“With Moran as backstop, [Chick] Fraser showed his marvelous breaking ball to Chance recently, and the big manager was himself surprised, as was also Catcher Moran.” “Fraser Takes to Spitball,” Pittsburg Press, August 7, 1907, p19
- NOTES: There are earlier reference to a “quick breaking ball” or a “fast breaking ball” but this is the earliest to use of just “breaking ball” in a baseball story.
The term was widely used in cricket, in both England and the U.S., before this. A 1903 article, also in the Pittsburg Press, offered an explanation of why breaking balls were more prevalent in that sport:
“The opportunity for ‘breaking’ a ball is much greater in cricket, owing to the fact that the ball in most instances strikes the ground before it reaches the batter. Any rotary motion applied to the leather would take immediate effect when it struck as solid a substance as the earth, and one of the special qualities possessed by a first-class cricket bowler is the ability to break a ball sidewise into a wicket.”
— “Curved Ball Used in Old Cricket Matches,” Pittsburg Press, June 22, 1903, p10.
No earliest use given in 2009 Dickson Baseball Dictionary