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Harry O’Neill of Ridgetown was the inventor of the “Slider” baseball field

Harry O’Neill in 1924

As you travel through Chatham-Kent’s sporting history, there are many stories that will surprise you.

One of them concerns the “cursor”.

No, not a delicious miniature burger, we’re talking about the hard-to-touch baseball field.

Several pitchers in Major League Baseball history are well known for their slider, including David Cone, CC Sabathia, Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Rollie Fingers and Steve Carlton.

However, the land is believed to originate from Ridgetown, Ontario, invented by a man named Harry O’Neill.

Now this fact is debated. Some will attribute the pitch to Charles “Chief” Bender, others will credit George Uhle, still others will credit George Blaeholder; but in the middle of that discussion, there’s always Harry O’Neill from Ridgetown.

After high school, Harry O’Neill attended the University of Toronto and soon found himself in the Canadian military. In 1919, O’Neill helped the Canadian Expeditionary Force team win a tag team championship while playing in London, England.

After World War I, O’Neill returned to Canada and traveled to Alberta, where he won another title, this time throwing for the Medicine Hat Monarchs. His big breakthrough, however, came in 1921 when he was spotted playing for the Windsor Chicks.

In 1922, O’Neill was signed by Connie Mack to play for the Philadelphia Athletics. He made his Major League Baseball debut that year and also adapted for track and field in 1923.

It is while launching with Athletics that O’Neill would have discovered the “slider”. Pitching for batting practice, his teammates asked O’Neill to make easy pitches over the plate. Trying to pick up speed on his fastball, O’Neill adjusted his grip and his throws, although slightly slower, began to cut through the plate. When Hall of Fame Director Connie Mack came to investigate, he told O’Neill to “find out what it is and keep doing it.”

However, most of his professional career has been in the minor leagues, where he has presented his patented slider pitch in cities such as Augusta, Salt Lake City, Shreveport, Dallas, Hollywood and Boise. At Augusta, O’Neill threw a non-hitter.

If it hadn’t been for a car crash, where his hip was injured in his second season with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1923, O’Neill and his pioneering land might have had a much longer career. in the Major League.

At the end of his playing days, O’Neill spent two seasons as a minor league manager for the Salt Lake Bees in 1927 and the Boise Senators in 1928. During those years, O’Neill was known for enter training when needed. .

Upon retirement, Harry O’Neill returned to Chatham-Kent, where he worked for the Township of Howard. O’Neill died in 1969 at the age of 76, but his slider still lives in the big leagues.

Harry O’Neill working for Howard Township

By Ian Kennedy


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Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.