"I didn't want or intend that to happen," said a visibly shaken Westbrook of the ball he had known for an inning. "I thought the ball had as much promise as any I've ever pitched. But clearly it had a darkness inside it that none of us knew."
Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit deposited the hanging curveball over the right-field fence for a three-run home run.
"It was the right thing to do," said Doumit. "You can't just let it hang there. I wanted to get it out of sight as quickly as possible before any kids saw it. I hope it found some peace out in the bleachers."
The curveball is just the latest MLB baseball to hang itself in what is a serious problem that has long plagued the sport. Hundreds, even thousands, of baseballs hang themselves each year.
"You look at where these baseballs come from and it's not a surprise," said a source within MLB's front office who wished to remain anonymous. "They're created in a factory to look exactly like each other. Then they're shoved in a box and sent across the world. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, they're removed from their box and hurled through the air at speeds exceeding 90mph. For every one ball that is kept and cherished for a milestone, there are 1,000 that end their own lives."
While acknowledging that baseball suicides are a very serious problem, a spokesman for Rawlings the official maker of baseballs for MLB says many of the baseball hangings ruled suicide are actually caused by pitcher error.
"Look at the amount of hanged baseballs linked to the Phillies pitching staff as opposed to those linked to the Orioles staff," said Rawlings spokesman Lou Brandt. "Sure, you can make the case that many of the baseballs are depressed to be involved in an Orioles game and therefore commit suicide and I'm sure that's the case at times. But you also have to realize that often it's Baltimore's horrible pitchers who are hanging them. The Orioles need to be prosecuted for the murder of baseball."