orange in 1904, George grew up in Garden Grove. He died in Garden Grove in 1947 at the age of 43 and is buried in Westminster Memorial Park.

Orange County has had many big league players in its history, but it can be argued that few have had as lasting an effect on the sport as the kid from the orange groves of Garden Grove.

Many thanks to Karl Knickrehm, president of the Garden Grove Historical Society, for the tip on Blaeholder.

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