Nathan Kirby Breaks Down 99-Year-Old Pitching Photos for #TBT


Spring means baseball, and baseball has a lot of history. Records go back decades, or more, and die-hard fans recall players from bygone eras as if they just left the room.


Walter Johnson

One of those players from the past with a U.Va. connection is Walter Johnson, a Hall of Famer whose big league career stretched from 1907 to 1927. On March 19, 1915, his team – the Washington Senators – was in Charlottesville for spring training (a common practice for big league clubs at the time, as the University of Virginia Magazine reports in its current issue). While here, Johnson demonstrated several different pitch techniques for images taken by Charlottesville-based photographer Rufus W. Holsinger’s studio. Those photos are now kept at U.Va. in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library with the rest of the Holsinger Collection.


Nathan Kirby

For this Throwback Thursday, we asked Nathan Kirby, a second-year pitcher on U.Va.’s baseball team, to look at the photos and tell us what each of Johnson’s pitches are and when they might be used in a game. Nathan’s a good person to ask – he just threw a no-hitter with 18 strike-outs. Here’s a look at the photos and what Nathan had to say about them:



Kirby: This goes more up and down – think like 12 to 6 on a clock. It’s generally used to get a third strike or a ground ball.


Change-up (Palm-ball)


Kirby: This is generally used after a fastball. It looks just like a fastball, but it’s slower. It’s one of the harder pitches to pick up out of the pitcher’s hand.




Kirby: This is the hardest pitch a pitcher will throw. It can be two seams, which moves more. Or it can be four seams, which is more straight and would be used more for accuracy.




Kirby: This is like a fastball version of a curve. It typically slides right to left or left to right, from 10 to 4 or 2 to 8, depending on whether you’re a right hander or left hander.



2 Comments on “Nathan Kirby Breaks Down 99-Year-Old Pitching Photos for #TBT

  1. The photos and explanations are the clearest and most concise explanations of baseball pitches which I have ever seen. Marvelous to see this link between a legendary old pitcher and a great young one.

  2. I played high school baseball with Clayton Kirby in 1965 @Washington-Lee HS in Arlington, Va. Clayton went on to have a decent career in the majors. Are Nathan and Clayton related?

    Excellent presentation!

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