Why is a Curveball Called Uncle Charlie

Why is a Curveball Called Uncle Charlie

When someone says, ”He can throw a mean Uncle Charlie!” they do not mean they can physically throw your mum’s brother; that means Uncle Charlie of your family who finds it funny to body shame people.

‘Uncle Charlie’ is slang for a curveball in baseball, which is a pitch whose breaking action is downward. It is meant to curve away from the batter as it draws closer to him.

When a pitcher throws the curveball correctly, it spins in a way that causes it to break sharply in an upward or a downward direction, or both, as it approaches the plate. This movement can be deceptive, making it difficult for the batter to determine where the ball will go.

Origin of Curveball

Origin of Curveball

One of the earliest references to curveball dates back to the 1860s and was likely developed and transformed over the years by many pitchers. Candy Cummings, born in 1848 in Ware, Massachusetts, is credited with inventing curveball by the National Baseball Hall Of Fame.

According to the Baseball Almanac, Candy Cummings invented the curveball after observing the trajectory shell thrown into the wind. He has said, ‘I thought what a wonderful thing it would be if I could make a baseball curve like that.’

While playing baseball with the other boys in the area, he began experimenting by throwing the ball that way. It took some time, but he eventually developed the curveball.

However, the debate on who first used the curveball in professional baseball extends beyond traditional baseball to include variations like wiffle ball. This has led enthusiasts to seek out a comprehensive guide to curving a wiffle ball, reflecting the skill’s versatility.

Initially, it was also suspected that the drop of the curve ball was an optical illusion. It was later discovered that it resulted from fluid dynamics, specifically the Magnus effect, when it was observed through advanced photography and lighting.

Who is Uncle Charlie?

Uncle Charlie?

The exact origin of ‘Uncle Charlie’ as a nickname for a curveball in baseball is not entirely clear, and there are a few different theories about how it came to be called Uncle Charlie.

According to a theory, a pitcher named Carl Hubbell, who played for the New York Giants in the 1930s, used this nickname to refer to his pitch. He was known for his exceptional curveball. According to this theory, Carl Hubbell’s curveball was so effective and had such a sharp break that it became known as ‘Uncle Charlie.’

Another theory suggests that the nickname may have originated from the idea that the movement of the curveball is so deceptive that it can make the batter swing and miss or whiff at the pitch. ‘Charlie’ may be a colloquial word for striking out, and the curveball’s ability to give many strikeouts might have led to the nickname.

Some speculate that the nickname may have been influenced by the shapes of the letters ‘U’ and ‘C,’ which appear curved. The first known record of the term being used was by Walter Winchell in 1935, when he used it in his column in The Havana Evening Telegram.

The Baseball Almanac presumably states that the nickname ‘Uncle Charlie’ refers to the former president of Harvard, Charles Eliot. Charles Eliot considered the curveball as cheating. We cannot blame him for it, though, because he was the first and original victim of the curveball. This was perhaps a way to mock him forever.

This can be seen in the theory that states that its connection to American culture is what landed it its nickname. In American culture, Uncles are often considered fun, witty, and mischievous pranksters. They are represented by the curveball, which is the opposite of a fastball that, according to the theory, symbolizes the no-fun, strict, rule-abiding father.

Some other names of ‘Uncle Charlie’ are ‘Sir Charles’ and ‘Lord Charles’. Ultimately, it is unclear exactly where the nickname ‘Uncle Charlie’ came from, but baseball players, fans, and commentators frequently use it to refer to an elite curveball.

‘Uncle Charlie’ has made its way into various media and entertainment related to baseball. It is common to hear the term in baseball-themed movies, TV shows, and literature, further stressing its importance and place in baseball culture.


Be it because of Candy Cummings, Charles Eliot, Carl Hubbell, or the playful aspect of American culture that gave curveball the nickname ‘Uncle Charlie,’ the term shows a different aspect of baseball that is not just technical and full of scores and numbers. It reveals how the sport also comprises humans, emotions, strategies, skills, passion, and experiments.

Even though the reason why a curveball is known as ‘Uncle Charlie’ is a mystery, the popular nickname is widely and affectionately used by baseball players, sports writers, commentators, baseball fans, and coaches when referring to a traditionally epic or an elite curveball.

Liam Andreas
Liam Andreas is a dynamic figure in the world of kinetic sports. With a Bachelor's degree in Sports Science from the University of Florida, his journey began as a coach in extreme sports, where he developed innovative training methods. He has also earned a Master's degree in Kinesiology from the University of Texas and spent over a decade as a personal trainer specializing in high-impact sports. Apart from work, he is an enthusiastic mountain biker and a volunteer for youth sports programs. Sometimes, he enjoys rock climbing and participating in triathlons as well.

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