Sewell was one of the National League‘s dominant pitchers during WWII, compiling a 70-45 record for the Pirates from 1942 through 1945. Part of his foot had been shot off in a 1940 hunting accident, keeping him out of the war. The injury led to the development of his famous blooper pitch, or “eephus,” as it was dubbed by teammate Maurice Van Robays. Ted Williams hit an eephus pitch for his second home run in the 1946 All-Star Game.
Sewell worked seven years in the minors and had a five-game 1932 tryout with Detroit before reaching the Pirates in 1938. He lost a league-high 17 games in 1941, but won 21 in both 1943 and 1944. His 21 wins and 25 complete games in ’43 led the league, as he was named NL Pitcher of the Year by the BBWAA. From ’40 through ’45, he averaged 237 innings per year. He set league records for pitchers with 12 chances accepted in a game and 11 assists in a game in 1941, when he also equaled a ML record with three assists in one inning.
Sewell was an outspoken critic of the burgeoning players’ union being organized after WWII by Robert Murphy, with efforts concentrated in Pittsburgh. He led Pirate players against the union, and was reported as saying that he was “glad the owners had finally told these ungrateful players where to get off. First they wanted the hamburg, then filet mignon, eventually the cow and the entire pasture.”