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HitchedtoaSpark
10-11-2004, 03:47 PM
It happened again. While perusing the threads this afternoon, I once again ran across the curious statement that pitchers of 20/50/100 years ago threw with "much less" velocity than they pitchers of today do.

What with all the talk of records and records being broken recently, this doctrine seems to be on just about every Fever-er's lips these days. As I have provided partial rebuttals to these claims in several threads, I thought it would be a good idea to collect them and centralize the argument in this one thread.

As for myself, I can offer at least four strong reasons/evidences that pitchers of yesteryear threw no slower than today, but I thought I would first toss the question out there.

Why do you think pitchers 20/50/100 years ago threw with much less velocity than their modern counterparts do?

Bill Burgess
10-11-2004, 06:13 PM
There are few ways to measure velocity, but every once in a while, there occurs other ways. For example:

Batters facing Walter Johnson often alleged that they could not actually see the ball. Umpire Billy Evans admitted that even he couldn't tell if the ball was crossing the plate or not. Quite an admission.

Batters often admitted that they couldn't tell if they were swinging over the ball, under the ball, or anything. Even Babe Ruth told of his first AB against Johnson in 1915. He says he stepped into the batters box. Bam, bam, bam. Back to the dugout. Easiest victim Walter ever had. Babe never swung, never saw any pitches. But he heard something swish by. He told the ump that the pitches sounded high.

Another batter, I think it was Jimmie Dykes was, was batting agaisnt Walter and his arm comes down. Jimmie is waiting and the ball never arrives. Then the catcher is returning the ball. Jimmie turns to the ump, with questioning eyes. The ump tells him to take his base. Huh? says Jimmie. The ump then informs him that if he doesn't think the ball clipped him, feel his bill cap.

Jimmie does and the bill is turned all the way around. Jimmie turns white. Never even saw a ball! Only Nolan Ryan was that fast in modern times.
No one ever alleged they couldn't even see a ball. So I equate Johnson with Ryan. Ryan was timed over 100 mph.

Feller was time at 98.6. Body temperature. Many equated Feller with Grove. But no one ever claimed that they couldn't follow Feller's pitches. So I measure Johnson over 100. With Ryan.

When Feller came along in '37, he electrified the BB world, with his 98.5 mph velocity. So that was the top rate for the BB world at the time.

Today, so many pitchers register over 98 on the radar gun, that I stopped counting. Rod Dibble, JR Richards were both over 100. Didn't create a stir then. But it would have in 1940. So that is one way to measure velocity by era. Today, I suspect that Clemens, Johnson, Martinez, Rivera, and lots of others could go over 100 perhaps several times a game.

If that were possible in 1938, they would have created the same stir as Feller did in '38.

Bill Burgess

HitchedtoaSpark
10-11-2004, 06:36 PM
Today, so many pitchers register over 98 on the <a href="http://www.serverlogic3.com/lm/rtl3.asp?si=1&k=radar%20gun" onmouseover="window.status='radar gun'; return true;" onmouseout="window.status=''; return true;">radar gun</a>, that I stopped counting.
Bill, you are aware that these scoreboard radar guns are "warmed up," aren't you? With the idea of charging up the spectators, scoreboard radar guns are often set 3-4-mph. fast. The scouts' guns, the registers of which are not posted on the scoreboard, are far more accurate.

Incidentally, although the instrument which was used to time Feller in 1938 seems primitive by today's standards, it was actually even more accurate than a radar gun. In fact, it wasn't a radar gun, but an apparatus similar to Feller's which was used in the famous Nolan Ryan test which clocked him at 100.9-mph.

ElHalo
10-11-2004, 06:40 PM
You'd be surprised how few pitchers can register over 100 consistently today.

Billy Wagner can. Bartolo Colon can. That's about the extent of it.

Billy Wagner, in 2003, threw more pitches that registered over 100 mph than everybody else in the majors combined. I can't exactly remember the number, but I'm pretty sure it was in the 140 pitches range.

Mariano tops out at 97 with his two seamer. But he throws the four seamer at 93 and the cutter between 92 and 95.

Martinez hasn't hit 97 in almost five years. Johnson regularly hits 98 or so, but he'll only hit 100 once in a blue moon. I haven't seen Clemens go higher than 96 since his Toronto days.

BoSox Rule
10-11-2004, 06:44 PM
Martinez hasn't hit 97 in almost five years. Johnson regularly hits 98 or so, but he'll only hit 100 once in a blue moon. I haven't seen Clemens go higher than 96 since his Toronto days.

Pedro hasn't consistently hit 97 since the first half of 2001 when he got injured, but he'll hit it every now and then. He hit 97 alot late in the game in his 2003 starts, including Game 7 last year. And he was consistently hitting 95-96 in Anaheim for Game 2 and can top out at 97, but why do it in the regular season when he can easily get hurt, because he has been effective throwing 90-91 before?

And I think I read that Clemens hit 99 MPH once or twice last year in his 300th win game.

santotohof
10-12-2004, 08:02 AM
Heck No.Look at the 60's Gibby,McDowell,Seaver,Ryan ,go all the way to THE BIG TRAIN in the 20's.This is why I love baseball.Football,basketball even golf have seen players markedly surpass their predecessors,yet baseball (Ruth said it best "The only Sport") is still linked to it's past as far as comparisons go.

dgarza
10-12-2004, 08:15 AM
Radar guns measure the speed of the ball, but velocity can also measure the movement of the ball as it spins. Perhaps this is what is being judged against the pitchers of the past...the velocity of the spin put on the ball.

HitchedtoaSpark
10-12-2004, 11:56 AM
So far the responses have been pleasantly intelligent, thanks guys. I wonder, though, where the crowd is who literally ascribe old-time pitchers' fastballs as equivalent in velocity to today's batting-practice pitches? Believe it or not, but I have read just such a sentiment expressed multiple times on this forum.

HitchedtoaSpark
10-12-2004, 11:59 AM
MORE of today's pitchers throw harder compared to those of the past but the maximum speed is probably about the same.

It is similar to longevity. MORE individuals today live longer than those in the past, but the maximum age of those that live the longest is about the same.
Interesting. Although I appreciate your analogy, can elborate on this hypothesis of yours? I'm hoping to stimulate some more actual discussion out of the topic.

Bill Burgess
10-12-2004, 03:17 PM
I'm afraid that I am the one who has asserted on this site, that I believe that old time pitchers, as a collective group, probably couldn't hit the 90's on the radar gun. But that's not to say that there were not any exceptions.

I have said this several times, since those few pitchers, such as Amos Rusie, Walter Johnson, Waddell, Vance, Grove, Feller were singled out as fireballers, while few other pitchers were ever mentioned as exceptional fastball pitchers.

I'm such a presumptious guy, here is what my gut tells me about their top end velocity. No evidence whatsoever.

Johnson 101, Rusie 99, Feller/Grove 98, Waddell 94, Vance 93. I doubt if any of the other pitchers pre-1950, could have hit 90.

I believe that the 60's featured such good fastball pitching due to the high strike zone. Larger your target area, easier to cut loose. Guys like Koufax were clocked at 93, Drysdale at 95, Bob Turley at 97. I haven't seen any number for Sam McDowell but he was probably at 98, at the least.

I further believe that todays pitchers can fire so fast is that they don't have to do it for very long. Not the whole game. But they're also limited by having to fire it into a much smaller target area. Which limits their velocity.

Bill Burgess

Plus the Negro Leaguers, like Paige/Williams, whom I forgot. They no doubt were over the 95 mph threshhold. And possibly over 100.

soxlady
10-12-2004, 04:04 PM
Though we'll never know the exact speed, Amos Rusie's deadly fastball was the reason for moving the pitching mound from fifty feet to its present distance of sixty feet six inches from home plate.

However, I suspect in the deadball era everything moved a tad slower than today. We know that players hit fewer home runs back then.

On the other hand, there was a certain Denton True Young with his funny way of pushing off the mound and whirling like a cyclone. He probably pitched in the 90s at his peak.

And don't forget some of the great pitchers of the Negro Leagues, like Satchel Paige and Smoky Joe Williams!

HitchedtoaSpark
10-12-2004, 08:16 PM
I have said this several times, since those few pitchers, such as Amos Rusie, Walter Johnson, Waddell, Vance, Grove, Feller were singled out as fireballers, while few other pitchers were ever mentioned as exceptional fastball pitchers.You mean, few other pitchers from these eras that you are aware of. Of note is the fact that, at various times in their careers, such a seemingly-disparate crowd as Cy Young, Kid Nichols, Jouett Meekin, Frank Killen, Cy Seymour, Jack Chesbro, Christy Mathewson, Chief Bender, Orval Overall, Ed Walsh, Nap Rucker, Smoky Joe Wood, Bullet Joe Bush, Rube Marquard, Marty O'Toole, Grover Lowdermilk, Dutch Leonard, Babe Ruth, Hippo Vaughn, Fred Toney, Slim Love, Firpo Marberry, George Earnshaw, Charlie Root, Pat Malone, Lefty Gomez, Dizzy Dean, Paul Dean, Johnny Allen, Van Mungo, Rex Barney, Kirby Higbee, Atley Donald, Johnny Vander Meer, Ewell Blackwell, Tommy Byrne, and many more names from less glamrous to downright obscure all had their heaters compared favorably with the elite group you cited above. What most of these moundsmen lacked that their more prominently fireballing contemporaries sported was a devastating second pitch (such as Rusie, Waddell, Vance, Feller, and Koufax had in their knee-buckling curves) which could turn them into strikeout artists vying for all-time K record; or simply a lack of control, whether on or off the field, which kept them from developing their talents. Transport this undeniably talented group into today's overcoached game, most of these guys would probably be relegated to the bullpen, be taught to throw the slider/split-finger, and commence with racking up KP9I records.


I'm such a presumptious guy, here is what my gut tells me about their top end velocity. No evidence whatsoever.

Johnson 101, Rusie 99, Feller/Grove 98, Waddell 94, Vance 93. I doubt if any of the other pitchers pre-1950, could have hit 90.
As you admitted, you have no evidence for these claims beyond what your gut says. I would be interested, however, in knowing what has taught your gut to behave this way as regards pitching velocities of past generations. Why, for instance, such an exclusive 93+mph. club, in your book? And why such an extremely sharp fall-off in velocity from your top few guys to what you consider the rest of the league could approach? Is there a historical pitching model you can base this radical notion on?

Windy City Fan
10-12-2004, 08:55 PM
One thing that pops into my mind is how the standard for an excellent fastball has risen in even the last 15 years. Back in 1989 or so, a 90 MPH fastball was considered a good fastball. 95 or better was elite. Now, 95 MPH is good. 90 is nothing, and to be considered one of the best heaters, you better be able to hit 97 or 98 with some degree of consistency.

Look at all the pitchers that can hit 95 MPH. Just to name a few: Wood, Prior, Farnsworth, Zambrano (that's just one team), Martinez, Johnson, Percival, Benetiz, Smoltz, Wagner, Clemens (I think he can still dial it up that high), Schilling, Rivera, Colon, and I'm sure there are plenty more names that are slipping my mind right now.

I think its a reasonable assumption that in the past there wasn't that kind of overall velocity. I think the best of the best (Johnson, Young, Grove, ect.) of the past could match heaters with the pitchers of today, but as an overall general rule the velocity was slower in past years.

Bill Burgess
10-12-2004, 09:41 PM
I LOVE this kind of exchange. I think that I'm in a most solitary position on this site. Of all the posters here, I'm the only one who takes opinions of observers seriously. And I collect those observations. One such observation is that only Walter Johnson and Nolan Ryan had batters unable to adjust their swings to the pitches. Why was that?

Is there an inherent difference between Feller's ball at 98 and those of Ryan/Johnson's? I think there must be. The hitters just couldn't swing fast enough. So I deduce there must be an optical difference in that threshhold.

And I use that as a measureing device. Another measureing device is the effect/hype of Feller. He just amazed the BB world with his 98.6 pitches. I must ask myself, why did Feller's pitches create such a blitz of PR? Obviously, his speed must have had something that Ewell Blackwell's didn't.

Blackwell possessed a rather violent delivery, and came in sidearm, like a crossfire from 3rd base. The combo of his delivery/speed was extremely effective in keeping his hitters off-balance.

Cy Young, Kid Nichols, Jouett Meekin, Frank Killen, Cy Seymour, Jack Chesbro, Christy Mathewson, Chief Bender, Orval Overall, Ed Walsh, Nap Rucker, Smoky Joe Wood, Bullet Joe Bush, Rube Marquard, Marty O'Toole, Grover Lowdermilk, Dutch Leonard, Babe Ruth, Hippo Vaughn, Fred Toney, Slim Love, Firpo Marberry, George Earnshaw, Charlie Root, Pat Malone, Lefty Gomez, Dizzy Dean, Paul Dean, Johnny Allen, Van Mungo, Rex Barney, Kirby Higbee, Atley Donald, Johnny Vander Meer, Ewell Blackwell, Tommy Byrne,


Actually, I am familiar with the above guys, with these exceptions: Meekin, Killen, Seymour, O'Toole, Lowdermilk, Toney, Love, Marberry, Malone, Allen, Higbee, Donald, Byrne. And even these guys, I've heard of half of them, just am not too familiar with their work.

You are quite astute in realizing that the above guys didn't just accomplish their great work with speed. The great names, are the strike-out artists, and to be one of them, one needed the devastating off-pitch. Like Rusie, Waddell, Mathewson, Vance, Feller, Pascual, Koufax, Ryan.

The group you compiled, most of them DID have a credible off-pitch. Just not on the level of the Rusie, Waddell crowd.

Your group with the good off pitch included Ruth, Young, Chesbro, Walsh, Mathewson, Root, Gomez, Dean. And these are only the ones of whom I've heard of their spitballs, curves. Actually, I believe that all the rest must have had other pitches, or else they wouldn't have lasted. No one can survive the ML without an off-pitch. Except Walter Johnson. And he had a little wrinkle, which allowed him to not throw all fastballs. And even concerning fastballs, there is your best fastball, and your eased off fastball. Which serves as another off-pitch. Not quite a change-up, but somewhere in between.

I also didn't mean to convey that there was a stark drop-off between the few pitchers I mentioned and everyone else. Firstly, I suspect that before 1920, many of the very best ballplayers never found their way into the MLs. Some were black, others never got discovered in the sticks, some simply never played baseball.

I also believe that, down through the decades, players grew larger, their arms stronger, and their techniques more refined. The emergence of coaching helped young guys avoid injuries. After 1950, the emergence of relievers, allowed pitchers to throw harder, since they needn't save themselves for 9 full innings.

So, for these and other reasons, Feller's 98.6 mph got enormous PR in '37, due to sheer brute speed, whereas, today, 98.6 will get you your tryout, but you better make a good impression after that. You will need to bring your A game; and that means your location, your pitching smarts, and your off-pitch.

Bill Burgess

HitchedtoaSpark
10-13-2004, 06:11 AM
One thing that pops into my mind is how the standard for an excellent fastball has risen in even the last 15 years. Back in 1989 or so, a 90 MPH fastball was considered a good fastball. 95 or better was elite. Now, 95 MPH is good. 90 is nothing, and to be considered one of the best heaters, you better be able to hit 97 or 98 with some degree of consistency.

Look at all the pitchers that can hit 95 MPH. Just to name a few: Wood, Prior, Farnsworth, Zambrano (that's just one team), Martinez, Johnson, Percival, Benetiz, Smoltz, Wagner, Clemens (I think he can still dial it up that high), Schilling, Rivera, Colon, and I'm sure there are plenty more names that are slipping my mind right now.
*Cough* (http://www.baseball-fever.com/showpost.php?p=207162&postcount=4)

Despite the fairly recent trend in overclocking scoreboard radar guns, and the impression it seems to have wrought, scouts' standards for ranking quality fastballs still hasn't changed after all these years.

"There are two basic models of radar guns used to clock the speed of fast balls. The Jugs Speed Gun (Fast Gun) will pick up the speed of the fast ball after it has traveled 3.5 feet and the Raglan (Slow Gun) will pick up the speed after the ball has traveled 40-50 feet. A fast ball will lose 8 mph from the time it leaves the pitchers hand to the time it crosses home plate. The JUGS speed Gun is usually 3-4 mph faster than the Raglan. The average major league fast ball is 88-89 mph on a JUGS Speed Gun and 84-85 mph on the Raglan. Scouts will rarely if ever sign a pitcher who does not throw at least 85 mph on the JUGS Speed Gun."

and this from a "What MLB Scouts Look For" article:


"The following fastball velocities are Major League Baseball pitcher ratings

Very Above Average 94+ mph
Above Average 92 - 93 mph
Average 89 - 91 mph
Below Average 87 - 88 mph
Very Below Average 85 - 86 mph

And then this, the scores normally used by scouts on their scouting sheets:

"The numbers below were compiled by Andy May from information he obtained from the MLB Scouting Bureau. We thank Andy for giving WebBall permission to reprint them from his site.

Scale Velocity
8 98 mph +
7 93-97 mph
6 90-92 mph
5 88-89 mph
4 85-87 mph
3 83-84 mph
2 82 mph - "

HitchedtoaSpark
10-13-2004, 06:23 AM
Again, thanks to you guys for your intelligent responses, and no ludicrous claims about pitchers of the past throwing batting-practice fastballs in-game. However, for those advocates that may be reading, I would like to address this conceit, as well as other aspects of this argument, in the following post.



HitchedtoaSpark’s Reasons why pitchers were throwing with just as much velocity in the old days as they are now.

1. There is no physiological reason to support the assumption that pitchers are throwing faster now than they were 20/50/100 years ago.

One that is pointed out is the increased physical stature in players over the last several generations. While it is true that, in general, pitchers (and players) have gotten increasingly taller with each generation, this means little since the model fireball pitcher over the past 100+ years and even today has been, with few exceptions, a rather mid-sized fellow—6’-6’4”: Cy Young (6’2”), Amos Rusie (6’1”), Rube Waddell (6’2”), Ed Walsh (6’1”), Walter Johnson (6’2”), Dazzy Vance (6’2”), Lefty Grove (6’3”), Dizzy Dean (6’2”), Bob Feller (6’), Johnny Vander Meer (6’1”), Sandy Koufax (6’2”), Bob Gibson (6’1”), Tom Seaver (6’1”), Steve Carlton (6’4”), Nolan Ryan (6’2”), Dwight Gooden (6’2”), Roger Clemens (6’4”), David Cone (6’1”), Mark Wohlers (6’4”), Eric Gagne (6’2”), etc. Of course, exceptions on the tall side exist—Don Drysdale (6’5”), Sam McDowell (6’5”), J.R. Richard (6’8”), Randy Johnson (6’10”), Kerry Wood (6’5”)—but then so do shorter examples—Kid Nichols (5’10”), Smoky Joe Wood (5’10”), Ron Guidry (5’11”), Pedro Martinez (5’9”), Billy Wagner (5’8”)—the most recent examples of which display a height well within the stature of even the smallest starting pitchers 100 years ago, and a dominance of today’s much taller ML product which puts paid to the idea that pitchers of more modest stature cannot challenge the gun achievements of their more generously-statured peers.

Another oft-cited rebuttal is the claim that today’s weight training programs have given today’s moundsmen pitching arms of a strength superior to their predecessors. The problem with this claim is that there exists no evidence whatsoever that weight training increases pitching velocity. While I’m sure than many, if not most, recognize the importance of weight training in helping their pitchers build endurance, there’s not a pitching coach in the majors today who believes that it can do anything to help their charges’ fastballs. Most weight training is designed to build your maximum strength—the maximum amount of weight that you can lift—not absolute strength—the maximum amount you can lift at the maximum amount of speed; a.k.a., explosive strength—or muscle elasticity, which are the type of strength components that go into pitching velocity. Leo Mazzone, perhaps MLB’s most respected pitching coach, has gone on record regarding building velocity by saying that there is “simply no replacement for picking up a ball and throwing it.” To reiterate, there has not been one iota of evidence produced which shows that weight training increases pitching velocity.


2. Simple physics and Babe Ruth

In Robert K. Adair’s famous tome, The Physics of Baseball, we learn that the faster the pitch coming in, the greater energy it contains. Therefore, the heavier the bat needed to “reverse” the power of the pitch and send in rocketing toward the outfield fence. Conversely, the slower the pitch (batting practice), the less energy it contains; and therefore, the lighter the bat needed to provide the extra energy needed to drive the ball for distance (look at fungo-hitting, for instance). This simple physics lesson provides us with a lot of insight into the batter-pitcher paradigm, and allows us to draw several conclusions which seem to be very much in line with those subscribed to by today’s batters. After all, they typically bring their lightest bat to batting-practice, and consequently hit their farthest drives during this pre-game exercise.

And yet, if one believes in-game fastballs of, say, 80 years ago were the equivalent of today’s batting-practice pitches, how does one account for Ruth? During his prime years of the 1920’s, Ruth used bats between 54-42 oz. in-game—far heavier than anything seen in today’s game, much less batting-practice. And yet, research of the most painstaking type by home run expert Bill Jenkinson has established that Ruth was the greatest (furthest and most consistent) distance hitter of all-time. In 1921, for instance, it is an established fact that Ruth hit at least one 500-ft. home run in each of the eight American League parks. During this season, Ruth was typically employing 50-54 oz. war clubs. If the simple physics lesson above teaches us anything, it is that no one should be able to hit the ball as far with much heavier bats as other similarly-powered sluggers do with conversely lighter bats against pitches of relatively equal, low velocity; for one cannot swing the heavy bat with as much velocity as the light bat. And yet, if one subscribes to the theory that in-game fastballs of 80 years ago were the equivalent of today’s batting-practice pitches, then one must accept that Ruth could literally defy physics. The rejoinder, “Imagine how far he might have hit him had he used the same weight of bat that today’s sluggers use!” would be missing the point; for, according to the physics model above, it should have already been impossible for Ruth to have hit them as far as he did with the hefty bats he used. According to the model above, he would have had to have already been using much lighter bats to have been able to remain such a prodigious and consistent distance hitter in this would-be era of batting-practice pitches.

Of course, a more logical conclusion to this seeming-conundrum would be that the in-game pitches Ruth was hitting were traveling much faster than batting-practice velocity. In fact, the faster one assumes the pitches were traveling, the more credible Ruth’s distance achievements become; as it would accord with the demonstrated physics model Adair outlines in The Physics of Baseball, and the one which experience has taught us. For instance, concluding that Ruth’s May 7, 1921, 500+-ft. blast off Walter Johnson, which sailed over Griffith Stadium’s 457-ft. centerfield wall high into the trees behind, was hit off of a 95+-mph. fastball makes immensely more logical sense according to the demonstrated physics models than believing Johnson’s victimized pitch was little more than ~80-mph. At this lower speed, Ruth would have had to have provided the lion’s share of the energy himself—something he just would not have been able to do swinging his 50+ oz. war club (unless, again, we are willing to accept that Ruth had far greater bat velocity than any hitter in history; a model I’m less willing to accept as logical). Indeed, as mentioned above, the faster we assume Johnson’s pitch was, the less “superhuman” Ruth becomes. As for me, I’m more willing to believe that Ruth’s distance hitting was the beneficiary of some realistically fast, “energy-loaded” pitching over the superstitious conclusion that Ruth was simply “superhuman” (amazing, yes; superhuman, no).
In conclusion, respect of the very science involved in these paradigms demands a conclusion in line with the one scientifically laid out; and, therefore, the common sensical one.


3. Evidence in the form of batter injuries suffered at the hands of yesteryear’s fireballers.
Experience helps us to recognize that pitches thrown at batting-practice speed, the pedigree of velocity often and recklessly attributed to pitchers decades ago, cannot cause serious bodily injury to the batter 60’6” away. Yet, positively legion are the instances of serious bodily injury, and even compound fracture, caused by errant(?) pitches thrown by yesteryear’s moundsmen. Amos Rusie caved in the skull of Orioles shortstop Hughie Jennings and left him in a brink-of-death coma for four days after connecting one of his legendary heaters with Jennings’ noggin in the year 1892. Though this particular injury was “achieved” with the pitcher’s throwing distance a little more than 50 feet away from the batter, the moving back of the pitcher’s proximity to the batter to 60’6” wasn’t enough to prevent the same thing from happening to a young major-leaguer named Artie Ball six years later, also a victim of a Rusie fastball to the skull. In Ball’s case, he never played another ML game. Perhaps just as frightening as a Rusie fast one inside was Walter Johnson’s “hisser,” as a rookie named Jack Martin could testify in 1912, when he narrowly missed certain death, taking a Johnson fastball to the jaw, shattering it in five places and losing several teeth. A year earlier, a Johnson fast one to the throwing arm of Chicago’s Lee Tannehill had ended the veteran third baseman’s career, shattering his wrist so badly that the injury permanently impaired his throwing ability. In a game in 1915, an errant Johnson pitch struck the Tigers’ Ossie Vitt in the forehead and knocked him cold for ten minutes. Impressive (and scary), until one finds out that the pitch happened to be a curveball, in which case it becomes positively amazing and terrifying (fortunately, Vitt was OK). On May 25, 1937, player-manager and future-HOFer Mickey Cochrane had his skull fractured in three places by an errant Bump Hadley heater. Cochrane was be in a coma for ten days, and would never play again. Though accounts of serious bodily injury occurring at the hands of yesterday’s fireballers are, as I said, legion, I believe the point has been made so I’ll leave it at that for now. Lest we forget, the only death that has yet occurred on a ML diamond was at the hands of submarine fireballer Carl Mays, who crushed Ray Chapman’s skull with a high and inside fastball on August 16, 1920. A pitch thrown at so-called batting practice speed could not have caused such damage, in the case of Mays/Chapman, as in the case of the other instances of serious injury caused by a pitched ball.

4. Evidence in the form of yesteryear’s throwing contests
Finally, we have hard evidence that players of as much as 140+ years ago were throwing with velocities very comparable to today’s, in the form of throwing distance contests which were held by major-league teams in days gone by. These were commonly one of the attractions of what were known as Field Days, during which the best of two meeting teams (sometimes “All-Star” teams) would compete for top prizes in several field events testing baseball athleticism. Typically, there would be three primary events: 100-yard dash (or base circuit); distance fungo; and distance throw. As with the other two, records of the throwing contestants provides us today with some extremely valuable information regarding the physical skills of players from many decades ago—perhaps even in comparison to today’s—something which would be impossible to determine otherwise.

For instance, I recall something the Anaheim Angels did about a month back at their home ballpark. It wasn’t an official Field Day, simply the feat of lining up Vladimir Guerrero behind the third base bag and having him throw it over the right field fence. An impressive throw, no doubt (~350 ft.). Yet the muscular Vlad’s heave doesn’t compare to a throw made by Honus Wagner in a Field Day event held in Pittsburgh between the Louisville and Steel City ballclubs, October 16, 1898. Because records were kept, we know that Honus Wagner made what was considered a record-breaking throw of 403 ft., 8 in. in his (successful) attempt at gaining the day’s top throwing prizes.

My research has led me to so far uncover below’s recorded instances of similar distance throws. A couple, like the alleged Tony Mullane throw, I have not yet accepted as “official” because of lack of evidence. Two more, Foxx’s and Feller’s heaves, I have included simply because of the ages at which these respective feats were achieved. (BTW, because of health concerns, pitchers were almost always excluded from these throwing events.)


Name Date Distance Place
John Hatfield ?/?/? 349 ft. ?
John Hatfield 7/9/1868 396 ft. Cincinnati
John Hatfield 10/15/1872 400 ft., 7½ in. Brooklyn
Tony Mullane ?/?/? 416 ft., 7¾ in. ?
Farmer Vaughn 6/23/1890 402 ft., 2½ in. ?
Honus Wagner 10/16/1898 403 ft., 8 in. Pittsburgh
Honus Wagner ?/?/1907 399 ft., 10¾ in.?
Larry LeJeune 10/3/1908 435 ft. Chicago
Larry LeJeune 10/12/1910 401 ft., 4½ in. Cincinnati
Larry LeJeune 10/12/1910 426 ft., 9½ in. Cincinnati
Joe Jackson 9/27/1917 396 ft., 8 in. Boston
Duffy Lewis 9/27/1917 384 ft., 6 in. Boston
Clarence Walker 9/27/1917 384 ft., 6 in. Boston
Al Nixon ?/?/? 400 ft. ?
Don Grate 9/7/1952 434 ft., 1 in. Chattanooga
Don Grate 8/23/1953 443 ft., 3½ in. ?
Glen Gorbous 8/1/1957 445 ft., 10 in. Omaha
Jimmie Foxx 5/21/1919 183 ft., 5 in. Maryland
Bob Feller ?/?/1928 275 ft. Van Meter, IW

The next step is to convert these throwing distances into velocity over 60’6”. This is done by consulting Chart 2.5 in Adair’s The Physics of Baseball, which gives us a “muzzle velocity” for each distance achieved between 200 and 500 ft.; factoring in the 8-mph. drop in velocity from the release point 55’ feet away to the plate; and accounting for an additional ~8-mph. gained by “crow-hopping” (as outfielders do before throwing). According to Chart 2.5, someone who can launch a ball ~404 ft. on the fly throws with a muzzle velocity of ~110 mph. Considering that fast pitchers lose ~8-mph. on their pitches from their release point to the plate, and subtracting the extra ~8-mph. Wagner probably gained from crow-hopping, we see that Wagner’s heave was the equivalent of a 94-mph. fastball. (Likewise, if we take John Hatfield’s 400 ft., 7½ in. throw made on October 15, 1872, we see that Hatfield could speed them in at ~92-mph.)
If we then follow the accepted model that the strongest arms in MLB have always been on the pitchers mound, we logically infer that the fastest pitchers in Wagner’s day were throwing over 95-mph—much the same as today.



In sum, it is for these four, and other reasons I have accumulated in my research that leads me to, I believe, logically conclude that pitchers were throwing with just as much velocity 20/50/100 years ago as they are today. I sincerely believe that intensive, open-minded research into matters such as these will turn up a lot of surprising things which may overturn some of the preconceived notions the baseball collective holds so jealously to today, and will benefit us in the long run. After all, if we don’t learn from history, we will be, as they say, condemned to repeat it. ;)

leecemark
10-13-2004, 06:48 AM
--I think an important point about Feller's 98.6 MPH clocling is that it came in 1946 and probably did not represent his top speed. I've read comments by Feller to the effect that when he returned from the War he started throwing the slider more and that accounted for his strikeout record in 1946. Batters simply weren't prepared to deal with a very good slider in additon to the great fastball - and a pretty damn good curve. Another comment by Feller that suggests he was not throwing as hard then, although more effectively, is that he used a very high leg kick early in his career but abandoned it after several years. The high leg kick gave him a little extra speed, but hurt his control. I'm fairly confident that had Feller been timed before the War he could have hit 100+. Also, as Hitched has mentioned, many of the pitches/pitchers who hit 100 on todays stadium guns probably would not under the more accurate conditions Feller was measured by. I would guess Grove and Johnson were at least in the high 90s and many of the notable fastball pitchers of old threw at speeds close to those of today's fireballers.

soxlady
10-13-2004, 06:54 AM
Along with his killer fastball, Rusie owned a nasty slider a la Roger Clemens. I think people were pretty relieved when he started to lose his best stuff around 1898.

Though he was an outfielder not a pitcher, Louis Sockalexis was known for heaving the ball to the plate from deep center or right in time to nail runners from third. One documented throw was measured at 414 feet! He was 5'11", big for his time though not one of the biggest. So guys were capable of lightning throws even in the 1890s.

santotohof
10-13-2004, 08:23 AM
You know what I think? I think todays TV radar guns are a lot like the distance markers at the Driving Range.I know on the course I hit my 7 iron consistently to the front of the green from the 150 marker but lo and behold at the Range that same 7 ,now hitting a beat up ball as opposed to a sorta new Pinnacle easily carries the 165 marker.That on the screws drive that travels 245 on the course is a solid 270 at the Range. I think as PT Barnum said best "A sucker is born every day"

LouGehrig
10-13-2004, 10:16 AM
Interesting. Although I appreciate your analogy, can elborate on this hypothesis of yours? I'm hoping to stimulate some more actual discussion out of the topic.

You have stimulated much discussion and my statements have been touched upon fairly well.

Today's pitchers, as a group, throw harder than those of the past only because they are bigger and stronger. There are genetic limits to speed, both speed of foot and speed of one's fastball.

There may have been and probably were as many individuals in the past who could throw 95 mph, but because they were denied the proper environmental conditions (nutrition, diet, exercise time), they never reached their genetic potential.

As conditions changed for the better, more individuals ate better, had better shelter, and more free time (which has changed in the last twenty years). More pitchers today reach their maximum fastball velocity.

The limit is a human factor. Steve Dalkowski threw harder than anyone. Using him as the upper limit, some may one day reach it but there is an upper limit.

I like your post with the four factors. I will get back to it soon.

Imapotato
10-13-2004, 09:40 PM
My .02 cents

For every argument that players today are bigger, faster and have better equipment thus can throw faster...

Look at the guys El Halo mentioned

Bartolo Colon gets winded climbing stairs...yet throws 100 mph
Billy Wagner is one of the smallest guys in MLB baseball today

So YES players of yesteryear threw FAST!

Thing is...alot of spitballs...which were not thrown fast or else they would not work, lead many to believe pitchers were slow...but a spitball is a changeup with extreme movement

Walter Johnson may have thrown 100+, for his first 10 years...he only threw a fastball...he developed a curve in his 30's

One pitch...for 10 years? You damn skippy he threw heat

Amos Rusie the same...there was a reason they moved the mound back...at 50 feet he probably threw what would seem like 110 mph, but he threw so hard he ripped his shoulder out

Smokey Joe Wood was another that threw too hard and probably reached 98-100

So Bill you are wrong.

Pitchers of Cobb's and Ruth's day were not facing 83 mph fastballs...they were facing 83 mph spitballs...which would be as deadly today as back then

Pitching has gotten WORSE...because there is too much meddling. Throw this way, pitch every 5 days...but throw 50 pitches on your 3rd off day. Too much micro managing...and many wonder why pitchers are considered better before 1970? Because they WERE.

Cy Young pitched so long, not with careful pitch counts, off days and cortisone shots and ice on his shoulder...Cy Young chopped wood...and never had a sore arm...figure that out.

Maybe they should have minro league pitchers work for logging companies if they want a long succesful career :)

soxlady
10-13-2004, 10:23 PM
Cy Young did have an iron arm but some years he had a sore ankle like Curt Schilling, which made it harder for him to push off the mound with his usual speed. For example, 1897 was an off year for him.
He also didn't drink or smoke. "Water, pure cool water, should be good enough for any man."

csh19792001
10-13-2004, 10:32 PM
\

Today's pitchers, as a group, throw harder than those of the past only because they are bigger and stronger. There are genetic limits to speed, both speed of foot and speed of one's fastball.

There may have been and probably were as many individuals in the past who could throw 95 mph, but because they were denied the proper environmental conditions (nutrition, diet, exercise time), they never reached their genetic potential.

As conditions changed for the better, more individuals ate better, had better shelter, and more free time (which has changed in the last twenty years). More pitchers today reach their maximum fastball velocity.

The limit is a human factor. Steve Dalkowski threw harder than anyone. Using him as the upper limit, some may one day reach it but there is an upper limit.

I like your post with the four factors. I will get back to it soon.

Arm strength is a god given talent. I've never read anything to suggest that it can be improved by strength training, nutrition, or any other environmental contingencies. If you have this kind of information, I'd be interested to see it.

You say there are "genetic" limits to arm strength, I say bodily limits.

janduscframe
10-14-2004, 04:01 AM
This is an outstanding thread and I can relate to what most of you say. I'd say that if you could line up a 20 year old Johnson,a 20 year old Feller,20year old Wagner and so forth. It's very much possible they would all be similar in velocity.
I agree with Windy that it wasn't that long ago that 90 was considered fast.
However, if you would randomly select a bunch of 9 man staffs from all the eras,I would guess that as a group today's would be superior. Even today's staffs probably have two or three at the bottom of the totem pole that top out at 86 or so. Years ago I'd guess you would maybe have half the staff top out that high.
The better nutrition point has already been raised. What instruction did a pitcher in the old days have? Maybe "try holding the ball like this" and maybe not much more. Look at the video advances along with computers where you can learn to pitch faster and more efficiently. One of you states that there are no known exercises to increase velocity. However there are exercises that can decrease velocity. You may remember a kid named Juan Nieves that everyone was after. He had some success. During one off season he decided he would be a better pitcher if he was stronger. He started lifting weights unsupervised. He perhaps got bigger muscles, but they were the wrong ones. He developed arm problems and quickly became history. Remember the pitchers of yesterday instead of having the help of a professional in the off season would likely be doing grunt labor to make ends meet. Lifting feed sacks and developing bulging biceps isn't likely to increase velocity, probably the opposite would occur. Ben Sheets used to top out at 93or 94.This year he was hitting 96 and 97 and these speeds were at different parks.
I think each era was probably blessed with a few born with a natural talent for throwing hard. However today's advancements should make today's pitchers overall faster.

Bill Burgess
10-14-2004, 06:32 AM
So Bill you are wrong.

Pitchers of Cobb's and Ruth's day were not facing 83 mph fastballs...they were facing 83 mph spitballs...which would be as deadly today as back then
Let's go a little slow here. I am not in trauma of "being wrong." I'm not so sure if that is the message here. Firstly, my little theory was that players improve in general each decade, from the worst to the average players. But not the top level.

I don't think that Hitched is trying to state that the bulk of the leagues pitchers threw as fast then as now. He showed a league report that stated that today's scouts don't consider a prospect to be promising if his fastball is under 87 mph.

And I don't think Hitched is contending that the leagues bulk of pitchers in the 1920's could throw that hard. I'm reading this as his contention is that a certain, select number of them could throw hard, the top level.

If I am wrong/incorrect, I am open to be corrected.

Am I reading you wrong, Hitched? If so, please re-state your position, for slow learners like me. If I have misunderstood, I'm open to listen further.

Bill Burgess

Imapotato
10-14-2004, 10:19 AM
I just won't accept that pitchers today throw faster

but Mr. Burgess...I do believe you HIT on something

Scouts do not look at a pitcher if he throws less then 87 mph fastball.

So it's not that today's pitchers throw faster, it's just supply and demand.

Yesteryear's pitchers were ALOT more developed in regards to movement and spin...and finding tricks to baffle hitters, while today it's a one dimensional game. Throw heat as a pitcher...hit HR's as a hitter...still think Bonds is on par with the greats? I mean who can't hit a 98 mph fastball with no movement...even I can do that...and I stink...plus they can't get any breaking balls near that small zone.

Another example is Billy Wagner...5'8" he throws 100 mph. Obviously size and bulk do not mean a thing. leg power and the push off the mound gives velocity.

The mound itself. Wasn't it slightly higher in the 20's? I know when the raised mound hit in the late 60's Bob Gibson and Juan Mariachal started throwing MAD heat. So old timers had the advantage of pushing off on a better mound than today.

So we can sumise....that overall

1) Today's pitchers throw faster, because it is the #1 attribute that many believe is essential to become a great pitcher...somebody forgot to tell Greg Maddux though

2) If a 5'8" 170 lbs Billy Wagner can throw 100 mph...the theory that today's players are bigger and stronger MUST be thrown out.

3) Old time pitchers had a higher mound, so that should offset #1 a bit..since they could throw 'down' at the hitter.

4) Old time pitchers threw more 'junk' and so more than likely did not throw as many fastballs as today...instead opting for legal and 'illegal' pitches.

5) Even with equipment, studies, stats and 'ease of use' Old timers were much more developed as 'Pitchers' while today's pitchers are throwers. For Example...look at our government...too many laws hinders our freedom. In baseball, too many unwritten laws on how to handle pitchers instead of letting them figure it out knowing their own style, leads to it being ineffective.

csh19792001
10-14-2004, 09:24 PM
Another example is Billy Wagner...5'8" he throws 100 mph. Obviously size and bulk do not mean a thing. leg power and the push off the mound gives velocity.

2) If a 5'8" 170 lbs Billy Wagner can throw 100 mph...the theory that today's players are bigger and stronger MUST be thrown out.

3) Old time pitchers had a higher mound, so that should offset #1 a bit..since they could throw 'down' at the hitter.

4) Old time pitchers threw more 'junk' and so more than likely did not throw as many fastballs as today...instead opting for legal and 'illegal' pitches.

5) Even with equipment, studies, stats and 'ease of use' Old timers were much more developed as 'Pitchers' while today's pitchers are throwers. For Example...look at our government...too many laws hinders our freedom. In baseball, too many unwritten laws on how to handle pitchers instead of letting them figure it out knowing their own style, leads to it being ineffective.

As to pitching speed and size-

Steve Dalkowski threw at least as hard as anyone who ever pitched- almost certainly harder, in fact. Maris, Mantle, Elston Howard, and Ted Williams all faced him and said the same thing- that they had never seen anything ever CLOSE to that kind of speed.

Dalkowski was 5'11", 170 lbs, similar to Billy Wagner, who can throw the ball 102 mph.

As I've said before, how fast/far you can throw a baseball is a natural talent, and can't be improved upon by nutrition and training. So the average size of major leaguers and the fact that they train harder today means nothing if we're just talking about radar guns. You can throw the ball 100 mph or you can't- more or less. You can't teach arm speed/coordination, and you can't teach natural foot speed either.

These are largely innate, immutable, and exhaustable/finite human athletic qualities. A ton of training might be able to make a guy who in his prime can currently top out at 95 able to throw 101, but I doubt it. And if a guy is currently getting from home-first in 3.9, I'd find it hard that "training" could make him into Ichiro- 3.4 from home-first. I see these as almost exclusively static qualities.

ElHalo
10-14-2004, 09:31 PM
Was Dalkowski ever tested with a radar gun? I've read reports that his fastball was estimated at about 108-110 mph, but I've never seen an actual radar measurement... was that after his time?

csh19792001
10-14-2004, 09:36 PM
Was Dalkowski ever tested with a radar gun? I've read reports that his fastball was estimated at about 108-110 mph, but I've never seen an actual radar measurement... was that after his time?

Unfortunately, it seems that it was after his time. But I'll listen to the HOFers, Ted Williams included, and everyone else who ever actually saw this guy close up/faced him.

http://www.sportingnews.com/archives/sports2000/players/175838.html

http://www.widewordofsports.com/Articles-016.htm

http://www.baseball-almanac.com/articles/fastest-pitcher-in-baseball.shtml

Steve Dalkowski.

“To understand how Dalkowski, a chunky little man with thick glasses and a perpetually dazed expression, became a ‘legend in his own time’...”

— Pat Jordan in The Suitors of Spring (1974).

The fastest pitcher ever may have been 1950s phenom and flameout Steve Dalkowski. Dalkowski signed with the Orioles in 1957 at age 21. After nine years of erratic pitching he was released in 1966, never having made it to the Major Leagues. Despite his failure, he has been described as the fastest pitcher ever.

Ted Williams once stood in a spring training batting cage and took one pitch from Dalkowski. Williams swore he never saw the ball and claimed that Dalkowski probably was the fastest pitcher who ever lived. Others who claimed he was the fastest ever were Paul Richards, Harry Brecheen and Earl Weaver. They all thought he was faster than Bob Feller and Walter Johnson, though none of them probably saw Johnson pitch.

Source: The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball, 1997.

pretorius
10-15-2004, 08:55 AM
I actually read somewhere that Dalkowski did have his pitched clocked.

The story goes that after a game I think that their was this tube and if you threw into it your MPH were clocked. Dalkowski had control problems and supposedly after a game he had just pitched in he tried for like 100 pitches to get it in the tube...and he finally succeeded. I think he was clocked at 92 MPH.

You have to take into account that I think he may have pitched before hand (cannot remember the exact story) and that it took him forever before he could get it in the tube. He played in a time before radar guns but he was clocked once at 92mph.

santotohof
10-15-2004, 09:08 AM
Never mind your baseball quote. My Dad who died in November said VER BATIM your signature. "Fought the Germans face to face, hoped the French didn't ambush us" was a derivitave. Spent 18 months " winning the peace" ( hear that John?) in Vichy France and told me that the so called liberated French were deadlier than the (his words) Huns

CyNotSoYoung
10-19-2004, 12:13 PM
Pitchers in the past were able to throw as fast as pitchers of today. No one throws at the same speed all the time but I'm sure that for any one pitch, under the same conditions (same ball, mound height, etc.), Amos Rusie, Joe Wood, Walter Johnson, Bob Feller, or anyone you care to name could throw as fast as anyone pitching today. The difference is that they didn't try to throw fast on almost every pitch in every game. Few of today's power pitchers could last a full 9 innings throwing at top speed or close to it - but of course, they don't have to because the game is different now and they know they don't have to stay out there for nine innings. With the exception perhaps of Walter Johnson, no pitcher in history could throw a full nine innings almost every time out if they were also pitching as hard as they could on every pitch. And it doesn't have to be just fastballs. Even a change up, if thrown well, uses the same arm velocity and curves, sliders, etc. take as much of a toll on the arm as a fastball -maybe even more depending on the pitcher's mechanics.

So, while batters in the past surely saw 95 mph fastballs, they didn't see nearly as many as they do today.

Bill Burgess
10-19-2004, 04:41 PM
What was the fastest pitch ever thrown during a baseball game? Who was the fastest pitcher in baseball history? Who could throw the fastest fastball? These questions, and others like it, are some of the most commonly asked items here on Baseball Almanac. They are also some of the most widely debated by historians, researchers & experts alike.

Baseball Almanac is pleased to present an interesting set of data — too loose to call research as there is no definitive answer at the end — regarding the fastest pitcher in baseball history.

The Fastest Pitcher in Baseball History, by Baseball Almanac &#169;

Document Creator: Sean Holtz of Baseball Almanac &#169;

Published: February 2003 on Baseball Almanac

Fans, researchers, historians and even the players argue all the time about who was the fastest pitcher of all-time. The most widely quoted response is Nolan Ryan, whose fastball was "officially" clocked by the Guinness Book of World Records at 100.9 miles per hour in a game played on August 20, 1974 versus the Chicago White Sox. A record that's still included in the book.

Fascinating accounts, stories, and even myths about how fast - or not so fast - a pitch has gone are common in the annals of the game. One such account allegedly took place during a Spring Training game in 1968. A rookie catcher named Johnny Bench was behind the plate and eight-year veteran Jim Maloney was on the mound. Bench continuously called for breaking balls and Maloney continuously shook him off. Frustrated, the two met at the mound where Bench bluntly said, "Your fastball's not popping." Maloney, also blunt, replied, "%*$@ you." The rookie returned to his position behind the plate and called for a curve, only to be shaken off again. Bench gave in to the veteran (who had recently strung together four consecutive seasons with 200+ strikeouts) and signaled for a fastball. Maloney delivered. Before the pitch reached the plate Bench dropped his glove and caught the ball bare-handed - or so the story goes.

Stories about the fastest pitchers in history have also appeared in the Associated Press. Radar (RAdio Detection And Ranging) guns were first introduced in 1935 and the media has covered their evolution with great interest. Two early stories about this emerging technology and its application towards baseball pitching speeds are reprinted below:

Meter to Record Feller's Speed

CLEVELAND (AP) — A series of photo-electric cells may settle all those arguments over who is the speedball king of the major leagues.

A few amateurs warmed up yesterday on a new pitching speed meter. Today it will test the salary wings of Bob Feller, and any other members of the Cleveland and Boston American loop clubs who are willing. Other American League clubs will be given a chance at it later.

John A. Crawford of the Cleveland Plain Dealer thought the idea would be useful in selection of pitching and other talents. President Alvin Bradley of the Cleveland Indians agreed and Rex D. McDill, Cleveland electronics engineer, built the machine.

"A kid pitcher has to have a fast ball to succeed in the big leagues," said Bradley, "for he can never learn how to pitch faster. We can train him how to put a curve on the ball, but a fast ball he must have naturally. This machine will tell us at once whether he has the fast ball. The same goes for an infielder."

First Miss Cappy Ogiun, a visitor from Orlando, Fla., tried her speed yesterday. Her best was 40 feet per second.

A varied assortment of men followed. The best throw was 86 feet a second, the second best 84. A man of about 60 years old did a foot for each of his years.

Sponsors recalled that back in 1917, in Bridgeport (Conn.) arms laboratory, Walter Johnson recorded 134 feet per second, Christy Mathewson 127 and "Smoky Joe" Wood 124. They used a gravity drop interval recorder.

The new meter, which gives an immediate reading which engineers said compared with standard laboratory meter accuracy, is built in a trailer. You throw into a hole two feet square. Just inside is a set of photo-electric tubes, and five feet back is another set. The device measures the ball's speed between the two points and flashes it on a scale facing the pitcher.

Source: Richmond (VA) Times Dispatch, June 6, 1939.

Smoky Joe Wood often said, "I threw so hard, I thought my arm would fly right off my body." Walter Johnson, often cited as the fastest throwing pitcher in Major League history by experts, believed that Wood was faster than himself and once said, "Mister, no man alive can throw a baseball harder than Joe Wood." Both were mentioned in the Meter to Record Feller's Speed article above and the unit of measure was feet per second. Modern measurements / clockings are done in miles per hour in the United States and kilometers per hour in Canada & Japan. Baseball Almanac is pleased to provide you with a velocity calculator which you can use to convert these various formats and compare pitchers - both modern and historical.

Baseball Almanac &#169;
Velocity of a Pitch Calculator

Miles / Hour Centimeters / Sec Feet / Hour

Feet / Min Feet / Sec Kilometers / Hour

Kilometers / Min Knots Meters / Min

Meters / Sec Miles / Min Velocity of Light

So how fast was Feller? The Meter to Record Feller's Speed article mentioned it was specifically going to examine his pitching speed. Satchel Paige, who could bring on the heat himself, believed Feller was the fastest and told teammates, "If anybody threw that ball any harder than Rapid Robert, then the human eye couldn't follow it." Feller once mentioned that he was clocked at 104 mph at Lincoln Park in Chicago. He also claimed he was clocked at 107.9 mph in a demonstration in 1946 at Griffith Stadium. At the Aberdeen Proving Grounds he was measured using the ever-popular speeding motorcycle test, once used in 1914 with Walter Johnson who reached 99.7 mph, and Feller reached 98.6 mph. The results of the test from the "new meter" were reported the day after the initial article:

Humphreys' 'Hard' Un' Faster Than Feller's, Meter Shows

CLEVELAND (AP) - Three Boston Red Sox threw a baseball 122 feet a second into a new photo-electric pitching meter yesterday. Three Cleveland Indians could do only 119 feet.

Pitchers were not included in yesterday's test but "unofficially," Bob Feller of Cleveland threw three balls into the meter from a distance of 20 feet. The best mark he recorded was 119 feet. His less-touted teammate, pitcher Johnny Humphreys, recorded 127 feet. There will be a contest for pitchers later.

Jimmy Foxx, Jim Tabor, and Roger Cramer made it a clean Boston sweep with a first-place tie in yesterday's fielders contest.

The best the Indians could do was a tie at 119 feet by Ben Chapman, Julius Solters and Jim Shilling.

Cleveland men who developed the speed meter said the only comparable scientific marks were made in 1917. Walter Johnson threw the ball 134 feet a second, Christy Mathewson 127 and "Smoky Joe" Wood 124. Their speeds were shown by a gravity drop interval recorder.

Source: Richmond (VA) Times Dispatch, June 7, 1939.

The results from the "contest for pitchers" have never been found. Since machine testing was rare and uncommon we are left with a scientific void about historical flamethrowers. Early comments about fastball pitchers can be found in many old newspapers and offer some interesting insight into who was considered fastest during this early era:

"He (Lefty Grove) was the fastest pitcher who ever lived." - Ford Frick

"Smokey Joe (Williams) could throw harder than all of them." - Satchel Paige in Blackball Stars (1988)

"You can talk about the speed of Walter Johnson or Amos Rusie, but I doubt that either had any more speed than (Chief) Bender when he was at his best. He was not physically as strong as some others, but he had long, tapering fingers and a peculiar whip to his arm that certainly drove that baseball through the air." - Eddie Collins

"You can't hit what you can't see." - Joe Tinker talking about Rube Marquard.

Another fascinating account of a fastball pitcher, who is often credited as one of the fastest ever, was described in great detail by baseball historian Jonathan Fraser Light. The "twist" here is this pitcher never appeared in a Major League game!

Steve Dalkowski.

“To understand how Dalkowski, a chunky little man with thick glasses and a perpetually dazed expression, became a ‘legend in his own time’...”

— Pat Jordan in The Suitors of Spring (1974).

The fastest pitcher ever may have been 1950s phenom and flameout Steve Dalkowski. Dalkowski signed with the Orioles in 1957 at age 21. After nine years of erratic pitching he was released in 1966, never having made it to the Major Leagues. Despite his failure, he has been described as the fastest pitcher ever.

Ted Williams once stood in a spring training batting cage and took one pitch from Dalkowski. Williams swore he never saw the ball and claimed that Dalkowski probably was the fastest pitcher who ever lived. Others who claimed he was the fastest ever were Paul Richards, Harry Brecheen and Earl Weaver. They all thought he was faster than Bob Feller and Walter Johnson, though none of them probably saw Johnson pitch.

In 1958 the Orioles sent Dalkowski to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, a military installation where Feller was once clocked. Feller was clocked at 98.6 mph. Dalkowski was clocked at only 93.5, but a few mitigating factors existed:

1) Dalkowski had pitched in a game the day before, so he could be expected to throw 5-10 mph slower than usual;

2) there was no mound to pitch from, which Feller had enjoyed, and this would drop his velocity by 5-8 mph;

3) he had to pitch for 40 minutes before the machine could measure his speed, and he was exhausted by the time there was a reading. Other sources reported that the measuring device was a tube and that he took a long time to finally throw one into the tube.

It was estimated that Dalkowski’s fastball at times reached 105 mph. Dalkowski was not physically imposing, standing only 5'8" and wearing thick glasses. He had legendary wildness, which kept him out of the Major Leagues. In 995 minor league innings, he walked 1,354 batters and struck out 1,396. He walked 21 in one minor league game and struck out 21 in another. In high school he pitched a no-hitter while walking 18 and striking out 18.

He threw 283 pitches in a complete game against Aberdeen and once threw 120 pitches in only two innings. He played in nine leagues in nine years.

In 1963 for Elmira he finally started throwing strikes. During spring training in 1964, Dalkowski was with the Major League club. After fielding a sacrifice bunt by pitcher Jim Bouton in spring training, Dalkowski’s arm went dead and he never recovered. He drifted to various jobs and landed in Bakersfield, California, where he was arrested many times for fighting.

He once threw a ball at least 450 feet on a bet. He was supposed to throw the ball from the outfield wall to home plate, but he threw it well above the plate into the press box. He once threw a pitch so hard that the catcher missed the ball and it shattered an umpire’s mask. Dalkowski was the basis for wild fastball pitcher Nuke LaLoosh in the movie Bull Durham.

Source: The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball, 1997.

Radar guns now routinely measure the modern pitcher's performance and the magic fastball number is now set at 100 miles per hour. Scoreboards in nearly every ballpark - including High Schools - now flash pitch speeds for the world to see. Breaking the 100 mph plateau makes news that can often travel to the front office at nearly the same speed. "You should see the scouts, " said Braves speed gun handler Jim Guadagno, "They're like kids with new toys when they see that 100 light up on their guns. Three digits! Nobody else in the league can do that." The pitcher Guadagno was referring to was Mark Wohlers and since then other hurlers have joined this unique fraternity:

"100 MPH Club"

Billy Wagner 101 MPH at Turner Field on July 30, 2003
Photo by Clinton Plaza

In Order by Fastest Observed Speed
(Listing Has Only The Fastest Known Speed by the Pitcher )

Pitcher
Radar Speed
Date
Location

Mark Wohlers
103.0 mph
1995
Spring Training

Armando Benitez
102.0 mph
2002
Shea Stadium

Randy Johnson
102.0 mph
07-09-2004
SBC Park

Robb Nen
102.0 mph
10-23-1997
Jacobs Field

Rob Dibble
101.0 mph
1992
Candlestick Park

Kyle Farnsworth
101.0 mph
05-27-2004
Minute Maid Park

Eric Gagne
101.0 mph
04-16-2004
SBC Park

Jose Mesa
101.0 mph
1993
Cleveland Stadium

Guillermo Mota
101.0 mph
07-24-2002
Qualcomm Stadium

Billy Wagner
101.0 mph
04-16-2004
Citizens Bank Park

Billy Wagner
101.0 mph
06-11-2003
Yankee Stadium

Nolan Ryan
100.9 mph
08-20-1974
Anaheim Stadium

Josh Beckett
100.0 mph
10-12-2003
Pro Player Park

Roger Clemens
100.0 mph
10-10-2001
Yankee Stadium

Francisco Cordero
100.0 mph
07-07-2004
Jacobs Field

Jorge Julio
100.0 mph
09-16-2004
Skydome

Ben Sheets
100.0 mph
07-10-2004
Miller Park

J.R. Richard
100.0 mph
1976
Candlestick Park

C.C. Sabathia
100.0 mph
2002
Jacobs Field


The list above IS NOT a comprehensive breakdown of every pitcher to ever surpass the 100 mph barrier, but rather a list of pitchers we have seen on ESPN Game of the Week, SportsCenter, or in person eclipsing the century mark. If you want to share an another or provide an accurate game date for those we have in the chart please send us an email.

So who is the fastest pitcher in baseball? Baseball Almanac honestly does not know. Major League Baseball does not recognize radar speeds as an official statistic. The Elias Sports Bureau, Stats Inc and The Sporting News are all highly respected resources who publish some form of record book every season, yet none of them recognize any pitcher as the fastest ever. Nobody really knows, but we do hope this article has shed some light on the topic and at least provided you with additional material to argue with your friends about.

Bill Burgess

SHOELESSJOE3
10-22-2004, 07:53 PM
What was the fastest pitch ever thrown during a baseball game? Who was the fastest pitcher in baseball history? Who could throw the fastest fastball? These questions, and others like it, are some of the most commonly asked items here on Baseball Almanac. They are also some of the most widely debated by historians, researchers & experts alike.

Nice piece of work Bill. Pardon my deletion of a good bit of your post no need to take up space and besides your closing paragraph just about wraps up the answer. I don't believe anyone can prove who was or is the fastest. We can probably assume that there would be only a small difference in the top 10 fastest there is or ever was in the game.

LouGehrig
10-23-2004, 02:52 PM
Steve Dalkowski.

Bill should support the contention since it is based on newspaper reports and anecdotal information, which ARE valid in many instances.

Bill Burgess
10-23-2004, 05:20 PM
Lou,

But I HAVE given qualified support. I even ventured the speculation that the very best/fastest of the pitchers of the long ago past, Johnson 101, Rusie 99, Feller/Grove 98, Waddell 94, Vance 93, were as fast as today's fastest.

My only reservation is that the long ago lacked the depth of today's velocity artists. And I think that the long article I did not write, but found on the internet, bore out my premise. There have been a number of modern pitchers who have hit over 100 mph on the radar gun, and that didn't happen in the long ago, except by Walter Johnson, and possibly Amos Rusie.

So I feel that I am nicely positioned between the 2 positions.

Bill Burgess

DoubleX
10-25-2004, 02:50 PM
I wouldn't be surprised if on the average, modern pitchers throw harder than their counterparts of yesteryear. I say this because physical improvement in other sports has been plainly recorded through the generations. Take track for example - the average finishing time in say the 100 Meters in recent Olympics is over a second faster than it was in the first Olympics, and this number keeps improving. So it seems only natural for the next generation to want to train to run faster and throw harder than previous generations. This is exaceberated by the fact that sports culture has developed so much in the past century. Growing up with sports, trying to achieve and surpass the known feats is something that society has increasingly grown up with.

SHOELESSJOE3
10-26-2004, 04:41 AM
I wouldn't be surprised if on the average, modern pitchers throw harder than their counterparts of yesteryear. I say this because physical improvement in other sports has been plainly recorded through the generations. Take track for example - the average finishing time in say the 100 Meters in recent Olympics is over a second faster than it was in the first Olympics, and this number keeps improving. So it seems only natural for the next generation to want to train to run faster and throw harder than previous generations. This is exaceberated by the fact that sports culture has developed so much in the past century. Growing up with sports, trying to achieve and surpass the known feats is something that society has increasingly grown up with.

Not sure if thats a fair comparison, not sure if any conclusion could be reached with a high degree of certainty.Throwing a baseball and comparing advancements made in track events.

In track events it's understandable that over decades shorter time will result. Improvments in nutrition, training methods and better equipment. Even the smallest seemingly insignificant change in running shoes and better track surfaces could figure in shaving fractions of a second, especially when linked with the better nutrition and advanced training methods.

Pitching, throwing a ball, not much can be done to make that much of a difference. Maybe if on average pitchers are bigger today that could result in harder throwers, but to what degree, hard to measure.

Bill Burgess
10-26-2004, 06:53 AM
While I agree in principle that the more fit an athlete stays, the better they'll do, I also think it's tricky to assume that that alone would improve a pitcher's speed.

People like W. Johnson, R. Johnson, Koufax, had a gift. Heftier arms, may or may not have made them faster.

But in general, if all baseball players were committed to stay in as perfect a shape, work hard in the weight room, use body building apparatus, they probably might optimize their performances. But increasing pitching speed is slippery. Perhaps they might have longer careers, if their legs stayed in shape. I don't remember any speed kings who had body builders arms.

But if the Babe had shared the committment of Bonds, Sosa, McGuire, Canseco, to stay trim in the off season, run, work out with weights, it's hard to imagine what he might have accomplished. Who's to say? He did last until 40, abuse and all.

Bill Burgess

johnny
01-20-2006, 01:41 PM
Bill,
On the Bob Feller article I posted he discusses meeting Walter Johnson and hearing Walter Johnson say that he was probably a mite faster than Rapid Robert. Which was a lot for the notoriously modest Mr. Johnson. But I can cite no higher authority than Satchel Paige "who could bring on the heat himself, believed Feller was the fastest and told teammates, "If anybody threw that ball any harder than Rapid Robert, then the human eye couldn't follow it."

Well as you pointed out, umpire Bill Evans himself said he couldn't follow some of Mr. Johnson's fastballs. Ergo, if Satchel was correct...okay okay it's not absolute proof per se but it helps to tie the thread up a bit.

Rapid Robert also said he felt that Walter Johnson was the best righthanded pitcher in history.

leecemark
01-20-2006, 01:44 PM
--Feller never saw Johnson pitch, so his opinion on that is not any more informed than anyody elses. Also, if he specified best RHP, did he think there was a LHP better than Walter?

Honus Wagner Rules
01-20-2006, 02:04 PM
There are few ways to measure velocity, but every once in a while, there occurs other ways. For example:

Batters facing Walter Johnson often alleged that they could not actually see the ball. Umpire Billy Evans admitted that even he couldn't tell if the ball was crossing the plate or not. Quite an admission.
I doubt the hitters who said this mean it in a literal sense, not being able to see the ball all (Did Johnson fold three dimensional space to hide the ball?). When major league hitters say they can't "see" the ball they usually mean the can't track the ball out of the pitcher's hand quick enough to adjust to the pitch. They do literally "see" the ball but they can't hit because they began to track the ball from the pitcher too late to do anything about it.



Batters often admitted that they couldn't tell if they were swinging over the ball, under the ball, or anything. Even Babe Ruth told of his first AB against Johnson in 1915. He says he stepped into the batters box. Bam, bam, bam. Back to the dugout. Easiest victim Walter ever had. Babe never swung, never saw any pitches. But he heard something swish by. He told the ump that the pitches sounded high.
I believe it's been proven that once the ball is within 10 feet of homeplate the human eye simoplay cannot track the ball. So hitters are basically swing at where they "think the ball will be.



Another batter, I think it was Jimmie Dykes was, was batting agaisnt Walter and his arm comes down. Jimmie is waiting and the ball never arrives. Then the catcher is returning the ball. Jimmie turns to the ump, with questioning eyes. The ump tells him to take his base. Huh? says Jimmie. The ump then informs him that if he doesn't think the ball clipped him, feel his bill cap.

Jimmie does and the bill is turned all the way around. Jimmie turns white. Never even saw a ball! Only Nolan Ryan was that fast in modern times.
No one ever alleged they couldn't even see a ball. So I equate Johnson with Ryan. Ryan was timed over 100 mph.
This sounds like a "tall tale" to me Bill. Why is it that the cather could "see" the ball enough to catch and Jimmie Dykes can't "see" the ball at all?



Feller was time at 98.6. Body temperature. Many equated Feller with Grove. But no one ever claimed that they couldn't follow Feller's pitches. So I measure Johnson over 100. With Ryan.

When Feller came along in '37, he electrified the BB world, with his 98.5 mph velocity. So that was the top rate for the BB world at the time.

Today, so many pitchers register over 98 on the radar gun, that I stopped counting. Rod Dibble, JR Richards were both over 100. Didn't create a stir then. But it would have in 1940. So that is one way to measure velocity by era. Today, I suspect that Clemens, Johnson, Martinez, Rivera, and lots of others could go over 100 perhaps several times a game.

If that were possible in 1938, they would have created the same stir as Feller did in '38.

Bill Burgess
There one problem with Feller's 98.6 mph pitch. It wasn't in a game. I think you are refering to the test done by the U.S. Army, right? And supposedly they clocked The Big Train at 99 mph using something called a "pendulum device", whatever that is. I've been trying to find out the details of Johnson's 99 mph pitch. Here's some good info on some "fast" pitchers.

http://www.baseball-almanac.com/articles/fastest-pitcher-in-baseball.shtml

Then there's the story of one Steve Dalkowski...



Steve Dalkowski.

“To understand how Dalkowski, a chunky little man with thick glasses and a perpetually dazed expression, became a ‘legend in his own time’...”

— Pat Jordan in The Suitors of Spring (1974).

The fastest pitcher ever may have been 1950s phenom and flameout Steve Dalkowski. Dalkowski signed with the Orioles in 1957 at age 21. After nine years of erratic pitching he was released in 1966, never having made it to the Major Leagues. Despite his failure, he has been described as the fastest pitcher ever.

Ted Williams once stood in a spring training batting cage and took one pitch from Dalkowski. Williams swore he never saw the ball and claimed that Dalkowski probably was the fastest pitcher who ever lived. Others who claimed he was the fastest ever were Paul Richards, Harry Brecheen and Earl Weaver. They all thought he was faster than Bob Feller and Walter Johnson, though none of them probably saw Johnson pitch.

In 1958 the Orioles sent Dalkowski to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, a military installation where Feller was once clocked. Feller was clocked at 98.6 mph. Dalkowski was clocked at only 93.5, but a few mitigating factors existed:

1) Dalkowski had pitched in a game the day before, so he could be expected to throw 5-10 mph slower than usual;

2) there was no mound to pitch from, which Feller had enjoyed, and this would drop his velocity by 5-8 mph;

3) he had to pitch for 40 minutes before the machine could measure his speed, and he was exhausted by the time there was a reading. Other sources reported that the measuring device was a tube and that he took a long time to finally throw one into the tube.

It was estimated that Dalkowski’s fastball at times reached 105 mph. Dalkowski was not physically imposing, standing only 5'8" and wearing thick glasses. He had legendary wildness, which kept him out of the Major Leagues. In 995 minor league innings, he walked 1,354 batters and struck out 1,396. He walked 21 in one minor league game and struck out 21 in another. In high school he pitched a no-hitter while walking 18 and striking out 18.

He threw 283 pitches in a complete game against Aberdeen and once threw 120 pitches in only two innings. He played in nine leagues in nine years.

In 1963 for Elmira he finally started throwing strikes. During spring training in 1964, Dalkowski was with the Major League club. After fielding a sacrifice bunt by pitcher Jim Bouton in spring training, Dalkowski’s arm went dead and he never recovered. He drifted to various jobs and landed in Bakersfield, California, where he was arrested many times for fighting.

He once threw a ball at least 450 feet on a bet. He was supposed to throw the ball from the outfield wall to home plate, but he threw it well above the plate into the press box. He once threw a pitch so hard that the catcher missed the ball and it shattered an umpire’s mask. Dalkowski was the basis for wild fastball pitcher Nuke LaLoosh in the movie Bull Durham.

Source: The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball, 1997.

johnny
01-20-2006, 02:05 PM
--Feller never saw Johnson pitch, so his opinion on that is not any more informed than anyody elses. Also, if he specified best RHP, did he think there was a LHP better than Walter?

Well in the article Feller doesn't specify the evidence that he relies upon for his personal opinion. But your correct, Feller would not have seen Walter Johnson pitch in his prime. Yet, for some reason Feller believes it to be true. Having heard Feller speak before he is fairly blunt. But I am assuming that Feller is relying upon his knowledge of Johnson's record and personal conversations with other players who played with/against Johnson.
Feller -in the article- didn't reference a left handed pitcher.

My purpose was to tie in the velocity question with the comment made by HOF and Feller team-mate Satchel Paige who said if anyone threw faster than Feller it couldn't be seen with the comment from HOF umpire Bill Evans who stated that he sometimes couldn't see Johnson's pitches.Yes, Yes, Yes, in a more perfect world we would have pristine test conditions in which we could compare results. We just don't have it. So anecdotal is all we have, hence the above comments tied together. Take 'em for what you will.

Honus Wagner Rules
01-20-2006, 02:05 PM
While I agree in principle that the more fit an athlete stays, the better they'll do, I also think it's tricky to assume that that alone would improve a pitcher's speed.
Does Babe Ruth strike you as the kind of guy that would lift weights in the off season? He's more John Kruk than Barry Bonds in that respect.

johnny
01-20-2006, 02:08 PM
Blondes and redheads from barstools, swallowing rib eye steaks, and hydrating himself with some of Jacob:laugh Ruppert's tasty brew.

Brian McKenna
01-20-2006, 03:04 PM
when batters says that he didn't see the ball - he is exaggerating to prove his point - if you are unaware, this is a quite common method of description - it is not meant to be taken literally

they see the ball - just can't handle that specific pitch at that specific time - as noted the catcher sees it - also batted balls and serves in tennis travel much faster than a pitch - the eye follows them as well

as to feller - no sports personality has traveled as far and wide and as often as feller to make a buck on past fame in american history - his stories are repeatable if you have the $ for him to come visit - i wouldn't however mortgage the farm backing their authenticity

DoubleX
01-20-2006, 03:28 PM
Sorry, I'm posting without reading through the other posts first, so this may have already been said...But I believe that while the best players of the distant past, say Walter Johnson, could bring the heat, I think on average, velocity was slower back in the day. Why do I think this? Conditioning and development. Players today, especially pitchers, take much better care of their arms and better understand the mechanics needed in order to maximize velocity. Additionally, pitchers and their trainers take care of their arms in such a way as to maximize velocity. It's become a science really, whereas a century ago it was more natural talent than conditioning. As for development, pitchers now develop with velocity in mind - with a number in mind. A century ago, there weren't radar guns, so a developing pitcher did not have a number to shoot for. Now a developing pitcher can have a palpable goal and push himself to achieve that goal. As a result, I believe that on the average, pitchers today through harder than pitchers of a century ago.

Bill Burgess
01-20-2006, 04:12 PM
When I say that a batter can't "see" a pitch, I saying that he can't track it well enough to hit the thing. He may see the ball, but it may be a blur.

Sometimes, I've read batters describe a pitcher's fastball. Grove's fastball was sometimes describes as a small pill, with a string behind it, describing the optical illusion of where the ball had been. Others describe the ball as the size of a watermelon seed.

I have seen photos of Mays/Bonds, swinging at the ball, and about to make contact, but their eyes are clearly about 3-4 feet in the path of where the ball was. In other words, they're about to get a good hit, but they are not looking at the ball about to hit the bat! Proving, they could not track the pitch, but had gotten used to swinging in the path of where the ball would go.

Bill

johnny
01-20-2006, 05:11 PM
when batters says that he didn't see the ball - he is exaggerating to prove his point - if you are unaware, this is a quite common method of description - it is not meant to be taken literally

they see the ball - just can't handle that specific pitch at that specific time - as noted the catcher sees it - also batted balls and serves in tennis travel much faster than a pitch - the eye follows them as well

as to feller - no sports personality has traveled as far and wide and as often as feller to make a buck on past fame in american history - his stories are repeatable if you have the $ for him to come visit - i wouldn't however mortgage the farm backing their authenticity

Now, I don't think anyone really thought the pitches were so fast as to be 'invisible' per se. Rather, I think we all picked up on the inability of the eye to properly track depending upon your angle or perspective. A little David Copperfield hocus-pocus action would be too much.

Sorry that your experiance with Mr. Feller didn't turn out like you wanted.

johnny
01-20-2006, 05:30 PM
when batters says that he didn't see the ball - he is exaggerating to prove his point - if you are unaware, this is a quite common method of description - it is not meant to be taken literally

they see the ball - just can't handle that specific pitch at that specific time - as noted the catcher sees it - also batted balls and serves in tennis travel much faster than a pitch - the eye follows them as well

as to feller - no sports personality has traveled as far and wide and as often as feller to make a buck on past fame in american history - his stories are repeatable if you have the $ for him to come visit - i wouldn't however mortgage the farm backing their authenticity


Your last point sounds interesting. Can you give a few examples of Feller's exageration?

Sultan_1895-1948
01-20-2006, 05:40 PM
Does Babe Ruth strike you as the kind of guy that would lift weights in the off season?

Not really, because they weren't available as they are today. Players had other methods of getting in shape back then, and Babe did actually work out quite a bit. He struck everybody as the kind of guy who would work out when he reported to spring training at 212lbs in '26, which began his second reformation.


As far as this thread goes.

The game has changed to the point where it's all about power. Power at the plate and power on the mound. Teams think that if they get a guy who can throw smoke, then he can be worked with to become something special. Actual "stuff" isn't looked at as much anymore, it's about being a "thrower."

Important to note that higher velocity does not in any way equal "better pitching." Most would agree on that I'd hope.

Here's my 2cents

Back in the day, the majority probably threw around 91-92

A smaller group (including Babe) probably threw around 93-95

The few upper elite's who were 96+

They chose their spots on when to throw their true heat. Whether it be a crucial situation, or just a dangerous hitter, they understood what "pitching" was. Using the hitters approach against him, messing with his timing and changing his eye level, utilizing the large strike zone.

johnny
01-20-2006, 05:51 PM
Not really, because they weren't available as they are today. Players had other methods of getting in shape back then, and Babe did actually work out quite a bit. He struck everybody as the kind of guy who would work out when he reported to spring training at 212lbs in '26, which began his second reformation.

Aside from the use of specialist today, how different would the actual pitching approach be?
For example, how would a Pedro Martinez approach a 1927 vintage Ruth. I am assuming that Ruth is not going to point at the centerfied bleachers and yell 'who is your daddy? -although Tyrus Raymond Cobb might if he thought it would get in Pedro's head!

Sultan_1895-1948
01-20-2006, 06:11 PM
Aside from the use of specialist today, how different would the actual pitching approach be?

To answer that you'd need to understand each and every aspect of the game back then, and how it differs from today. The hitters approach, size of fields, size of bats, size of zone, hardness of ball, skill of fielders, condition of infield, speed of batter..all those things can change how a pitcher works.



For example, how would a Pedro Martinez approach a 1927 vintage Ruth. I am assuming that Ruth is not going to point at the centerfied bleachers and yell 'who is your daddy? -although Tyrus Raymond Cobb might if he thought it would get in Pedro's head!

lol, interesting. He wouldn't be the same Pedro we've seen over the years if he was in '27, and vice versa if Ruth came forward through your warp tunnel. If we plucked Pedro though and sent him back, his best bet would be to try and tie Babe up inside, not allowing him to extend his arms. That would be a very fine and dangerous line to walk, but Pedro just might be able to get away with it. Babe was never one to back away from a pitcher no matter how inside they threw, but once Pedro established the inner half, a backdoor curve, or a changeup would be a good idea, although also dangerous. Frightening to imagine Pedro with that strike zone at his disposal, wow.

Bench 5
01-20-2006, 06:42 PM
I posted this under a thread about Walter Johnson but I will post it here as well. I looked up any and every article I could find about attempts to measure the speed of pitchers prior to what has become accepted as the first "reliable" timing of a pitcher's fastball which was done on Bob Feller in 1946.


Walter Johnson and Nap Rucker were timed by the Remington Arms Factory in 1912. The electronic timing device was used to measure the speed of bullets so the box that they had to throw into was near shoulder height. The front of the 2' x 2' box was about 60 feet from where they threw the ball. They were both in street clothes although they took their jackets off. The device measured the speed of the ball as it passed the front end of the box until it smashed into a steel plate at the end of a box which was 5 yards long. So the test measured the speed as it traveled between 60 - 75 feet from the pitcher's hands. They both threw several times before they were able to hit a wire to trip the recording. Both had three times measured and Johnson's best was 122 feet per second (83 MPH) and Ruckers was 113 (77 MPH). Considering that a modern radar gun measures the speed of a ball as it leaves the pitcher's hand, the times above would register about 9-10 MPH faster by today's method of measuring speed. A ball loses 1 MPH for every 8 feet traveled from the start of the pitch.

In a Washington Post article in 1929 the writer states that Bill Tilden's serve was timed at 85 MPH by the Bureau of Standards and that Walter Johnson was timed at 113 MPH by the Bureau of Standards. The same article states that a ball was measured at 75 MPH off the bat of Babe Ruth.

In an article by Shirley Povich in 1937 it claims that Walter Johnson was timed at more than 100 MPH.

In the 1939 article that I mentioned in my earlier post, Walter Johnson was credited with throwing a ball 134 feet per second (91 MPH) with Joe Wood throwing 124 feet per second and Christy Mathewson 127. This story states that the test took place in 1917.

So either a) Johnson's fastball was measured by another recording device subsequent to the 1912 story or else b) over the years the original story was misreported due to bad memory etc. Either way considering that he threw the ball in street clothes without a mound and without warm-ups, I have no doubt he could chuck the ball close to 100 MPH.


Here's some other pitched speed stories.


In 1930 several members of the Yankees were invited to West Point Military Academy. The point of this test was to determine whether the velocity of a "heavy" ball was greater than that of a "light" ball. We hear the same lingo today where people credit certain pitchers with throwing a heavy ball which tends to break bats. General Smith of the military academy felt that regardless of whether one pitcher threw a heavy ball and another threw a light ball, the difference was all a matter of velocity. A couple members of the Yankees threw into this "Boulenge chonograph". The idea behind this device was similar to the one from the 1912 test. Instead of a 15 foot gap between the front and back of the box there was a 6 foot gap. Pitcher Lew McEvoy threw about "4 innings of pitches" and the device failed to register a pitch. Ben Chapman stepped up and almost broke the machine on his second pitch. The military finally figured out why the machine failed to measure a pitch - a broken rubber band!! Up steps shortstop Mark Koenig who was known for having a great arm. Koenig threw the ball 150 feet per second - 102 MPH! Pitcher Lew McEvoy stepped back in and proceeded to throw a couple pitches around the same speed as Koenig before his arm gave out.

In 1933 Lefty Gomez and Van Lingo Mungo were timed at West Point. Gomez threw 111 feet per second (76 MPH) while Mungo threw 113.5 FPS (77 MPH).

A photo-electric speed meter was developed by the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Plain Dealer. This machine had a 3 foot gap from front to back. There are several times that were reported from this device but the fastest was recorded by Atley Donald of the Yankees in 1939 at 139 FPS (94.7 MPH). He broke the record of 136 FPS held by outfielder Dee Miles with 136 FPS (92.7 MPH). Bob Feller also threw into this machine and only threw 119 FPS (81 MPH). Based upon a couple other articles at the time, there was skepticism about the validity of this machine since Feller's speed was lower than that of several other players on his own team.

In 1946 Feller threw into "Joe Chronograph" which was developed by the Army Ordinance Department. The device was considered more efficient than the earlier testing devices. This device measured the speed of the ball as it passed into the front end which was 5 feet in front of home plate and the back end which was at home plate. The device measured the speed for this 5 foot interval. Feller threw the ball 145 feet per second which has always been reported as 98.6 MPH. Using today's "fast" guns, this would measure in the low 100 MPH range.


As I read some of these articles it struck me that writers of the time projected that the devices could be used to determine whether a prospect had the ability to throw hard enough to make the majors and also to keep track of a pitcher's speed throughout a game. That's exactly how radar guns are used nowadays.

mac195
01-20-2006, 07:16 PM
Those throwing contest numbers are interesting. Japan League players have a "field day" every year during the New Year's holliday. I watched this years throwing contest... they had the players throw from home plate to a 120 meter (396 feet) CF fence. Nobody hit the fence on the fly, but one guy came very close on a 119 meter throw. Several other players threw over 115 meters.

johnny
01-20-2006, 08:21 PM
and just to bend the hypothetical a little more if we fast forwarded the babe to 2006 he might decide to lighten up on his traditional bat. and you gotta believe that pedro would give the babe some decent pitches as he can see a confused lou gehrig in the on deck circle asking ol miller huggins 'what the hell happened to yankee stadium?'

leecemark
01-21-2006, 11:49 AM
--There is some pretty good evidence that not only did most pitchers from 1910 or 1940 not throw as hard as the fastest guys today, but that was still true in the 60s. In 1960 a group of the hardest throwers in baseball were tested for speed. Steve Barber won that competetion at 95.5 MPH. Virtually every team in baseball has a pitcher or two who can exceeed that today (although some of them have no other skills and are not especially good pitchers).
--Sandy Koufax (who was one of the men tested) is often refered to as having a great fastball and he topped out at 94-95 MPH. Of course, he had great movement and a great curve to go along with it. Speed is not everything, or even the most imporant thing, in a great pitcher's arsenal.
--While there have been some genetic freaks (freak beign a positive term in this case) who could throw as fast, or nearly so, as the fastest pitchers today, most almost assuredly could not. The average fastball in Johnson's day was probably in the mid-80s, with a few speedballers breaking 90. If he could throw 95 under game conditions he would have seemed faster than a 100 MPH pitcher today. If he were able to hit the 99 he was clocked at by the "pendulum device" with any consistency then his fastball would have been in relative terms the best ever, even though a fair number of pitchers can match or exceed that today.

csh19792001
01-21-2006, 11:53 AM
Those throwing contest numbers are interesting. Japan League players have a "field day" every year during the New Year's holliday. I watched this years throwing contest... they had the players throw from home plate to a 120 meter (396 feet) CF fence. Nobody hit the fence on the fly, but one guy came very close on a 119 meter throw. Several other players threw over 115 meters.

Strange that you use that number.

The beloved luminary sportswriter (and ex ballplayer) Tim Murnane died in 1917. They organized a benefit in September at Fenway Park to raise money for his Murnane's survivors.

Joe Jackson threw a ball 396 feet that day. Arm strength has very, very little to do with size and strength- look at guys like Billy Wagner, Glen Gorbous, and Steve Dalkowski. It's more a god given gift of coordination than anything else. If you look at the guys who hit it the farthest on the PGA tour, most of them have actually been slender and/or short in stature.

The point is that the greatest fireball pitchers of yore (Grove, Johnson, Feller, Young) could certainly have thrown just as hard as modern guys.

Also, Ty Cobb was timed at 3.15 seconds from home-first that day. What was Mantle's official record time?

csh19792001
01-21-2006, 11:55 AM
--There is some pretty good evidence that not only did most pitchers from 1910 or 1940 not throw as hard as the fastest guys today, but that was still true in the 60s. In 1960 a group of the hardest throwers in baseball were tested for speed. Steve Barber won that competetion at 95.5 MPH. Virtually every team in baseball has a pitcher or two who can exceeed that today (although some of them have no other skills and are not especially good pitchers).
--Sandy Koufax (who was one of the men tested) is often refered to as having a great fastball and he topped out at 94-95 MPH. Of course, he had great movement and a great curve to go along with it. Speed is not everything, or even the most imporant thing, in a great pitcher's arsenal.
.

What are your sources here? I'd like to see the research. What qualifies as "pretty good" evidence?

leecemark
01-21-2006, 12:06 PM
--My source for the 1960 tests is the James/Neyer Guide to Pitchers, where they cite tests done with a high speed camera in Miami after the 1960 season. The inferences to earlier periods does not have a specific source. It is my own interpretation of general reading done over the last 30 years.

Bill Burgess
01-21-2006, 12:12 PM
--There is some pretty good evidence that not only did most pitchers from 1910 or 1940 not throw as hard as the fastest guys today, but that was still true in the 60s. In 1960 a group of the hardest throwers in baseball were tested for speed. Steve Barber won that competetion at 95.5 MPH. Virtually every team in baseball has a pitcher or two who can exceeed that today (although some of them have no other skills and are not especially good pitchers).

I happen to agree.

Imapotato
01-21-2006, 12:58 PM
Leecemark speaks in vague terms

How can you say that Pitchers "probably" threw in the mid 80's?

When it HAS been studied that fast twitch fibers are the cause of velocity and not new technology, training or drugs

Steroids in P's excel the speed of recovery of the muscles used in the MOTION of pitching, not what gives someone their speed, that is a fact

Where they a tad bit slower in deadball and before mechanical wound balls? Yes, the mass of the ball was less dense, but it doesn't mean they could not throw as fast, especially if the ball was almost black, it would look worse coming in

csh19792001
01-21-2006, 01:04 PM
Leecemark speaks in vague terms


That's why I asked about his sources on the speed of Koufax and others.

Welcome back, Potato. Good to have an ex pro ballplayer back on a baseball forum.

leecemark
01-21-2006, 01:07 PM
--If pitchers have gained several MPH on average in the last 40 years (which is strongly supported by evidence) it doesn't seem unlikley that the same kind of improvement was experienced during the pre-radar gun days. I actually believe I am overestimating the average fastball from the deadball period. While I believe that most pitchers could throw in the 80s, I don't think they did so on a regular basis (or at least not the mid-high 80s). It is well established that pitchers did not go all out with every pitch, but saved their best stuff for the critical moments in the deadball period.

SABR Matt
01-21-2006, 01:11 PM
You guys are forgetting one important contributor to ball velocity. THE BALL.

The live (tightly wound) ball will have a little more speed on it than the dead ball. Could make for an extra couple miles an hour.

Bill Burgess
01-21-2006, 01:36 PM
Stitching the seams could also be a factor, if a better grip helps to throw. Also the ball was changed from horsehide to other animal leathers. Smoothness of ball affects the gripping.

Remember, if we are only talking about a difference of 5 mph, anything could be a factor, including atmospheric density in Coors Field.

Another factor is the strike zone. The larger the strike zone, the harder you can throw and still get it in there. If the zone were ever expanded to the tops of the shoulders, as it was in the 60's, pitchers could crank it up more, and still throw it over the plate for strikes.

And if you only have to go 6-7 innings, that again will let one throw it harder, in strategic moments. No need to save it for later. So a closer can throw it hard and not worry.

Welcome back, JT, old friend. Great to have you back home!! Cheers to you. Hope you health is fine.

Bill Burgess

Bench 5
01-21-2006, 04:53 PM
There's too different ways of looking at this.
1) Did pitchers from the past throw as fast on average throughout the course of a game as a STYLE of pitching or;
2) Did pitchers from the past have the ABILITY to throw as hard as pitchers today.

I think that the answer to the first question is that prior to the deadball era, pitchers didn't throw as hard as the can on every pitch. They could pace themselves and throw their hardest in crucial situations. They had several advantages that later pitchers didn't have such as being able to scuff and darken the ball. If players today have a hard time seeing a ball thrown 98 MPH, imagine how hard it was for players in the early 1900s. That style of pitching didn't work after the advent of the "lively" ball.

As far as pure ability, I think that the best fastball pitchers of the game have always been able to throw in the 95-100 range. The first scientific test for speed showed that the fastest pitcher of the 1930s and 1940s could throw just as fast as the fastest pitchers today. Again, Feller's speed was measured as it crossed the plate. Modern radar guns measure the speed shortly after it leaves the hand. His 98.6 is more like 102-103 today.

That being said, I think its possible that the average pitchers of the past didn't throw as fast as the average pitcher of today. But who knows. There's not much film of pitchers throwing prior to the 60s in game conditions so it's a guess either way. I've seen film of Walter Johnson, Feller, Grove throwing and it sure as hell looked like they could bring some heat. And when I watch film of Ruth, Gehrig or other old-timers hit, the speed of the ball as it approaches the plate doesn't have a perceptible lack of speed. It looks similar to modern play.

When you are talking about comparing Sandy Koufax or Don Drysdale's fastball to a modern pitcher I think you have to consider that the means of measuring the speed are different. Koufax was timed at 93 and Drysdale at 95 back in 1960. But if the speed measured in 1960 was based upon speed as it crossed the plate, then it's not an apples to apples comparison. I think that has a lot to do with the perception that pitchers today can throw about 5 MPH harder on average than pitchers from the past.

There was an article in the Sporting News about 10-12 years ago in which they claimed the exact opposite. The article stated that pitchers of the 90s could not throw as hard as their counterparts in the 60s. They cited the fact that on the old guns, not many current pitchers could actually break 90. I suspect that the guns that they show on TV and in the parks are "juiced" a bit for the fans. Maybe not but that's my perception.

johnny
01-21-2006, 05:44 PM
For this very reason, while we may not be able to quantify exactly how fast pitchers actually pitched in terms of sheer speed we can get an idea of how quick batters could swing through the strike zone by taking a look at the size of their bats. While we can debate many facts, I am assuming that we are not going to debate that batters today can swing it through the bat zone at least as fast as the batters of yesteryear. Yet bats today are lighter. Hence, for the reason that the bats of today's homerun hitters are lighter than those of yesteryear such as a Ruth or Gehrig I think it would be safe to assume that the overall level of fastball speed was less. Not saying that there were not speed merchants out there ala Walter, Dazzy, et al. Instead, that over the entire spectrum of pitchers the overall level of speed was less.

leecemark
01-21-2006, 06:07 PM
--Thats a good point Johnny. Everybody was using heavier bats than anybody uses today. That makes good circumstanial evidence that they were facing as fast of pitchers. Very few guys are going to be able to catch up to a mid/high 90s fastball swinging the heavy lumber used before WWII. Most guys would even have trouble making regular contact with a low 90s pitch swinging those clubs.

johnny
01-22-2006, 09:06 AM
As a measure of velocity faced, does anyone track the the bat weights associated with top hitters over the past decades? A Wagner, Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Williams, Musial, Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Kaline, Yaz, Reggie, Ripken, Canseco, Mac, and Bonds may be interesting.

Sultan_1895-1948
01-22-2006, 11:06 AM
When it HAS been studied that fast twitch fibers are the cause of velocity and not new technology, training or drugs

Steroids in P's excel the speed of recovery of the muscles used in the MOTION of pitching, not what gives someone their speed, that is a fact


Very true. There is no substitute for actual "throwing," which is what kids used to do from a very young age. Also, many pitchers used to work on farms and do labor type of work that would naturally strengthen their arms, and give it stamina. Cy Young split railroad as a kid, and had been quoted as saying it built up his arm.

Johnny, pretty sure McGwire used a 36 ounce bat during '98.

Imapotato
01-22-2006, 11:39 AM
--Thats a good point Johnny. Everybody was using heavier bats than anybody uses today. That makes good circumstanial evidence that they were facing as fast of pitchers. Very few guys are going to be able to catch up to a mid/high 90s fastball swinging the heavy lumber used before WWII. Most guys would even have trouble making regular contact with a low 90s pitch swinging those clubs.


Actually it would be EASIER to hit a 90mph fastball with a bigger bat if one choked up, which players did with regularity on deadball and the 20's (the few power hitters nonwithstanding). Go to a batting cage and try it...but don't swing as ballplayers today, but almost a half bunt/half swing...you WILL make contact alot more then a lighter bat and full swing

Bigger area=bigger chance to hit the ball

That is why we classify them as contact hitters, but really they were compensating for the speed of the pitch and that is always why there were less K's, it was kinda hard to miss the ball with say...Heinie Groh's bottle bat


As for Cy Young, that was his non medical reasoning...and axe chopping did in fact help muscles to have him pitch so many innings, but his ability to pitch was genetic in the form that he had better high twitch fibers

and thanks Chris and Bill, nice to be back

My health is fine, I just take a break after November to about this time...threads are usually the same things we have discussed ad nasuem throughout the season

Sultan_1895-1948
01-22-2006, 04:06 PM
As for Cy Young, that was his non medical reasoning...and axe chopping did in fact help muscles to have him pitch so many innings, but his ability to pitch was genetic in the form that he had better high twitch fibers


All of us have genetically determined amounts of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers in our muscles. It's possible that Cy had a genetic gift of a higher percent of slow twitch (endurance) fibers, and that his railroad work simply helped to build strength. In the end you have one mean machine.

bbforlife
02-18-2006, 01:48 PM
The argument between the great athletes of the past and the athletes of present time has been something that I have debated about for years.

The thing that strikes me is that the argument of the past athletes being anywhere close to the present athletes is only a matter of statistics.

I read all of the comments of this post regarding pitching speeds of the past, and I am totally surprised at the comments because the evidence is very obvious when you look at statistics that we can accurately measure.

All we have to do is go on a site like www.infoplease.com/ipsa/A0114920.html, and review the Olympic statistics that were carefully recorded of every athletic event since the late 1800's.

For example:
1912 2004 High School

100M Running 10.8 9.85 10.13
200M Running 21.7 19.79 20.13
High Jump 6'4" 7'8 3/4" 7'7"
Javlin 198'11" 283'9" 259'10" (Similar to throwing)
100MFS Swim 1:03.4 48.17 50.12

Understandably, these are a few examples across the board that show the progression of statistics that we can measure and in all cases we have consistantly made our times and measurements better through years.

It is obvious that current athletes are much faster, quicker, stronger, and bigger than athletes of the past.

So what I don't understand is, why would throwing a ball be any different than all the other sports that we have measured throughout the years?

John Wooden has stated that the athletes of today are much better than the athletes of the past. (paraphased) He is one person who, now is in his 90's , has seen the progression of the era's.

In my opinion, the only realistic answer to the question is, to use objective, measurable data. Objective, measureable data does not include, blown up fish stories.

Brian McKenna
02-18-2006, 02:11 PM
regardless which ever way this argument swings - i don't think the level of competiveness has changed drastically one way or the other

Honus Wagner Rules
02-18-2006, 03:16 PM
You guys are forgetting one important contributor to ball velocity. THE BALL.

The live (tightly wound) ball will have a little more speed on it than the dead ball. Could make for an extra couple miles an hour.
Goog point Matt. The ball can effect velocity in two ways.

1) Mass- a heavier ball is more diffucult to throw at high speed because one must overcome a higher inertia. (think of throwing a tennis ball vs a steel ball of the same size)

2) The outer surface of the ball. A "rougher" ball would disrupt the airflow around it more and thus effect velocity.

And yes, I'm a nerdy engineer by profession. :D

Bill Burgess
02-18-2006, 06:14 PM
Would raised seems have an effect?

Bench 5
02-18-2006, 06:37 PM
Understandably, these are a few examples across the board that show the progression of statistics that we can measure and in all cases we have consistantly made our times and measurements better through years.

It is obvious that current athletes are much faster, quicker, stronger, and bigger than athletes of the past.

So what I don't understand is, why would throwing a ball be any different than all the other sports that we have measured throughout the years?


Olympic results have improved quite a bit over the past 100 plus years. But one thing to keep in mind is that the level of participation in the Olympics back then was not even close to the level of participation now. A lot more countries participate as well as hundreds and hundreds more athletes. Also, back then it was a true amateur contest. Now it's all about money. Athletes train all year and most are sponsored. If track and field was as big back then and had the participation levels as we have now, I think that the top results would have been better. They wouldn't be ad good as they are now but there wouldnn't be as big of a difference.

In the case of baseball, I think there's an upper limit to how fast a human being can throw a ball. The first reliable test to determine how fast the best pitcher can throw showed that the fastest pitcher from the late 30's and 40's could throw as hard as the fastest today. I don't think it's a stretch that players from even earlier eras could hit the 100 MPH level as well.

Sultan_1895-1948
02-18-2006, 07:15 PM
Would raised seems have an effect?

A positive one on curves, and a negative one on fastball, but probably not too much.

johnny
02-18-2006, 07:58 PM
Olympic results have improved quite a bit over the past 100 plus years. But one thing to keep in mind is that the level of participation in the Olympics back then was not even close to the level of participation now. A lot more countries participate as well as hundreds and hundreds more athletes. Also, back then it was a true amateur contest. Now it's all about money. Athletes train all year and most are sponsored. If track and field was as big back then and had the participation levels as we have now, I think that the top results would have been better. They wouldn't be ad good as they are now but there wouldnn't be as big of a difference.

In the case of baseball, I think there's an upper limit to how fast a human being can throw a ball. The first reliable test to determine how fast the best pitcher can throw showed that the fastest pitcher from the late 30's and 40's could throw as hard as the fastest today. I don't think it's a stretch that players from even earlier eras could hit the 100 MPH level as well.

I wonder if it is because baseball is so much a game of skill as opposed to pure athletism.

Imapotato
02-18-2006, 08:13 PM
Olympic results have improved quite a bit over the past 100 plus years. But one thing to keep in mind is that the level of participation in the Olympics back then was not even close to the level of participation now. A lot more countries participate as well as hundreds and hundreds more athletes. Also, back then it was a true amateur contest. Now it's all about money. Athletes train all year and most are sponsored. If track and field was as big back then and had the participation levels as we have now, I think that the top results would have been better. They wouldn't be ad good as they are now but there wouldnn't be as big of a difference.

In the case of baseball, I think there's an upper limit to how fast a human being can throw a ball. The first reliable test to determine how fast the best pitcher can throw showed that the fastest pitcher from the late 30's and 40's could throw as hard as the fastest today. I don't think it's a stretch that players from even earlier eras could hit the 100 MPH level as well.


True but we are bigger, faster, stronger today because of the food we eat and the chemicals in them

However, that has effected bones, and (forgot the medical term) muscles, those are the muscles that generate leg speed, strength

Those type of muscles do not give any significant improvement in the motion of throwing a baseball

Imapotato
02-18-2006, 08:15 PM
Oh and here is something to ponder

Because the older balls were less stiched and had rougher surfaces, they break on the ball especially with all the illegal pitches would be sharper, would they not?

Something to keep in thought when discussing the game was inferior back then, why they used bigger bats...etc.

Honus Wagner Rules
02-18-2006, 10:07 PM
Would raised seems have an effect?

Yes, raised seams create turbulent airflow around the ball and possibly increase the air friction on the ball. A perfectly smooth ball would have far less turbulent flow.

Honus Wagner Rules
02-18-2006, 10:09 PM
I wonder if it is because baseball is so much a game of skill as opposed to pure athletism.
Baseball has much more in common with golf than track, footbal, and basketball. It's a game of skill.

Sultan_1895-1948
02-18-2006, 10:30 PM
I wonder if it is because baseball is so much a game of skill as opposed to pure athletism.

It's always a hoot when baseball is compared to other sports, especially olympic events. Relating the improvements in track and field to baseball, only short-changes our National Pastime for what it truly is. Beyond all other games it's a game of strategy, heart, mental strength/quickness, reflexes, and technique perfected through failure.

Do size and strength matter in baseball. They sure do now, especially with how the game is setup. There was a time when a strong mind meant more than a strong bicep, and where the will to win was harshly tested inning by inning. Not so anymore. Baseball stands the test of time because of it's intricate details, and to somehow compare that to an "event" which is based on doing something as simple as running, is insulting and humorous altogether.

Todays baseball players are like pro motocross riders who were never financially strapped and always rode on the best bikes, with the best parts, had the best technicians using the best tools. Actual rider wise, there isn't much difference from a pro rider compared to some amateurs. Different opportunities and open doors create different results in the end, plain and simple.

If we stripped down some of these players today; take away the millions, take away the helmet, body armor, light bat, short fields, strike zone, no throwing inside approach, jets, best food, hotels, workout equipment, etc.. if we strip them down and even take away the evolution of knowledge they benefit from; they aren't better. In fact, they're worse if we let them keep their premadonna, lackadaisical approach.

Bill Burgess
02-19-2006, 06:28 AM
Stitching the seams could also be a factor, if a better grip helps to throw. Also the ball was changed from horsehide to other animal leathers. Smoothness of ball affects the gripping.

Remember, if we are only talking about a difference of 5 mph, anything could be a factor, including atmospheric density in Coors Field.

Another factor is the strike zone. The larger the strike zone, the harder you can throw and still get it in there. If the zone were ever expanded to the tops of the shoulders, as it was in the 60's, pitchers could crank it up more, and still throw it over the plate for strikes.

And if you only have to go 6-7 innings, that again will let one throw it harder, in strategic moments. No need to save it for later. So a closer can throw it hard and not worry.

I just don't think bigger, stronger, faster applies to pitching, because pitching has always depended on technique more than sheer strength. Otherwise, weight-lifters / body-builders would be great pitchers.

Bill

Bill Burgess
02-19-2006, 06:30 AM
I'm reposting a former post, since it was relavant.

http://www.baseball-fever.com/showpost.php?p=209795&postcount=33

digglahhh
02-19-2006, 08:47 AM
Good posts Bench and Potato

The ability to throw a baseball 90+ mph is very much a "natural gift." Without that gift, no amount of training and muscle building is going to make you throw smoke like Billy Wagner...or Walter Johnson.

Perhaps today's training may help to maximize a player's gift, and thus may mean that some of the middle tier guys throw harder, but at the extreme, I doubt there was that much of a difference.

Simple physics would prompt the question of how, if the pitchers of yesteryear didn't throw just about as hard, did players who did not even work out year round, hit balls out of stadiums bigger than the ones used today.

johnny
02-19-2006, 09:11 AM
Baseball has much more in common with golf than track, footbal, and basketball. It's a game of skill.

Do the math: round ball, round bat, yet hit it square.
It is indeed a game of skill in which evolutionary athletism only gets you so far.
Witness Michael Jordan. At the height of his basketball career, with all the training/desire in the world, the best he could do was double A ball.

bbforlife
02-19-2006, 07:01 PM
I'm still baffled as to why baseball seems to be exempt from the natural "evolution" that has taken place in EVERY other sport. Obviously, throwing is a major component of this sport.

It seems the major argument as to why throwing is exempt is because it's really a "skill" and not a product of athletic ability (strength, quickness, size). OK, let's go down that road.

Granted you must have some God-given talent (skill) before you even pick up a baseball. With all the training in the world, Elmer Fudd would never be a Major League pitcher. However, all things being equal, someone with the latest mechanices/techniques/training will be a harder thrower than someone with the same God-given talents (skill) that did not receive the same training.
Have you ever reviewed old video of the old-timers throwing? Their tecnique and mechanics (skill) would be laughed at by any of today's knowledgable pitching trainers. Does that amount to anything? Are they all wasting their time with these latest mechanics/techniques?? Should we use these old videos as training films? Has the REAL pitching art been lost? OK, so let's say you concede that this is worth 4 mph. Well, 4 mph is huge when you're talking about a major league fastball.

Now add that 4 mph to the sheer physical differences that you continue to discount, and you clearly have a far superior crop of pitchers.

Some of you have conceded that the "middle tier" pitchers of today are superior. Why would the middle tier be impacted by skill and athletic improvements, but not the "top" tier. Are we saying they are just freaks and exempt from developmental training and fine tuning of their feakish gifts. Well, that makes no sense. A freak of today will benefit from the training, etc. just like "joe" average of the middle tier. It's all relative.

And those of you that think old Babe could swing his 45-50 oz. lumber against the likes of Randy Johnson - come on! Today, nobody would think about swinging anything close to that. Why? Because there is no way they could get around on today's fire-ballers. Was Babe stronger than players of today? Get real. (Oh, is batting a "skill", not impacted by strength? I don't think you want to go down that road...)

Let's get out of the romantic memories of yester-year. Granted, some players of today are arrogant, cocky, money driven, unloyal, and just plain jerks. But, face it, when they step on the field, todays players (top to bottom) are far superior to those of yester-year.

Let me get you "baseball romantics" really riled up. There's no doubt that the 2005 Yankees would absolutely destroy the '27 version of that team. In fact, I'm quite confident the '27 Yankees could NOT beat ANY major league team of today. Why? Because Babe's 50 oz. of lumber would never get off his shoulder against today's far superior pitching. While it would take a while for today's hitters to get used to high school level fast balls, by the third inning, the mercy rule would be in effect...

I realize this is not a basketball thread, but I can't resist comparing that very skill-heavy sport from yester-year to today. Could you imagine Bob Cousy trying to play against today's pros? Take a look at that old video - apparently they hadn't developed dribbling with their left hands and shooting from above waists until the 1970's. While these are dramatic examples of improvement in mechanics/technique, there are similar, more subtle improvements in baseball techniques.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of technology in yester-year, we really can't accurately measure how fast people were throwing. Please don't give me these stories about "speeding" cars and motorcycles racing a baseball. Or, balls going thru walls and breaking umpire masks. Come on! Radar guns of today are FAR superior to those of just 20 years ago.

Back on track. In conclusion, how can throwing a baseball not be impacted by improvements in techniques/mechanics and obvious physical improvments that has clearly impacted ALL other sports??????

digglahhh
02-19-2006, 08:00 PM
Sure the 2005 Yanks would beat the 1927 Yanks...if the game took place in 2005. If they're playing back in the day, that's another story.

You think the '05 Yanks might be a little surprised that the entire game will be played with like, three different balls- dripping with sweat, tobacco, maybe even blood? You think Jeter would be a little surprised when he gets drilled on the first pitch for hanging over the plate...oh, of course that's assuming these guys are even allowed to play, or are allowed to travel on the same bus with Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson and the rest of the white players.

Oh yeah, no scouting reports, no pre game massages, none of the luxuries afforded to modern players. I wouldn't put my paycheck on the '05 Yanks under those conditions.

Your point was rather vapid, and bereft of any historical context. To say that the modern athlete is more skilled than the athlete of the past is fine, but to attempt to prove it through some convoluded time machine scenario, on your own skewed terms, is banal and more importantly, fruitless.

For the record, I actually agree with the psycho-analytic element of your opinion. I have repeatedly stated that I think many members romatisize the past in order to preserve the godly status of their boyhood idols. This is not the battle to fight however, especially in relation to the specific issue of pitching velocity as there is empirical evidence to support pitchers throwing in the upper 90's over three quarters of a century ago.

Sultan_1895-1948
02-19-2006, 08:29 PM
I'm still baffled

It must be nice to make up your own rules for your little time machine experiment.

Players today could, and should, use heavier bats. By your theory, the pitcher is supplying all the power today, so creating maximum swing quickness by way of a 32 ounce bat should be of little importance. Why not use a heavier bat? More barrel mass with a slightly less "quick" swing, against supposedly harder pitching sounds like a good combo doesn't it?

I would agree that the average pitcher today throws harder than the average pitcher back then. And you would have to agree that there is a very big difference between a pitcher and a "thrower," and that velocity means very little when we're talking about a difference of 5-7 mph. A pitcher with movement who controls the strike zone, keeps the hitter off balance while disrupting his timing consistently is far superior than what we see today. The young guns who rear back to overpower the hitter are playing right into their hands. They play into the games hands with how it is setup. The zone, the park sizes, the strength of hitters, etc. The way to succeed isn't to blow it by 'em, but rather out smart 'em.

Players have gotten bigger and stronger, but not necessarily faster imo. As I posted earlier, baseball is a unique game, in that it takes much more than bigger and stronger to succeed. This is why it can't be compared with track and field records, or weightlifting records, or anything else that doesn't require a rare blend of mental and physical coordination combined with so many different skills.

In your scenario, 2005 against '27 Yanks, you're playing with a stacked deck. If you make no adjustments, then sure, 2005 has all the advantage in the world. Would a race car driver from a long time ago have a chance against today's? Is it because of the driver, or technology?

Even leaving the 2005 Yanks with their same size/strength/speed, but taking away everything else they enjoy. Too lazy to list 'em all right now, I'm assuming you know what I mean. Everything on and off the field where technology has created luxury.

Even leaving them with their size/strength/speed, it would be very even because baseball is such a unique game. They will get thrown at routinely and there will be no warnings. They won't have helmets which give a feel of security and comfort. Cleats will cause them blisters, sliding in the infield will leave their legs raw. Horrible injury rehab/prevention, low level knowledge in fielding and hitting techniques. Have you seen the gloves? Fields are much larger, strike zone larger, softer ball, etc...Give them their same size/strength/speed. They would have a battle on their hands, and they'd need to toughen up a bit also.

Imapotato
02-19-2006, 09:10 PM
I'm still baffled as to why baseball seems to be exempt from the natural "evolution" that has taken place in EVERY other sport. Obviously, throwing is a major component of this sport.

It seems the major argument as to why throwing is exempt is because it's really a "skill" and not a product of athletic ability (strength, quickness, size). OK, let's go down that road.



It just cannot, as for let's get out of yesteryears

Ok, Dontrelle Willis

You know how many times pitching coaches tried to change his delivery...all the time

He said no, I am comfortable the way I throw

Hence he is probably a top 5 P in the game

So take Willis' mechanics, they are flawed, not by the doctorine set forth by trainers, yet he excels...I bet alot of pitchers careers are ruined by changing their delivery and technique

One guy I played with, Bill Pulsipher could be deemed as such...he changed to what the Mets wanted him to pitch and he had all sorts of injury problems along with his personal demons

bbforlife
02-19-2006, 09:31 PM
True Or False: (No Maybe)

1. Pitching skills (techniques, mechanics, training) have improved from yester-year?

2. Human beings are stronger, faster and bigger than yester-year?

3. Pitching is a combination of skill and physical ability?

4. Pitchers are human beings?

5. Conclusion: Pitchers today (from top to bottom) are superior to pitchers from yester-year.

If you say false to any of these, please explain why things have gone backwards or stayed stagnant while ALL other sports (skill) have advanced dramatically.

For those of you addressing the "toughness" of the players from the different eras (or even the race issue) - what the heck does that have to do with anything? I'm just saying players today can throw and hit better than yester-year.

I also get a kick out the guy who says current players "could and should" use heavier bats...you must know far more than all the current players and professional experts...Oh, I forgot, we're going backwards in terms of skill, and, I guess, knowledge, as well.

Really, what do you think of the mechanics from the old films of these guys? Why are they different today? Or, are mechanics not relavent? Or as the last post implied, should we get rid of trainers? Boy, the Major Leagues sure are spending alot of money on these useless trainers! I guess Dontrel learned how to pitch by watch these old, grainy, black and white movies of the yester-year guys!

And the commment about "young guns" of today just trying to blow it by 'em. Do you realize that there are far more variations of speed, movement, and placement of pitches? Was the "split finger" even heard of back then? I think not. This is a huge pitch in today's game. Again, these "advances" come with time. How can you continue to discount them.

Again, I ask what did they do better then, that we have somehow lost? There are plenty of examples of improvements: Faster, stronger, better mechanices, better training.

Bottom line: While I can't talk about every sport, ALL the major sports (and all aspects of them) have dramatically improved (except the sportsmanship - not relevant in this argument). Please tell me why baseball, including the mental aspect, has not improved.

Please, I love the old guys too. But I'm realistic and honest enough to know that these arrogant, cocky, obnoxious, greedy players today are, unfortunately better (in every way) than my heroes...

Bench 5
02-19-2006, 09:36 PM
It seems the major argument as to why throwing is exempt is because it's really a "skill" and not a product of athletic ability (strength, quickness, size). OK, let's go down that road.

Have you ever reviewed old video of the old-timers throwing? Their tecnique and mechanics (skill) would be laughed at by any of today's knowledgable pitching trainers. Does that amount to anything? Are they all wasting their time with these latest mechanics/techniques?? Should we use these old videos as training films? Has the REAL pitching art been lost? OK, so let's say you concede that this is worth 4 mph. Well, 4 mph is huge when you're talking about a major league fastball.

If you discount any of the testing done on the speed of pitchers from the past then what basis do you have to argue that they couldn't throw as hard as pitchers of today? The machine that was used to test the speed of Feller's fastball was more accurate than the radar guns in most major league stadiums. Considering that the military used similar testing devices to measure the speed of ballistics, I consider that to be accurate. If you don't judge that to be accurate then how can you believe the accuracy of how fast Chuck Yeager or other pilots flew their planes at the time?

I disagree with you regarding the pitching tecniques of old-timers. A lot of the videos of old-timers show them playing catch on the sideline or going through a motion just for the camera. And a lot of the videos were shot using shutter speeds that make them look herky-jerky. If you slow it down their pitching motions are really no different than a modern pitcher.

And just because major leaguers are trained like cookie cutters to use the same motion doesn't mean that variation is bad anyway. That's one of the reasons I like watching some of the Asian pitchers. They try some funky wind-ups that they wouldn't be allowed to use if they were trained in the USA as children.

I think it's possible that pitchers throw harder on average nowadays but there's no definitive proof.

As for the heavier bats in the past, keep in mind that most players choked up back then. So a 40 ounce bat might feel like a 35 ouncer.

If Bob Cousy were allowed to palm and carry the ball like Allen Iverson I have no doubt that he would be similar to a Stockton or Nash of modern times. How do you think Wilt Chamberlain would do against all of the 6'9" and 6'10" centers of today.

Bench 5
02-19-2006, 09:45 PM
Simple physics would prompt the question of how, if the pitchers of yesteryear didn't throw just about as hard, did players who did not even work out year round, hit balls out of stadiums bigger than the ones used today.

Interesting that you ask that because I found an article from 1886 that describes a ball jacked 450 feet on the fly in 1885. His name was W.H. Lyon........This guy must be the great-great-grandaddy of Mark McGwire! Attached is the article.

Sultan_1895-1948
02-19-2006, 09:58 PM
But I'm realistic and honest enough to know that these arrogant, cocky, obnoxious, greedy players today are, unfortunately better (in every way) than my heroes...

This is where we part ways. These players only appear better because everything surrounding the game is better. That is fact. Strip them of all of this, and they aren't better down to the core, even being bigger and stronger, because baseball above every other game, doesn't rely on bigger and stronger as primary necessities.

The over-hand throwing motion is unnatural and awkward. Physics wise, it's possible to throw a harder pitch underhand than overhand, all things being equal. Less stess, tension, and joint issues. Throwing overhand has a ceiling in terms of velocity, and no amount of strength or mechanics can raise that ceiling.

Bill Burgess
02-19-2006, 10:10 PM
ElHalo contributed this worthwhile data.

Mariano tops out at 97 with his two seamer. But he throws the four seamer at 93 and the cutter between 92 and 95.

Martinez hasn't hit 97 in almost five years. Randy Johnson regularly hits 98 or so, but he'll only hit 100 once in a blue moon. I haven't seen Clemens go higher than 96 since his Toronto days.

My presumptuous estimates for past pitchers.

Johnson 101, Rusie 99, Feller/Grove 98, Waddell 94, Vance 93. I doubt if any of the other pitchers pre-1950, could have hit 90.

Sultan_1895-1948
02-19-2006, 10:19 PM
My presumptuous estimates for past pitchers.

I agree with your 97+ guys Bill, although I would add Joe Wood in there somewhere.

Do you really think there aren't more guys in the 91-95 range though? To not have anyone else throwing 90 seems illogical. That gap is just too large between the elites and the pack. Gotta be a middle ground in there that is above the pack.

Bill Burgess
02-19-2006, 10:32 PM
I agree with your 97+ guys Bill, although I would add Joe Wood in there somewhere.

Do you really think there aren't more guys in the 91-95 range though? To not have anyone else throwing 90 seems illogical. That gap is just too large between the elites and the pack. Gotta be a middle ground in there that is above the pack.
Of course you're right. Joe Wood does belong in there. And I'm positive that many others probably do too. But some of the fastest might not have been among the best, and hence are not that well known to us. Bullet Joe Bush, Ewell Blackwell, Ed Crane and Cy Young were others who were known to have great speed.

Like the early Koufax, pure speed doesn't guarantee that a pitcher will find success, unless he masters other skills, such as his control, and a few other pitches, to set up his fastball.

Bill Burgess

digglahhh
02-20-2006, 07:53 AM
Baseball is a business, trainers etc, are part of that business.

Should we all learn to take care of ourselves better and become less reliant on doctors and drugs? Absolutely! Is their obvious vested financial interest in the continuation of the healing over prevention medical model- you bet!

The greatest advantage of trainers is their advantage to technology, although becoming wholly dependent on that technology engenders a whole new set of problems- its a delicate balance. The necessity of having expanisive coaches and trainers is related to two big factors you didn't mention.

One is that players are not really self-dependent. They are pampered at an early age and, relish the codeling and attention and don't develop self-reliance to much later than they would otherwise. The other is the importance of following orthodoxy in the era of intense media scrutiny. Trainers and coachers are part of the baseball establishment any organization. Backlash for renouncing trainers would be huge, creating a media field day. The stigma against being self-educated feeds adds to the (somewhat contrived) need for pseudo-authorities/gurus. The players are not in need of the trainers so much as they are dependent on them.

Overall, trainers and coaches provide help, but the extent to which they allow players to achieve, beyond what they would by applying "themselves" is not as drastic as some may think, IMO. There have been numerous accounts of coaches ruining pitchers' careers too.

The references to the character of the players, and even to race- were a related to your hypothetical '05 Yanks vs. '27 Yanks match-up to point out the sheer skill level of the players was only one component, and not the totality of the equation.

csh19792001
07-21-2008, 03:31 PM
Steve O’Neill, who spanned the eras of the dead ball and the lively ball, first as a catcher and later as a manager, will tell you the old-time pitchers threw a lot fewer curve balls They threw the ball in there and let the batter hit it. They could rely more on their fielders, because there wasn’t the danger of somebody rocketing that dead ball over the wall or into the seats.-Rogers Hornsby, 1952

The quote above was excerpted from this post. (http://www.baseball-fever.com/showpost.php?p=1253026&postcount=310)

I wanted to bump this thread back up to get more/updated input from our constituency. Some questions ran through my head:

How was pitching different before 1920? Did pitchers throw fewer breaking pitches? How often did they rely on trick pitches vis-a-vis manipulating/destroying the ball? Did pitchers generally exert much less effort per pitch? How was pitching strategy different? I just keep thinking of how Greg Maddux, and how he must look just like the typical dead ball pitcher with his general style and approach.

I'd especially like to here if anyone has any contemporaneous information- quotes such as this one- to answer these questions?

OleMissCub
07-21-2008, 03:59 PM
I just keep thinking of how Greg Maddux, and how he must look just like the typical dead ball pitcher with his general style and approach.

I'd especially like to here if anyone has any contemporaneous information- quotes such as this one- to answer these questions?

I think Maddux is an almost perfect example of a deadball era pitcher.

As far as velocity goes, there are probably more guys who throw harder today than there were back in the day merely on the basis of talent pool and conditioning.

However, I'm certain there were some deadball pitchers who threw as hard as anyone does today. I say this because a human arm is a human arm. The mechanics of an arm haven't changed in 100 years. When I was playing 5A high school baseball, there were pimple faced, lanky kids that could throw 85-90. They were just naturally gifted with those mechanics. That obviously wasn't the norm, but it does help the argument that pitchers probably threw around the same velocity back then as they do now, or were at least capable of it. If there are punk kids out there that can throw 85-90 today, I"m sure that there were GROWN MEN in peak physical condition 100 years ago that could do the same thing.

Yes, the talent pool has expanded, health/conditioning and mechanical training is better, but the human species hasn't mutated in the past 100 years.

Honus Wagner Rules
07-21-2008, 04:22 PM
I think Maddux is an almost perfect example of a deadball era pitcher.

As far as velocity goes, there are probably more guys who throw harder today than there were back in the day merely on the basis of talent pool and conditioning.

However, I'm certain there were some deadball pitchers who threw as hard as anyone does today. I say this because a human arm is a human arm. The mechanics of an arm haven't changed in 100 years. When I was playing 5A high school baseball, there were pimple faced, lanky kids that could throw 85-90. They were just naturally gifted with those mechanics. That obviously wasn't the norm, but it does help the argument that pitchers probably threw around the same velocity back then as they do now, or were at least capable of it. If there are punk kids out there that can throw 85-90 today, I"m sure that there were GROWN MEN in peak physical condition 100 years ago that could do the same thing.

Yes, the talent pool has expanded, health/conditioning and mechanical training is better, but the human species hasn't mutated in the past 100 years.
I've thought about this a lot. Many have stated that there is a limitation to how fast a ball can be thrown. That is true but did Dead Ball era pitchers come close to reaching that limit? I"m not so sure. Let's look at other sproting events that are somewhat similar to throwing a baseball. The closest I can think of is throwing a javelin. Would anyone argue that a javelin thrower from 1905 can throw as far as a modern javelin thrower given the exact same conditions? No, of course not. The difference is that we have well documented evidence that javelin throwers throw farther today than javelin throwers a hundred years ago.

SABR Matt
07-21-2008, 04:45 PM
Simple answer to this question.

Pitchers in 1900 were capable of throwing as hard as they do today, but they only did so when they got into jams and needed it. Just ask Walter Johnson, who famously quipped that anyone who threw their hardest in the first inning was a fool. When you have to throw all nine innings most of the time...you save your energy and you coast your way through games.

brett
07-21-2008, 05:08 PM
Simple answer to this question.

Pitchers in 1900 were capable of throwing as hard as they do today, but they only did so when they got into jams and needed it. Just ask Walter Johnson, who famously quipped that anyone who threw their hardest in the first inning was a fool. When you have to throw all nine innings most of the time...you save your energy and you coast your way through games.

When hitters can't beat you with one big hit, it makes sense. Today power runs deep enough that there is risk. Also, does this raise the esteem for someone like Ruth when pitchers could save their best stuff for him?

In a thread about a year ago, it was discussed that the top sluggers and walkers got a higher relative percentage of walks, and extra bases between 1920 and 1950 than from the 50s on. Possibly this was due to integration deepening lineups. The only exception would be in the 2000s with the rise of Bonds.

SABR Matt
07-21-2008, 05:18 PM
Yes...in the deadball era, with the mushy ball, the BABIP was close to .270...horribly low. Pitchers could coast through a game and accept the .270 average on their balls in play while keeping runs off the board.

deadball-era-rules
07-21-2008, 05:32 PM
In regards to some of the previous comments being made about modern players being better coached and more well-nourished, while better nutrition and coaching do make a big difference, there are other factors to be considered. We have to ask ourselves how big of an impact the lifestyles of the average pitcher 20/50/100 years ago made on their pitching ability. Pitchers 100 years ago grew up with generally more physically demanding lives. Walter Johnson was like many great power pitchers of the early days. He was raised doing hard physical labor from a young age. These players grow up tough and that's why you've got these great pitchers like Cy Young and Joe McGinnity who were able to throw so hard for so many years and continue to win. In addition, your average kid today grows up spending more time in front of the TV than playing baseball. at the turn of the century, baseball was THE game in America. There was no football or basketball to speak of, no tv, no radio (until the mid 1920s or so) so these kids who would grow up to be big leaguers in the 1910s-1930s learned a lot through hours and hours of actual baseball-playing experience, which in my opinion, is the best coach. I do agree that coaching and nutrition is better today than a century ago, but I don't believe that it adds up to modern pitchers being better than those of the past. Look at many of the great players in the game today. Quite a few of them come from poor areas in the Dominican Republic and probably didn't have elite coaches or proper diets.

brett
07-21-2008, 05:41 PM
By the way, as far as foot speed, while guys from the early 1900s had poor times in the 100 compared to world class sprinters today, I do not believe that today's sprinters are really that much faster. I think it is due more to field conditions, shoes etc (not to mention anabolics).

People will look at say powerlifters today and say that hey Bill Kazmaier lifted a combined 2400 pounds in the squat, bench and deadlift, and there are guys today who can do 2800, but these guys do it wearing double thick shirts and supportive elastic suits. I have talked to a guy who trained with someone who benched 1015 pounds. He told me that without supportive gear he sometimes did 550 for 2 reps, and might be able to get 600-650 which is less than Kazmaier did in the late 70s without equipment.

Not only that, my dad could kick my ass and his dad could kick both of our asses at the same time.

deadball-era-rules
07-21-2008, 06:23 PM
Hahaha, well said brett.

OleMissCub
07-21-2008, 06:46 PM
I've thought about this a lot. Many have stated that there is a limitation to how fast a ball can be thrown. That is true but did Dead Ball era pitchers come close to reaching that limit? I"m not so sure. Let's look at other sproting events that are somewhat similar to throwing a baseball. The closest I can think of is throwing a javelin. Would anyone argue that a javelin thrower from 1905 can throw as far as a modern javelin thrower given the exact same conditions? No, of course not. The difference is that we have well documented evidence that javelin throwers throw farther today than javelin throwers a hundred years ago.

I don't understand what your point is exactly. Yes, the records from 100 years ago in most all track and field events have been shattered. But that's not the point. I think most people on here would agree that athletes are better conditioned for their specific competitions today.

However, there are 170lb high school kids out there who can throw 90+. Are you suggesting that there weren't grown men 100 years ago that couldn't do the same thing? Hell, Billy Wagner is a shrimp and he's hit 100mph.

SHOELESSJOE3
07-21-2008, 08:09 PM
I don't understand what your point is exactly. Yes, the records from 100 years ago in most all track and field events have been shattered. But that's not the point. I think most people on here would agree that athletes are better conditioned for their specific competitions today.

However, there are 170lb high school kids out there who can throw 90+. Are you suggesting that there weren't grown men 100 years ago that couldn't do the same thing? Hell, Billy Wagner is a shrimp and he's hit 100mph.

I'm thinking along the same line. Comparing some track and field events, discus throw, javelin and other of those type events, how do we compare those to pitching. Those are strength events with training methods that have probably changed dramatically over the years. Not to dismiss the fact the athletes on average today bigger and stronger but it's not only size, knowledge gained over the years, I don't see the comparison, the advancement over the years to pitching. Yes on average todays pitchers are probably bigger but it's evident that there are some not that big that get in to the mid 90s range.

Track events, changes over the years can't be used to make the same point about pitching.

Honus Wagner Rules
07-21-2008, 08:29 PM
I don't understand what your point is exactly. Yes, the records from 100 years ago in most all track and field events have been shattered. But that's not the point. I think most people on here would agree that athletes are better conditioned for their specific competitions today.
Yes, and throwing a baseball is just as specific a competition as throwing a javelin. Why I just don't get is the people agree that athletes today can throw a javelin much further than a hundred yet can't accept that pitchers today throw harder than a hundred years ago. The arm motion for throwing a javelin is very similar to throwing a baseball. If find it hard to believe that pitchers didn't come up new ways to pitch faster just how they refined the javelin throw.



However, there are 170lb high school kids out there who can throw 90+. Are you suggesting that there weren't grown men 100 years ago that couldn't do the same thing? Hell, Billy Wagner is a shrimp and he's hit 100mph.
I'm suggesting that we can't just assume that there were such grown men 100 years ago. Maybe they existed, maybe they didn't. As for Billy Wagner he's listed as 5'10" 180 pounds. That is not that small. And a hundred years ago he would have been considered at least an average size if not bigger. Frank Baker is listed at 5'11" and 173 pounds. I'd never heard anyone refer to Baker as small.

kgrifeyjr30
07-21-2008, 08:35 PM
well maybe there was more of a difference 100 years ago. But its been accurately recorded that almost 70 years ago Bob Feller was hitting the high 90's and sometimes 100+. Thats just one example but im sure there are others as well.

deadball-era-rules
07-21-2008, 08:37 PM
I agree, we've already talked about how baseball is the only sport where modern athletes can truly be compared evenly with players of 100 years ago (It seems at least). I say forget the track stuff. I don't want to dive into this without my resources at hand, but I have read Walter Johnson's biography "Walter Johnson: Baseball's Big Train" and in it there is detailed documentation of an attempt to clock Johnson's pitching speed. I'll do the best I can without haveing the book in my hands to directly quote it, but I'll dig it up asap. Anyway, late in Johnson's career a group got together to try to clock Johnson's speed with an extremely crude radar gun. The gun didn't work at all like a modern one. Instead Johnson had to throw a ball into a can about the size of a coffee can from the pitching mound and inside this can there were a series of strings. The way the things worked was that they measured the time between each string being broken to measure how fast the ball was moving. Johnson threw a lot of pitches but was unable to get a hard-thrown ball directly into the can. Finally, he eased up to gain accuracy and they managed to get a direct hit reading (I'm pretty sure) about 88 mph. I'd say considering Johnson was doing this late in his career and with less than full power than it's safe to say that in his prime he could hit over 100 mph. Don't quote me yet, because I still need to go back and reread some info (I will do it, just give me a few days), but off the top of my head I think that's what I remeber reading.

For what it's worth, I also wrote to Bob Feller himself asking who the fastest pitcher of all time was, and he wrote back that Johnson was. I personally think Feller has probably seen more pitchers than just about any living person today, and he's still sharp as a tack. That is just one Hall of Famer's opinion, but it is the great Feller himself so make your own assessment.

Honus Wagner Rules
07-21-2008, 08:40 PM
I'm thinking along the same line. Comparing some track and field events, discus throw, javelin and other of those type events, how do we compare those to pitching.

Sorry, but throwing a javelin is NOT a strength event. The javelin weighs 1.76 lbs. It's very similar to throwing a baseball and takes as much skill. If you look like a modern world class javelin throwers they are hardly big men. Pitchers like Roger Clemens, Mark Prior, A.J. Burnett, etc. are huge compared to a lot of javelin throwers.

Honus Wagner Rules
07-21-2008, 08:42 PM
well maybe there was more of a difference 100 years ago. But its been accurately recorded that almost 70 years ago Bob Feller was hitting the high 90's and sometimes 100+. Thats just one example but im sure there are others as well.

Please post a link that details these events. When did Bob Feller hit 100+ mph? And how do we know the recording is accurate?

SHOELESSJOE3
07-21-2008, 08:59 PM
Sorry, but throwing a javelin is NOT a strength event. The javelin weighs 1.76 lbs. It's very similar to throwing a baseball and takes as much skill. If you look like a modern world class javelin throwers they are hardly big men. Pitchers like Roger Clemens, Mark Prior, A.J. Burnett, etc. are huge compared to a lot of javelin throwers.

I don't see it that way, it may not be 100 percent strength but it's an athlete who trains for that few seconds to heave that javelin as far as he can. I don't see the comparison to an athete throwing a baseball, a great number of pitches. Either a pitcher can throw hard or he can't, the other the javelin thrower does what ever training he can to improve distance, he improves over time. It's obvious over time with advancements in training track athletes move ahead more so than a pitcher over the years.

Track is a whole different world than baseball.

deadball-era-rules
07-21-2008, 09:11 PM
Ok, we really need to get away from javelin toss and back to baseball. Similar throwing motion? Yes. 100 percent relatable? Absolutely not. A baseball only weighs 5.5 ounces and of course it's shaped very differently. Let's get back on track here, or should I say off track (No pun intended)?

Honus Wagner Rules
07-21-2008, 09:26 PM
I don't see it that way, it may not be 100 percent strength but it's an athlete who trains for that few seconds to heave that javelin as far as he can. I don't see the comparison to an athete throwing a baseball, a great number of pitches.
But this thread is NOT about throwing a great number of pitches. It's about how hard a pitcher can throw at maximum effort just like throwing a javelin. And the arm motions are very similar.



Either a pitcher can throw hard or he can't, the other the javelin thrower does what ever training he can to improve distance, he improves over time. It's obvious over time with advancements in training track athletes move ahead more so than a pitcher over the years.
So a pitcher throws hard or he can't? There is no possible exercise or training that a pitcher can do to throw harder? But a javelin thrower can train to improve his distance? How does that work? Improving a javelin distance is really increasing how hard one can throw it at the point of release, just like throwing a baseball.



Track is a whole different world than baseball.
I'm not talking about every single event in track, just one. And that one event is such that it is very similar to throwing a baseball.

SHOELESSJOE3
07-21-2008, 09:28 PM
I see some are going back to the dead ball era, thats a whole different show. I think it's reasonable to believe that before 1920 pitchers could coast more.

In mid season 1920 the practice of leaving a ball in the game for many inning was no more.
Before that the ball would be left in the game for many innings, beat up, grass stained, tobacco stained. The average number of balls in a game before that change was 3 or 4 per game.
No more trick deliveries.
Gradually in the 1920s more hitters going for the long ball.

I'm not even considering what took place before 1920, that was a whole different game.

SHOELESSJOE3
07-21-2008, 09:36 PM
But this thread is NOT about throwing a great number of pitches. It's about how hard a pitcher can throw at maximum effort just like throwing a javelin. And the arm motions are very similar.


So a pitcher throws hard or he can't? There is no possible exercise or training that a pitcher can do to throw harder? But a javelin thrower can train to improve his distance? How does that work? Improving a javelin distance is really increasing how hard one can throw it at the point of release, just like throwing a baseball.


I'm not talking about every single event in track, just one. And that one event is such that it is very similar to throwing a baseball.
I could be wrong but I have never heard of a pitcher doing any form of excercize to improve speed. I would think that throwing alone would add some strength and speed.

To get to my point, not in total disagreement with you. Only believe that many track events have advanced at a far greater degree than that of pitching over the years. Difficult to compare the change in those two subjects over the years.

OleMissCub
07-21-2008, 09:44 PM
I'm suggesting that we can't just assume that there were such grown men 100 years ago. Maybe they existed, maybe they didn't.

I love you as a poster normally, but this is just absurd. There is no doubt that the average person is bigger, but size is not even close to the main thing when it comes to pitching velocity. But let's assume that it is:

These guys can throw 95 MPH:

http://i.a.cnn.net/si/2008/writers/john_donovan/03/03/donovan.pedro/PedroJohan2.jpghttp://www.babble.com/CS/blogs/famecrawler/2007/09/16-22/Oswalt_Roy_03.jpghttp://www.nypress.com/images/300px-Rivera2.jpg
http://i162.photobucket.com/albums/t257/jv1325/thisone.jpghttp://img88.imageshack.us/img88/9417/2326685451e477834c86pj8.jpg


....and these guys 100 years ago couldn't?

Walter Johnson:
http://img151.imageshack.us/img151/3932/trainoo9.jpg

http://baseball-fever.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=23572&d=1178394665

http://baseball-fever.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=16807&d=1167450293http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/3b40000/3b43000/3b43900/3b43953r.jpghttp://img297.imageshack.us/img297/3447/erniego0.jpg


Maybe they existed, maybe they didn't.

Of course they existed!!!

Honus Wagner Rules
07-21-2008, 10:25 PM
Funny you showed Tim Lincecum. How do you think he can throw so hard? Could it be because his dad studied video of many pitchers and created a unique pitching motion? Could it be that his dad applied modern kineseology ideas to maximize his pitching motion. In Walter Johnson's time where they dicussing things like hip rotation, shoulder rotation, arm vectoring, stride length, etc? Here is recent article on the details of Tim Lincecum's pitching motion. Here's a short bit of it.



Such velocity was possible only because Lincecum's delivery is an engineering marvel, and he has the athleticism and fine-gauge musculature to pull it off time after time after time. Most pitchers are taught a delivery in segments, such as a step back, a gathering of the limbs while balanced over the rubber, the loading of the ball in a cocked position behind the head and then a fast uncoiling of the body as the arm comes forward. Hall of Fame righthander Robin Roberts used to say, "If you're going to hurry, hurry late," a reference to accelerated arm speed at the end of the more measured movements to keep the body balanced.

Lincecum, by contrast, pitches with the intentions of a drag racer: It's go time from the start. His delivery gives the illusion of being one movement rather than the cobbling of several separate ones. Righetti calls this apparent seamlessness "flow."

"The hardest thing to do is slow down, gather yourself, then throw a ball," says the pitching coach. "Greg Maddux, Bob Gibson, Rich Gossage—they all flowed through their delivery. They keep their momentum going. Those flow guys are the ones who can sustain the grind of pitching. I think [Tim's] a longevity guy, I really do."

The quickness of Lincecum's small body is what scared off most scouts—that and what has become something of a trademark, a tilting of his head toward first base in the early phase of his delivery. The scouts equated his body speed with violence. That assessment, however, is akin to watching the Blue Angels air-show team and not seeing the precision because of a fixation with the implicit danger. Lincecum generates outrageous rotational power—the key element to velocity—only because his legs, hips and torso work in such harmony.

"When the scouts started looking at him," says Chris, "size was 80 percent of their problem [with Tim] and style about 20 percent. I think one guy said his mechanics were unorthodox, and people ran with it. His mechanics are very efficient. Extremely efficient. You don't see wasted energy. When he's done, he's not exhausted."

One key to Lincecum's delivery is to keep his left side, especially his left shoulder, aimed toward his target for as long as possible. "Don't open up too soon because then you lose leverage," Tim says. "If you twist a rubber band against itself, the recoil is bigger. The more torque I can come up with, the better."

http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1141385/1/index.htm






Of course they existed!!!

Then show us the evidence! :) Don't just assert it or make comments like "We all know the old timers could throw 100 mph." :) I don't want to "know" that way. How do you "know". I want to see some evidence to back up these kinds of claims. You are basically making the argument from analogy that since small guys can throw 95-100 mph today then the big guys from the far past could throw harder. That's not a really convincing argument. I tend to believe that Walter Johnson threw very hard perhaps upper 90s+. But other than him who else threw that hard? All the first hand accounts seem to indicate that Johnson was throwing much harder than everyone one else.

Honus Wagner Rules
07-21-2008, 10:34 PM
I could be wrong but I have never heard of a pitcher doing any form of excercize to improve speed. I would think that throwing alone would add some strength and speed.

To get to my point, not in total disagreement with you. Only believe that many track events have advanced at a far greater degree than that of pitching over the years. Difficult to compare the change in those two subjects over the years.
I would think that the exercise one would do to increase velocity of throwing a javelin could be applied to pitching in principle. I know nothing about javelin training. I'll go research some.

OleMissCub
07-21-2008, 11:18 PM
Then show us the evidence! :) Don't just assert it or make comments like "We all know the old timers could throw 100 mph." :) I don't want to "know" that way. How do you "know".

I think the burden is on YOU to prove that there weren't pitchers who threw in the 90's back then.

So when did this see change happen? There are pitchers today that throw upper 90's and a great many pimple faced high schoolers that can throw in the 90's as well. Pitcher's existed in the 60's who could do the same, such as Ryan, Gibson, or Koufax, and I'm sure there were plenty others. So it must have happened before the 60's.



Maybe people suddenly figured out pitching mechanics and started eating their Wheaties in the 1940's when Hal Newhouser came around. They said he could throw in the low 80's...but it was only whispered; nobody at the time dare think that a pitcher could throw above 80, lest they be shunned by their friends and colleagues for thinking crazy thoughts.

http://i255.photobucket.com/albums/hh153/OleMissCub17/newhouser-1.gif



Perhaps this change happened when Bob Feller was born? He was born in 1918, so maybe there was some excess gas from the European battlefields that wafted over the ocean and settled into the genes of humans that made them not only physically capable of throwing in the 90's, but intelligent enough to figure out how to optimize velocity.

http://img169.imageshack.us/img169/7200/fellergifjb3.gif



Or maybe it happened when Dizzy Dean was born in 1910. He was noted for having an exceptional fastball. Personally, I think it only topped out around 82-83, given that the fastball enabling gas hadn't come over yet.

http://i255.photobucket.com/albums/hh153/OleMissCub17/dizzpitch2.gif



Dazzy Vance was born in 1891, almost a full 30 years before humans were being born that were capable of throwing in the 90's. Thus, my guess is that he threw in the mid 70's, which is about what I was throwing in High School with zero training. I probably could have struck out 262 men in 1924 too with my blazing 70's fastball.

http://img221.imageshack.us/img221/7788/dazzyaw8.gif
*Though it looks like slow motion, this is actually Vance's pitching motion in real time.

deadball-era-rules
07-21-2008, 11:34 PM
I think this debate is starting to drift. We need to stop and redefine what exactly we're debating here. I think it is simply, were pitchers 100 years ago capable of throwing in excess of 95-100 mph? With that said, I would like to make a few comments.

Regarding difficulty of the era: While It think it is obvious pitchers had it easier during the deadball era, the argument is whether pitchers could throw at a maximum velocity equal to that of modern pitchers. Pitchers 100 years ago could definitely get through a game easier without throwing their hardest thanks to the mushy nature of the ball, but that doesn't relate to the question at hand.

Regarding size: This really doesn't make a huge difference. While there are a few out there like Randy Johnson who are just so tall that it must give him an edge in gaining velocity, for the most part a few inches here or there isn't going to make a world of difference. Tim Lincecum and Pedro Martinez are two good examples. They're both about 170 lbs, 5"11' and they can (Or could, in Pedro's case) throw serious heat. Yes, the average pre-WWII player was shorter in stature, but not by a huge margin, and not enough to make a great difference. Many deadball pitchers were at least within four inches of the modern average. If you wanted to argue that height made all the difference than why isn't Randy Johnson throwing 110 mph and Yao Ming throwing 400 mph? Final conclusion: Height is not a major factor in pitching speed (Although it isn't totally irrelevant).

Regarding player accounts: There was talk earlier of accounts from old timers who claimed to have been unable to see some of Johnson's fastballs. Well, while I'm for the side saying these guys could throw just as hard as their modern peers, some credit must go to the fact that a baseball in the deadball era lasted much longer during a game than a modern one. in 1920 Ray Chapman was hit in the head and killed because of a dirty ball that he couldn't see coming, and that ball was thrown by Carl Mays, not known to be a spectacular fireballer if I remember right.

Regarding Training: Yes, training is helpful and does improve pitching ability, and velocity to a lesser extent. This being noted, it's seems common sense to me that pitching itself is the best exercise to improve pitching velocity and pitching ability in general. I would say that pitchers 100 years ago did much more of this kind of training than modern pitchers. They grew up with nothing to do but work (Equivalent to strength training) and play baseball. Practice makes perfect I say.

So, here we are. What are we to make of this? Well, I for one don't think that all the stories regarding Johnson can be blamed on dirty baseballs. There are accounts from Johnny Evers, Casey Stengel, and dozens more claiming they never saw pitches that Johnson threw. So, taking this in mind with my earlier post (Which I think just got buried amidst the Wagner_rules/shoeless joe debate) it is probably safe to say that while deadball era pitchers did not throw as many fastballs as modern pitchers, they could rear back and throw them just as hard as modern guys when they wanted to. I also want to emphasize that although Walter Johnson is the old timer all of us deadball-promoters throw forth first as a modern-style fastballer, he wasn't the only one who could hit the mid and high nineties. Johnson himself, when asked if Joe Wood threw as hard as him, stated: “Joe Wood? No man alive throws harder than Joe Wood can.” That’s directly from the mouth of the man himself (I think it’s worth noting that Joe Wood was of similar build to Lincecum). Johnson is only heralded so often because he won so many games, threw so many shutouts and was a fan favorite. There are less famous pitchers whose speed was compared to Johnson’s. Lefty Grove was known as an incredible fastball pitcher, Rube Waddell Was as well. There is even a section in the book “The Old Ball Game” that suggests Matthewson could throw with near Johnson-like speed (Although I doubt it. It’s likely a review from a biased fan). In regards to talking about gaining speed through delivery, Johnson had a great delivery. Pitchers like Lincecum and Koufax came over the top, using their arms like catapults to get the top speed on their pitches. Johnson’s delivery worked on the same principle. If you’ve ever had the privilege to watch old video of Johnson pitching, you’ll notice that his arm doesn’t come around his body until he’s planting his foot and turning his body to its fullest. This would allow his arm to work like a sling and create incredible whip to his pitches. His power comes not from his arm, but by transferring energy through his body into his arm. There is no wasted motion and he gets a long stride and good arm extension. His arm is essentially doing very little of the work, which not only generates great speed, it allowed him to extend his career twenty-one years. Look at the video I've attached to the bottom of this post to see what I’m talking about. I've also included video of Nolan Ryan next to Dizzy Dean. While these two had basically similar deliveries, is is widely accepted (and rightfully so I think) that Ryan threw significantly faster. Note how much Ryan and Dean are relying on their shoulder and arm to do the brunt of the work.

By the way, I did manage to find the page in Johnson's biography regarding throwing speed. You can read it if you follow the link I've pasted here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=0ca-EYo-gY0C&pg=PA105&lpg=PA105&dq=walter+johnson+clocked+at&source=web&ots=YhKy9OFl9J&sig=SyB5hiarX7AuiSNUAkI7SQyIgqU&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=3&ct=result

Essentially it shows that Johnson, while pitching in street clothes and at an angle not in line with his regular throwing motion, AND without throwing his hardest, Johnson threw 82 mph.

My final verdict: While the old guys didn't throw as many fastballs as modern pitchers, they could cut one loose with the best of the modern pitchers when they needed to. There are likely more pitchers throwing high-velocity heat now than 100 years ago, but that doesn't mean the deadballers couldn't do if they really wanted to. :twocents:

I would assume that this debate over pitching velocity is just a reworded way of asking whether olde-tyme or modern pitchers werebetter, and in the end I say regardless of who was throwing the fastest, Tim Wakefield does pretty darn good with a 65 mph fastball. Speed does not equal greatness. Old timers may not have used the heat as much, but maybe that's because they were smarter. Cy Young probably wouldn't have lasted through 749 complete games if he'd thrown his arm off every game like they do today. Maddux is the best modern pitcher in my estimation, and he relies on cunning, not speed. Heck, look at Warren Spahn too. At any rate, I think this last paragraph is kind of off topic, so don't consider this an argument in any way. Just look at everything I stated before this last paragraph and tell me what you think.

To get a good handle on pitching from generation to generation, I recommend reading up on the greats of each generation. Walter Johnson has the biography I've already mentioned, sandy Koufax has a splendidly written bio titled "Lefty's Legacy" that I highly recommend. there are even bios out there on guys like Rube Waddell (What a character, I wish he were pitching today!) and Christy Matthewson. You can find them all on Amazon. Arm yourselves with knowledge!:cap: One request- Please don’t bring that darn javelin thing back up.

Honus Wagner Rules
07-21-2008, 11:51 PM
I think the burden is on YOU to prove that there weren't pitchers who threw in the 90's back then.
OMC, that's not how debates work. If an assertion is made, (old time pitchers could throw 100 mph) then it up to those asserting this to show evidence. It's not logically possible to prove something didn't exist. I'll I'm asking for is solid evidence that other pitchers besides Walter Johnson could throw that hard. Is that too much to ask?

OleMissCub
07-22-2008, 12:04 AM
OMC, that's not how debates work. If an assertion is made, (old time pitchers could throw 100 mph) then it up to those asserting this to show evidence. It's not logically possible to prove something didn't exist. I'll I'm asking for is solid evidence that other pitchers besides Walter Johnson could throw that hard. Is that too much to ask?

First off, I never said they could throw 100 mph.

I said:


As far as velocity goes, there are probably more guys who throw harder today than there were back in the day merely on the basis of talent pool and conditioning.

However, I'm certain there were some deadball pitchers who threw as hard as anyone does today.

Furthermore, you are asking for something that you know there is no way your opponents can prove. Speed guns didn't exist back then, so there is nothing we can do to "prove" that they threw such and such speed. What we can do is look at their pitching motions and recognize the same mechanics that allow people to throw with great velocity today.

What I want to know is how it is possible that there were 16-17 year olds that I played with and against in high school and legion ball that threw 90mph with no advanced training other than their beer gutted hillbilly coach, but professional pitchers wouldn't be able to do it 100 years ago.

Honus Wagner Rules
07-22-2008, 12:08 AM
One request- Please don’t bring that darn javelin thing back up.Why is that? Are we going to be dictating what topics can and cannot be mentioned in an open forum, now? My whole point is that throwing a javelin is very similar to throwing a baseball. Here's a video of world class javelin throwers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMtrMhGDFtU&feature=related

Their throwing motions look very familiar no? So if javelin throwers can improve their velocity over the decades it seems odd to argue that somehow pitchers could not improve their velocity over the decades as well. I wonder how fast a javelin thrower could throw a baseball? :)

To restate my position if it's not clear. I believe that the hard throwers in the game today as group throw harder and more often than the pitchers of the Dead Ball era. Sure there were guys like Walter Johnson and Bob Feller but they were the extreme exception. Even so we have no idea if they ever threw 100 mph in a game. We just don't. To assert that they did as if it a known proven fact is just silly to me. We do know Feller throw a baseball at 98.6 mph and that Johnson was supposedly clocked at 99 mph. However, throwing a baseball at 99 mph is not the same thing as pitching a ball 99 mph off of a pitching mound for a strike facing a major league batter. All these 100+ mph pitches for Ryan, Zumaya, Johnson, J.R. Richard, etc. were in actual game conditions, something that neither Johnson nor Feller was ever recorded of doing.

Honus Wagner Rules
07-22-2008, 12:11 AM
First off, I never said they could throw 100 mph.

I said:



Furthermore, you are asking for something that you know there is no way your opponents can prove. Speed guns didn't exist back then, so there is nothing we can do to "prove" that they threw such and such speed. What we can do is look at their pitching motions and recognize the same mechanics that allow people to throw with great velocity today.

What I want to know is how it is possible that there were 16-17 year olds that I played with and against in high school and legion ball that threw 90mph with no advanced training other than their beer gutted hillbilly coach, but professional pitchers wouldn't be able to do it 100 years ago.
Then I guess we misunderstood each other. I never said the Dead Ball guys couldn't pitch 90 mph. I was referring to pitching at 98-100 mph.

deadball-era-rules
07-22-2008, 12:28 AM
Ok, I guess you two just want to go at it instead of trying to help one another learn something. I'm trying to bring forth some points to talk about but you guys aren't interested. I'll find another topic to discuss.

OleMissCub
07-22-2008, 12:35 AM
Then I guess we misunderstood each other. I never said the Dead Ball guys couldn't pitch 90 mph. I was referring to pitching at 98-100 mph.

Well, there aren't many guys that get it up that high today either.

There is no way of proving the speed of the great pitchers of the old days, and you know this. It's like as if someone said "I don't believe humans had the ability to smile before 1900 because no photographs exist of people doing it."

Just use your logic. Nolan Ryan was throwing his tremendous heat in the late 60's. Steve Dalkowski threw just as hard, and probably harder, than Ryan did during the 1950's. 40 years before Dalkowski were the deadballers. 40 years before us right now was Nolan Ryan. Do you honestly think that humans can change in 40 years time?

I don't see why you have to have strong physical evidence (which you know doesn't exist) on something that simple logic should explain. If a human could do something 50+ years ago, why wouldn't they also be able to do that same thing just 30 years before that?

If not, when did this miraculous ability to throw 98-100 first occur?

OleMissCub
07-22-2008, 12:38 AM
Ok, I guess you two just want to go at it instead of trying to help one another learn something. I'm trying to bring forth some points to talk about but you guys aren't interested. I'll find another topic to discuss.

What are you barking at me for? I was in agreement with everything you said in your post, thus I had no reason to comment on it.

SABR Matt
07-22-2008, 12:56 AM
You guys are debating something with little utility.

What we SHOULD be debating is..."Did old pitchers ROUTINELY throw 95+ the way today's pitchers do?"

And the answer to that question is not likely to be yes. I think there are athletic freaks in every generation...from the dawn of man, people have been capable of things no one else around them were. I think the difference between 1900 baseball and 2000 baseball is MASS PRODUCTION. In 1900, if you were a freak, you could throw it hard. If not...you probably couldn't. Today, the expertise, intelligence and training of hundreds of athletic coaches, families and players is producing 95 mph relief pitchers like Ford produces cars. Today, it's not at all surprising that even the worst teams have three or four guys who can throw it 95+ with good movement (command and good pitch selection may be lacking...LOL). That is almost definitely not going to be true in 1920.

The other difference is that old time pitchers who WERE freaks who could throw hard naturally didn't choose to throw hard on the vast majority of their pitches. They only reached back for their best fastball in high leverage situations and against the best hitters. Today, game conditions force pitchers to throw hard at least half the time...if not more. Max effort pitchers fill every bullpen in baseball. The starters throw harder and burn out more rapidly. Injury rates are increasing. But the game is much tougher for the the average batter.

Sultan_1895-1948
07-22-2008, 06:49 AM
You guys are debating something with little utility.

What we SHOULD be debating is..."Did old pitchers ROUTINELY throw 95+ the way today's pitchers do?"

I think the answer to that question is a definite "no." Having said that, the more important question, imo, is "Does throwing hard constitute being a better pitcher?" The answer to that is also, a definite no." While having extreme velocity will allow you to get away with many more mistakes, essentially just raising your margin for error, considering the lack of time the batter has to see, read and react, it is not a requirement for being a great pitcher.

Another important point you bring up, is that even though some pitchers had 92-96 MPH ability, why in their right minds would they bring that in routinely, given the state of the game. In a pinch, sure. On certain counts, sure. As a show-me pitch from time to time, sure. But not consistently. That would be foolish.

When Babe came along, and he stepped into the box, it became an immediate pinch. It became a situation of, you better get this guy out or simply give him a pass. And passing him became all the more dangerous once Lou came around. It must be taken into consideration, that the best, most dangerous hitters back then, faced pitchers who were indeed throwing with their best stuff, and not coasting. So you can say that a guy's OPS+ wouldn't be as high if he played today. But the counter point to that, is that he was already receiving more focus/energy from the pitcher, than most other hitters, which, imo, off-setts some of that OPS+ talk.

I don't like the javelin comparison. Different motion. You don't use the same muscles. You use your legs and torso much more after having sprinted forward.

There were all-time outfield arms several decades ago, and those weren't the guys being scouted primarily for their arms. The pitchers were. I see no reason to believe pitchers back then didn't have the ability to throw in the mid-90's, and would have done it consistently, had the game style called for it. Today, pitchers have to give every ounce on every pitch, for the most part, because hitters have never enjoyed more comfort. The environment has never been geared for pitchers to fail more than today. Lucky for them, most hitters take screwed up approaches and slightly decrease an otherwise huge margin for error, allowing some pitchers to thrive.

SABR Matt
07-22-2008, 07:22 AM
Velocity isn't REQUIRED for good pitching to occur, no. It does, however, raise the general level of pitching quality in the game when the average velocity of each pitch increases. And IMHO, the "pitch-to-contact" mentality of the deadball era made pitchers considerably less important to the outcome of games and therefore less valuable.

hellborn
07-22-2008, 07:53 AM
I've posted this elsewhere on BBF, but I had the pleasure of seeing RJ pitch in person at Fenway a while ago, and he was hitting 93-94 with a motion that reminded me very much of film I've seen of Walter Johnson...fairly "low energy", wasn't bring the back leg around at all. As the game progressed, he started bringing the back leg around and throwing a tad harder...he was also out of the game after 6-7 or so innings.
I firmly believe that a physical prodigy such as WJ could easily have thrown high 90s as a young man with his low energy delivery (as far as the lower body is concerned)...but, as SABR Matt says, the man was expected to finish every game he started, so he would have paced himself and those super fast pitches would have been few and far between. As a result, they would have been mind boggling to the hitters when they were thrown. Christy Mathewson emphasizes pace and only throwing at full effort when absolutely required in "Pitching in a Pinch", and even ridicules pitchers who are dumb enough to throw "hard" on every pitch.
Guys like Vance, Grove, and Feller...well, they have "modern" high energy deliveries and I'm sure they threw hellacious fastballs, but I'm not sure if they paced themselves in quite the same way. I would guess that they did to some degree to be able to throw so many CGs, but I'm not sure. Can't we ask Mr. Feller directly somehow? I'm sure he'd share his opinions...

HitchedtoaSpark
07-22-2008, 08:17 AM
I don't like the javelin comparison. Different motion. You don't use the same muscles. You use your legs and torso much more after having sprinted forward.


It's a poor example, not the least because technological changes in the javelin itself and thrower's running track, plus stylistic overhauls in throwing mechanics have made it a whole different ballgame:

http://www2.iaaf.org/TheSport/sport/jt/intro.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Javelin_throw#Competition_and_throws



Christy Mathewson emphasizes pace and only throwing at full effort when absolutely required in "Pitching in a Pinch", and even ridicules pitchers who are dumb enough to throw "hard" on every pitch.

On the other hand, such a remark indicates that there were indeed pitchers at that time who were throwing hard on every pitch; and there's no reason to suppose only mere journeymen were following this practice. Walter Johnson confessed that prior to 1910 he went all out on every pitch, and Joe Wood expressed a similar description of his fireballing style.

I'll repeat from my OP that, four years later, I still see no good, defensible reason why hurlers as much as 100 years ago or more were not or could not bring the heat like today's mound aces do under normal game conditions.

hellborn
07-22-2008, 08:28 AM
...

On the other hand, such a remark indicates that there were indeed pitchers at that time who were throwing hard on every pitch; and there's no reason to suppose only mere journeymen were following this practice. Walter Johnson confessed that prior to 1910 he went all out on every pitch, and Joe Wood expressed a similar description of his fireballing style.

I'll repeat from my OP that, four years later, I still see no good, defensible reason why hurlers as much as 100 years ago or more were not or could not bring the heat like today's mound aces do under normal game conditions.

I think that Christy was implying that such dumb pitchers wouldn't make the majors. It is interesting that '10 was Walter's first big year...ERA+ went from 109 to 183, CGs from 27/36 to 38/42, record from 13-25 to 25-17, Ks from 164 to 313 (in about 74 more innings pitched, to be fair). If that was really when WJ stopped throwing full effort on every pitch, maybe that's good evidence that Christy's advice was good for that time.
But, it also shows that Walter probably was gunning high 90s heat in there pitch after pitch for a great many complete games for a few years, which backs up your point. Maybe it just didn't work so great for him due to the fatigue it brought on.

HitchedtoaSpark
07-22-2008, 08:39 AM
I think that Christy was implying that such dumb pitchers wouldn't make the majors. It is interesting that '10 was Walter's first big year...ERA+ went from 109 to 183, CGs from 27/36 to 38/42, record from 13-25 to 25-17, Ks from 164 to 313 (in about 74 more innings pitched, to be fair). If that was really when WJ stopped throwing full effort on every pitch, maybe that's good evidence that Christy's advice was good for that time.

Such pitchers did, however, reach, and even thrive in the majors (and still do) following this approach. (The anecdotal evidence is overwhelming.) In the context of how atrocious his batting support was, and how heavily his decimated staffmates leaned on him that year, Johnson's 1909 season is actually a tremendous achievement.

Nonetheless, Christy's advice was indeed absolutely good for the time; and still is today, despite the fact that changes in usage patterns have rendered this practice not nearly as critical as it used to be.

DoubleX
07-22-2008, 08:44 AM
It wouldn't surprise me. Players and people in general, are just bigger, stronger, and healthier today and pitchers have better conditioning targeted at maximizing their arm's potential (not to mention are working hard at early age with focused training to develop their pitching). Plus, with things like radar guns, there is something palpable to reach for - instead of just trying to throw hard, you're trying to shoot for a specific number. Also, hitters used much heavier bats way back when, which could suggest that they didn't need as much bat speed as today to catch up to pitches.

I'd actually be surprised if pitchers say from 100 years ago threw as hard on the whole as pitchers today. Doesn't mean that no one back then could throw as hard as modern pitchers, but on the whole, I would think there's more velocity now.

deadball-era-rules
07-22-2008, 01:22 PM
I agree. I think that there are a lot more high velocity fastballs being thrown today that 50/100 years ago. I don't, however, think that pitchers 100 years ago were incapable of hitting the high 90s. I think that even with pitchers throwing more high-speed fastballs today, if I was a manager of an MLB team I would be more worried to see Lefty Grove warming up in the opposing teams bullpen than a lot of modern pitchers.

This argument is similar to trying to argue whether players during the deadball era could hit for great power since there were far less home runs. Everyone knows that would be an outrageous claim. Of course Wagner and Cobb could swat the ball as far as many of the top modern sluggers, but there's no way to prove it 100 percent.

THE OX
07-22-2008, 02:02 PM
--I think an important point about Feller's 98.6 MPH clocling is that it came in 1946 and probably did not represent his top speed. I've read comments by Feller to the effect that when he returned from the War he started throwing the slider more and that accounted for his strikeout record in 1946. Batters simply weren't prepared to deal with a very good slider in additon to the great fastball - and a pretty damn good curve. Another comment by Feller that suggests he was not throwing as hard then, although more effectively, is that he used a very high leg kick early in his career but abandoned it after several years. The high leg kick gave him a little extra speed, but hurt his control. I'm fairly confident that had Feller been timed before the War he could have hit 100+.

I remember reading an anecdote by Billy Goodman (AL batting champ, 1950), probably in an old issue of Baseball Digest, concerning his first AB against Feller in 1947 as a pinch-hitter.

After not even seeing the ball, he went back to the bench and heard veterans saying, "What a shame Feller has lost his fastball."

Goodman supposedly said, "Whatever he lost, he doesn't NEED!" Apparently Feller still possessed a very impressive fastball 10 years after his major league debut, and after 4 years off as a gunner on a battleship.

brett
07-22-2008, 02:08 PM
I agree. I think that there are a lot more high velocity fastballs being thrown today that 50/100 years ago. I don't, however, think that pitchers 100 years ago were incapable of hitting the high 90s.

I would amend this to say that some pitchers could hit the 90s, but there were certainly many pitchers who could make it in that era with control and change of speed. Since pitchers could be successful throwing various speed stuff from 60-80, I think that most pitchers of the deadball era could not throw close to 90. Basically there was more variety of pitching styles.

What batters FACED on average was pitchers who probably topped out in the low 80s.

OleMissCub
07-22-2008, 02:45 PM
If y'all haven't seen it yet, check out my video for Bob Feller. At the end of it you get to see Feller make Greenberg look absolutely stupid with his fastball thrown from the stretch.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAm5fwb1Psw

csh19792001
07-22-2008, 08:01 PM
And IMHO, the "pitch-to-contact" mentality of the deadball era made pitchers considerably less important to the outcome of games and therefore less valuable.

But they individually pitched so much more than today's pitchers that the 3 day rest, 3 or 4 day rotation guys at least as valuable as today's 5 man, 5 day rest guys.

In fact, "at least" isn't even accurate; the greatest pitchers of the pre-1920 era were certainly more valuable and important to their teams in comparison to today's greatest pitchers.

SABR Matt
07-22-2008, 08:04 PM
In terms of total wins created, yes that's true Chris.

In terms of impact on any ONE game...no they weren't.

Yeah...when you start 50 or 70 games for your team, you're going to amass a lot of raw value...but in terms of per-game impact...the pitching position as a whole was markedly less valuable.

csh19792001
07-22-2008, 08:10 PM
I remember reading an anecdote by Billy Goodman (AL batting champ, 1950), probably in an old issue of Baseball Digest, concerning his first AB against Feller in 1947 as a pinch-hitter.

After not even seeing the ball, he went back to the bench and heard veterans saying, "What a shame Feller has lost his fastball."

Goodman supposedly said, "Whatever he lost, he doesn't NEED!" Apparently Feller still possessed a very impressive fastball 10 years after his major league debut, and after 4 years off as a gunner on a battleship.

I very clearly remember an interview with Ted Williams on his ESPN Sportscentury hour episode commenting that not only had Feller not lost much on his fastball, but his fastball had actually gained movement in 46' as compared to 41'. And yes, he also developed the slider after WWII.

I think his 1946 performance very clearly indicates that this was the case!!

csh19792001
07-22-2008, 08:50 PM
But in terms of per-game impact...the pitching position as a whole was markedly less valuable.

Sure, but impact "in any one game" is vastly less important than a pitcher's impact per season or over the course of a career.

Moreover, the "per-game" impact is diluted given that pitchers throw far fewer games in the long run today!! We've gone from the 3 man rotation (Young, Alex, Johnson), to the four man rotation, which lasted until the mid 1970's, with the advent of the five man rotation.

That's why Bill James arbitrarily chose to "halve" all the Win Share totals of 19th century pitchers. If he hadn't, every WS list would be completely dominated by those guys.


Career Win Shares
Cy Young 634
Walter Johnson 536
Pete Alexander 476
Roger Clemens* 440
Christy Mathewson 426
Warren Spahn 412
Greg Maddux 392
Lefty Grove 391
Tom Seaver 388
Phil Niekro 374
Eddie Plank 361


A majority of these guys pitched before integration, and only all were from eras where pitchers were more valuable to their teams (see: deadball, 60's-70's) than today.

Of the top 10, only two are listed from the last 25 years. Clemens prolonged his career artificially twice with steroids; this is well documented. He wouldn't even be on this list without the massive doses of artificial help. OTOH, Maddux's career appears legit; no damning anecdotal or circumstantial evidence has come to light. And, given his skill set, he could/would be the best pitcher in the world in any era. He deserves a spot on this list.

The point is, though, look at Maddux, with his 23 years and 5000 IP in the major leagues and how much less value he has accumulated compared to Alexander, who pitched a very similar # of innings.

On top of the vastly disparate workloads they had to endure, when you also include the fact that deadball era pitchers not only had to field frequently, but were required to field well due to the level of infield plays/hits/bunts, it just solidifies that they were much more important then than they are today. A pitcher like RJ or Pedro can be an atrocious fielder and get away with it given the conditions.

Going 5-6 every 5 days is nothing compared to going 8-9 every third day, while also being called in to relieve on short rest on your days off (Big Train, Alexander, and the other greats of his day were also asked to do this, in addition).

You mentioned starts. Well, Maddux averaged 33 stars per season over his career, which is actually 1 more than Alexander did in his. Of course, he completed 22 games/season and Greg 5/season.

Bench 5
07-23-2008, 12:27 PM
Bob Feller was tested three times in his career. He was tested using a device developed by the Cleveland Plains Dealer around 1939. Accounts at the time indicate Feller threw into the machine while joking around. He threw 81 MPH. Atley Donald of the Yankees threw 95 and a couple other players did as well. It was set-up similar to a radar gun at a carnival.

He was tested against a speeding motorcycle a couple years later. The motorcycle was going 88 and he beat it easily. It was determine that the ball was traveling 104 MPH.

He also was tested using a chronograph in 1946. He threw 98.6. Here's a video of the test.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMPxpOapRuU

Note that the ball is measured as it crosses the plate. Most modern guns measure the velocity 20 feet from the pitcher's hand. The ball loses about 8 MPH from the mound to the plate.

I agree that many of the old timer speedballers could throw 95-100. But I think they paced themselves. There's no reason to throw as hard as you can when many of the players were "punch and judy" types that didn't hit the deadball more than 200 feet.

If the radar guns being used today are an accurate "apples to apples" comparison to the guns used 20-30 years ago, I think modern pitchers throw a few MPH harder than they did in the 70's through the 90's.

Dalkowski110
07-23-2008, 12:53 PM
"Ted Williams once stood in a spring training batting cage and took one pitch from Dalkowski. Williams swore he never saw the ball and claimed that Dalkowski probably was the fastest pitcher who ever lived."

According to Steve Dalkowski (who should probably know), this is only partially right. In ST 1960, Williams went 1 for 2 against him. The first time, he got him up to an 0-2 count and threw his slider ("I think I hung it...it was high and outside.")...which Williams knocked half a mile for a homerun. The second time, he threw five four-seam fastballs...the first two missed, and then Steve threw three right down the middle. The first one Williams fouled off. The second one, a little higher, Williams took for a close called strike two. And the third? Well, that one Williams took a huge hack at missed.

One thing that's been missing from this discussion is probably the most important thing of all...the distance at which a pitcher's heater is measured. A modern JUGS Radar Gun clocks a pitcher at 45 feet from the mound. But the device that recorded Nolan Ryan's record pitch at 100 mph, Bob Feller's 98.6 mph fastball, and Steve Dalkowski's 93.6 mph fastball (with no mound, he'd been pitching for fifteen minutes trying to get the chronograph to read a pitch, and he'd started the day before) all came at 60'6". I posted more about this in the trivia section, which I'll reproduce here...

"[W]hile I believe Steve Dalkowski could probably hit 103 mph and probably threw slightly harder than Joel Zumaya, that's about the limit of the human arm without the tendons in your ulnar collateral ligament flying apart. Steve's arm structure was rather unique...his left arm was a lot like Satchel Paige's right arm. He threw with a max effort delivery, used an incredibly fast arm action, and take a look at a picture of Steve's stride and it's quite similar to that of Tim Lincecum in length. While Steve probably was among the fastest pitchers of all time, he probably seemed to throw even harder, as well. Could he hit 108 [an oft-repeated myth was that he was timed at 108 mph]? Depends on your definition of throwing 108 mph (see below). Could he do it all the time? Same answer as before. Was he ever timed at 108? No. Where did this myth come from? Read on.

When Dalkowski threw a fastball that was actually clocked, it registered at (according to conflicting reports) 99.8 mph or 93.8 mph. Considering Steve's sister claims the latter speed is correct, we'll go with that. However, keep in mind the following: Dalkowski, like Nolan Ryan, was timed at 60'6". Today's pitchers are timed at 45 feet from the mound. Dalkowski also lost a few mph throwing off flat ground and throwing over fifty pitches before he finally registered one single speed. It's likely Dalkowski could hit 100-103 mph at 60'6", which is 1-3 mph more than what Ryan threw. Now consider that a pitcher loses anywhere from 5-7 mph from 45 feet to 60 feet 6 inches (let's assume 5 mph, since that's the minimum). Add in 1-2 mph from that loss of throwing off flat ground, and all of a sudden Dalkowski is throwing 99-100 mph with that pitch on a modern gun taking readings at 45 feet. Further, all of a sudden, Ryan is throwing 105 at least and 107 at most (since speed guns have registered that much on one of Joel Zumaya's best pitches at 45 feet, it's not impossible).

But let's go back to answering our original question...how did this myth come about? Well, add 7 (max limit of pitch velocity loss from 45 feet to 60'6") and 1 mph (from having lost that throwing off the mound) to 99.8 (the incorrect measurement) and round up. What do you get? That's right...108 mph. Seems someone was guessing what that pitch would do on a modern radar gun and did it with the wrong info.

This is all about perspective. Could Steve Dalkowski throw 108 at 60'6" (which is basically what matters)? No, that's not humanly possible. Consider that ASMI is referring to 60'6" when asked what the limit of the human arm is (about 105 mph). But could he throw that at 45 feet? I have no doubt. Considering he actually caught Steve Dalkowski AND Nolan Ryan, I'll go with Andy Etchebarren as saying that Dalkowski was definitely faster than Ryan, but not to the point where they were incomparable. Then we have the inevitable question that follows...could Nolan Ryan throw that hard at 45 feet? Almost certainly. When we see Ryan finally recorded on a modern JUGS Radar gun at 45 feet, he's played over 15 years of his career. Both Dalkowski and Ryan in their primes likely threw as hard or a little harder than Joel Zumaya...whose fastest pitches likely top off around 99-100 mph at 60'6"."

Ubiquitous
07-23-2008, 01:01 PM
One thing to note about Ted Williams and Dalkowski in 1960.

During spring training Ted was suffering from the same pinched nerve in his neck that made him a .254 hitter the year before. He couldn't turn his neck much at all and he couldn't see the pitcher real well. The problem didn't clear up for him until around opening day against Washington. So it is entirely possible that Ted never saw Steve's fastball.

Dalkowski110
07-23-2008, 01:30 PM
Makes sense...Steve said each of the three fastballs that he threw Williams was higher than the next.

evetts18
07-24-2008, 09:03 AM
All this stuff about Dalkowski is just speculation. Like the alledged "Roswell incident" the ledgend grows bigger every year. He was clocked at 93 point something? So I can believe that on a real good day he'd have been up around 100 on Pitchf/x or the Jugs Gun.

hellborn
07-24-2008, 11:13 AM
All this stuff about Dalkowski is just speculation. Like the alledged "Roswell incident" the ledgend grows bigger every year. He was clocked at 93 point something? So I can believe that on a real good day he'd have been up around 100 on Pitchf/x or the Jugs Gun.

You can find dozens of quotes from baseball people saying Dalko was the fastest pitcher they ever saw. Earl Weaver said this, and he managed Dalko in the minors...think of how many great fastballs Weaver has seen from Ryan, I'd assume Koufax, Tanana, etc. If Weaver says Dalko had a fastball like nobody else, he had to be throwing over 100 on a gun. Cal Ripken Sr. caught him in the minors and said the same thing. These guys know a little baseball, and they knew Dalko intimately, and had seen dozens of other flamethrowers...they said Dalko was the fastest, no question.
Weaver figured out that Dalko had a very low IQ and couldn't process a lot of information from coaches. Earl told Steve to throw his fastball and slider over the plate and not worry about anything else. After this, Dalko struck out 104, walked 11, and gave up 1 earned run in 52 innings during one stretch at AA. The next spring training, he was headed for the majors, and he hurt his arm. Never made the majors.
We'll never know exactly how hard he threw, and we can't compare him to Grove, Feller, or the Big Train...but, I think that it's impossible that he could have only touched 100 on a gun on a good night, and I think that it's very likely that he was faster than Ryan at his best. But, Dalko also couldn't throw strikes until the very end...I honestly wonder if he was so challenged intellectually that he didn't know to take a little off the ball to control it and just threw full effort without being that concerned about just where it would go.

Dalkowski110
07-24-2008, 01:06 PM
"He was clocked at 93 point something? So I can believe that on a real good day he'd have been up around 100 on Pitchf/x or the Jugs Gun."

Off flat ground, having thrown for fifteen minutes, and starting the game the previous day...yep, sure are ideal conditions...:rolleyes:

"Earl told Steve to throw his fastball and slider over the plate and not worry about anything else. After this, Dalko struck out 104, walked 11, and gave up 1 earned run in 52 innings during one stretch at AA."

Yep. That was 1962 after about half the season had passed. Weaver pretty much realized that if he told Dalkowski (whose likely problems came with his release point...he was wild up and down, not in and out) just to throw the four-seamer right down the middle, nobody was going to catch up with it anyway. He was just pipelineing his best pitch and still put up those numbers (Steve had better control over his two-seamer and slider and could locate those a little better).

"I honestly wonder if he was so challenged intellectually that he didn't know to take a little off the ball to control it and just threw full effort without being that concerned about just where it would go."

Kind of. Steve's problems more or less had to do with his release point. But his coaches couldn't communicate that because they essentially got him thinking too much on the mound. As an example of this, Steve also said that the Orioles pitching coaches (namely Harry Brecheen) slowed him down on the mound around 1959 and wanted him to be more deliberate. While Brecheen's logic probably would have worked with most other pitchers, it got Steve thinking too much and too hard.

"We'll never know exactly how hard he threw, and we can't compare him to Grove, Feller, or the Big Train...but, I think that it's impossible that he could have only touched 100 on a gun on a good night, and I think that it's very likely that he was faster than Ryan at his best. "

Well put!

Honus Wagner Rules
07-24-2008, 01:37 PM
From the Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers, page 248. Dalkowski must have been incredible to watch. He must have scared bujeezus out of hitters!

.

Dalkowski110
07-24-2008, 02:01 PM
Ironically, Bill James didn't quite get it right with regards to how Steve injured his arm (also, Earl managed Steve at Elmira in '62, not '64). As you can imagine, something like that...even with a guy with an IQ of about 60...stays with you for a very long time. "I don't remember the count, but Joe Pepitone was up and he was bunting. I think it was a slider I threw him [and it] felt like my elbow popped." Although Hector Lopez, Phil Linz, and Jim Bouton have all come up as being names Steve faced, the articles where the writers have actually asked Steve, it's been Joe Pepitone.

I will give this to evetts18...there ARE a lot of myths out there to the point of where it's difficult to seperate fact from fiction in the case of Steve Dalkowski. However, it's also clear that with Steve finally beginning to regain control of his memory, which had once been nearly blank, that many of these myths will be undoubtedly put to pasture. However, one other thing is clear...Steve throwing so fast that he could come up in speed discussions with Nolan Ryan and Bob Feller (note that Feller and Dalkowski were clocked with the same machine at the same distance...Feller had the luxury of getting a pitch reading on his third pitch, being well-rested, and throwing off a mound) is NOT a myth.

evetts18
07-25-2008, 06:15 AM
"He was clocked at 93 point something? So I can believe that on a real good day he'd have been up around 100 on Pitchf/x or the Jugs Gun."

Off flat ground, having thrown for fifteen minutes, and starting the game the previous day...yep, sure are ideal conditions...:rolleyes:

"Earl told Steve to throw his fastball and slider over the plate and not worry about anything else. After this, Dalko struck out 104, walked 11, and gave up 1 earned run in 52 innings during one stretch at AA."

Yep. That was 1962 after about half the season had passed. Weaver pretty much realized that if he told Dalkowski (whose likely problems came with his release point...he was wild up and down, not in and out) just to throw the four-seamer right down the middle, nobody was going to catch up with it anyway. He was just pipelineing his best pitch and still put up those numbers (Steve had better control over his two-seamer and slider and could locate those a little better).

"I honestly wonder if he was so challenged intellectually that he didn't know to take a little off the ball to control it and just threw full effort without being that concerned about just where it would go."

Kind of. Steve's problems more or less had to do with his release point. But his coaches couldn't communicate that because they essentially got him thinking too much on the mound. As an example of this, Steve also said that the Orioles pitching coaches (namely Harry Brecheen) slowed him down on the mound around 1959 and wanted him to be more deliberate. While Brecheen's logic probably would have worked with most other pitchers, it got Steve thinking too much and too hard.

"We'll never know exactly how hard he threw, and we can't compare him to Grove, Feller, or the Big Train...but, I think that it's impossible that he could have only touched 100 on a gun on a good night, and I think that it's very likely that he was faster than Ryan at his best. "

Well put!



How do you know he started a game the previous day? Have you seen a box score or something? Even if he had, remember Randy Johnson coming into the World Series game against the Yankees after having pitched the previous day? I don't remember him throwing 80 mph. He had pretty much the same fastball as the night before. Also, throwing off of flat ground vs. a mound doesn't make that much of a difference. I pitched a little in college and I can tell you that it just doesn't. And throwing for fifteen minutes before throwing the ball into the machine couldn't make that much difference, either. For all we know he rested every couple of minutes anyway. As for all of these people who supposedly have said that Dalkowski was the fastest they've ever seen, most, if not all of them saw him while they were first in the minor leagues (some were probably right out of high school). Therefore, they would have been comparing him to other minor leaguers. In comparison, I'm sure his fastball looked 110 when everyone else was probably throwing mid 80's. I'm not saying that he wasn't one of the fastest of all time, just that I bet he didn't throw any harder than Feller, Ryan, Zumaya or anyone else who's had a legit 100 mph fastball. And if he did, it was maybe by a half a mph. That 93.8 is pretty hard to get around.

evetts18
07-25-2008, 08:14 AM
I've seen the Youtube video of Feller supposedly hitting 98 or so. I don't mean to sound like Joe Morgan, but that just doesn't look to me like a fastball that crossed the plate at 98.6, which means it would have left his hand at around 107. While modern radar guns are frequently trashed as being inaccurate and "jacked-up" who's to say that the measuring device used for Feller was any more accurate. It was an Army device, but the government has been known to be wrong a couple of times. In addition, with all those fans in attendance just waiting to hear the news about how hard Feller was throwing, you don't think there was any temptation to exaggerate? Someone should place this video side-by-side (from the same angle) with a modern pitcher known to be throwing a certain speed and compare.

hellborn
07-25-2008, 09:01 AM
... Also, throwing off of flat ground vs. a mound doesn't make that much of a difference. I pitched a little in college and I can tell you that it just doesn't. And throwing for fifteen minutes before throwing the ball into the machine couldn't make that much difference, either. For all we know he rested every couple of minutes anyway. As for all of these people who supposedly have said that Dalkowski was the fastest they've ever seen, most, if not all of them saw him while they were first in the minor leagues (some were probably right out of high school). Therefore, they would have been comparing him to other minor leaguers. In comparison, I'm sure his fastball looked 110 when everyone else was probably throwing mid 80's. ...

Earl Weaver was his MANAGER, not a player at the time. He was 32 then, I think that he had seen some baseball by that point. Cal Ripken Sr. was only 5 years younger than Weaver, so he wasn't a kid when he caught Dalko, either. BTW, Weaver also said that Dalko threw "a lot harder" than Ryan, not just harder. You don't think that Earl was pretty familiar with Ryan?
Of course the mound makes a difference...it wouldn't exist, otherwise. It sure made a difference when it was lowered 5 inches in the late '60s. Oh, but you pitched some in college, so you know better than Weaver, Ripken, and anybody who's ever pitched off a mound.
OK, is this good enough for you...Ted Williams stepped in against Dalko in spring training in '58, took one pitch, left the cage in fear for his life, and said Steve was the fastest pitcher he ever saw. You know better than Ted? I guess you faced Feller and Trucks back in your youth?

This isn't some Sidd Finch BS that somebody dreamed up or embellished, there are dozens of well known baseball people who have flat out said that Dalko was the fastest pitcher they ever saw. Pat Gillick played against him and still says that, for chrissakes.

OleMissCub
07-25-2008, 09:07 AM
I've seen the Youtube video of Feller supposedly hitting 98 or so. I don't mean to sound like Joe Morgan, but that just doesn't look to me like a fastball that crossed the plate at 98.6, which means it would have left his hand at around 107. While modern radar guns are frequently trashed as being inaccurate and "jacked-up" who's to say that the measuring device used for Feller was any more accurate. It was an Army device, but the government has been known to be wrong a couple of times. In addition, with all those fans in attendance just waiting to hear the news about how hard Feller was throwing, you don't think there was any temptation to exaggerate? Someone should place this video side-by-side (from the same angle) with a modern pitcher known to be throwing a certain speed and compare.

I suggest you watch the short clip I created of Feller pitching which shows him making Hank Greenberg look completely foolish. That must have been some SERIOUS gas. Definitely upper 90's.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAm5fwb1Psw

Ubiquitous
07-25-2008, 09:12 AM
I have no doubt Feller and Dalkowski threw some serious heat but any batter can look seriously fooled if he is expecting one thing and the pitchers throws something else. I've seen Tim Wakefield blow a 74 MPH fastball past a hitter. It happens.

evetts18
07-25-2008, 09:22 AM
Earl Weaver was his MANAGER, not a player at the time. He was 32 then, I think that he had seen some baseball by that point. Cal Ripken Sr. was only 5 years younger than Weaver, so he wasn't a kid when he caught Dalko, either. BTW, Weaver also said that Dalko threw "a lot harder" than Ryan, not just harder. You don't think that Earl was pretty familiar with Ryan?
Of course the mound makes a difference...it wouldn't exist, otherwise. It sure made a difference when it was lowered 5 inches in the late '60s. Oh, but you pitched some in college, so you know better than Weaver, Ripken, and anybody who's ever pitched off a mound.
OK, is this good enough for you...Ted Williams stepped in against Dalko in spring training in '58, took one pitch, left the cage in fear for his life, and said Steve was the fastest pitcher he ever saw. You know better than Ted? I guess you faced Feller and Trucks back in your youth?

This isn't some Sidd Finch BS that somebody dreamed up or embellished, there are dozens of well known baseball people who have flat out said that Dalko was the fastest pitcher they ever saw. Pat Gillick played against him and still says that, for chrissakes.



93.8 was what the device read. That's the only objective thing we know. Somehow we get from 93.8 to way over 100? I'm not buying it. And Pat Gillick still says what? That Dalkowski was the hardest thrower he ever saw or that he threw 110? Did Williams say that Dalkowski threw a lot harder than anyone he ever saw or simply was the fastest he ever saw? That makes a big difference. And if Earl Weaver or Cal Ripken, Sr. said that Dalkowski threw a lot harder than Ryan, and if a lot harder means anything over 1 mph, then, no, this guy who briefly pitched in college ain't buying it.

First Weaver says Dalkowski threw a lot harder than Ryan, then quotes by Williams, Gillick and a few others are dug up saying they believe Dalkowski was the fastest they ever saw and suddenly we have a guy throwing the ball 110. I wonder how fast Bigfoot can throw.

evetts18
07-25-2008, 10:05 AM
I suggest you watch the short clip I created of Feller pitching which shows him making Hank Greenberg look completely foolish. That must have been some SERIOUS gas. Definitely upper 90's.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAm5fwb1Psw


Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that Feller didn't have some serious stuff. He could've been the fastest of all time. I'm just saying that I don't see it on that clip. Also, by the way, I think he was a very underrated pitcher, better than Ryan and up there with the greatest right handers like Clemens and Seaver.

Honus Wagner Rules
07-25-2008, 10:19 AM
When it comes to the the velocity of a fastball I tend to give little weight to first hand accounts when comparing two or more pitchers. The reason I give relatively little weight is because I believe it is next to impossible that any witness can say with any confidence that one pitcher thew harder another pitcher especially if their account of pitchers are many years apart. As for Weaver saying that Dalkowski threw "much harder" than Ryan I have problems with it. Now I'm more most people could tell the difference between an 80 mph pitch and a 99 mph pitch. However when we are talking about the difference between 100 mph and 103 mph a person cannot distinguish such a small difference in speed especially if they saw the two pitchers many years apart which is the case of Dalkowski and Ryan.

Honus Wagner Rules
07-25-2008, 10:22 AM
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that Feller didn't have some serious stuff. He could've been the fastest of all time. I'm just saying that I don't see it on that clip. Also, by the way, I think he was a very underrated pitcher, better than Ryan and up there with the greatest right handers like Clemens and Seaver.

I wouldn't go that far. Compared to Clemens and Seaver, Feller had a serious lack of control. He walked as many as 208 batters in a season plus he also had a 194 walk season. That is a ridiculous amount of walks to give up.

Ubiquitous
07-25-2008, 10:33 AM
Yes, but both walk totals came early in his career. The 208 in his first full season as a starter and the 194 right before he went off to the war. He then comes back in 1946 and gives up walks but then starts to settle down. Feller came into the league as a raw 17 year old kid and then missed 4 years of his development and prime to a war. If Feller starts off in the minors and then plays a normal career without a war breaking it up his control would look a lot better. On par with Seaver and Clemens? Probably not but it would be better.

Honus Wagner Rules
07-25-2008, 10:48 AM
Yes, but both walk totals came early in his career. The 208 in his first full season as a starter and the 194 right before he went off to the war. He then comes back in 1946 and gives up walks but then starts to settle down. Feller came into the league as a raw 17 year old kid and then missed 4 years of his development and prime to a war. If Feller starts off in the minors and then plays a normal career without a war breaking it up his control would look a lot better. On par with Seaver and Clemens? Probably not but it would be better.
Why did the Indians not give Feller any time in the minor leagues? Do you think his reduced effectiveness after 1947 was due to the large amount of innings he pitched in his early 20s? I wonder if Feller hadn't miss time to serve in WW II if he would have burned out at an earlier age.

Ubiquitous
07-25-2008, 11:05 AM
The scout who signed him then became "special assistant" (basically the GM) and he immediately transferreed him to the bigs. He had the stuff at an early age and had fanned 8 Cardinals in 3 innings during an exhibition game.

Before reporting to the Indians Feller reported to Slapnicka (Cleveland GM) that his arm was sore and that he was worried. Slapnicka called him up to the Indians so that the Indians could supervise and manager his training. He didn't want some bush league minor league team destroying the pitcher who Slapnicka thought was going to be the greatest pitcher of all time.

hellborn
07-25-2008, 11:14 AM
93.8 was what the device read. That's the only objective thing we know. Somehow we get from 93.8 to way over 100? I'm not buying it. And Pat Gillick still says what? That Dalkowski was the hardest thrower he ever saw or that he threw 110? Did Williams say that Dalkowski threw a lot harder than anyone he ever saw or simply was the fastest he ever saw? That makes a big difference. And if Earl Weaver or Cal Ripken, Sr. said that Dalkowski threw a lot harder than Ryan, and if a lot harder means anything over 1 mph, then, no, this guy who briefly pitched in college ain't buying it.

First Weaver says Dalkowski threw a lot harder than Ryan, then quotes by Williams, Gillick and a few others are dug up saying they believe Dalkowski was the fastest they ever saw and suddenly we have a guy throwing the ball 110. I wonder how fast Bigfoot can throw.

I don't know the details of the 93.8 reading that was brought up, but D110 did mention that some say it was 99.8, with Steve's sister claiming it was the lower reading...I guess Steve doesn't remember. Feller registered 81mph at one of his tests...let's just pick that number and run with it, he would be lucky to throw 90 at best. FWIW, an article on the Hardball Times indicates that Dalko was also exhausted from trying to sneak a ball through that measuring device and took something off it to just get the whole thing over with...those who were there said it wasn't close to his best fastball, even on that day right after a start.
I never said that Dalko would show 110 on a gun or anywhere else...you said he might touch 100mph at best on a modern radar gun on a good day, and I'm saying that I believe that statement is totally inconsistent with the testimony of a great many baseball people who actually saw the man throw. Ted Williams said that Dalko was the fastest pitcher he ever faced and probably the fastest who ever lived...he didn't say he threw as hard as Feller and maybe a little more, he just flat out said he was the fastest. This from a man who would start thinking about Feller 3 days before facing him. The story is from a chance encounter in spring training, when Williams stepped into a cage after watching Dalko throw for a while. Steve was wild enough at that point that they were not taking the risk of him maiming a major league player in a spring training game.
If Weaver had been trying to say that Ryan could throw 103mph or whatever on a gun and Dalko could hit 104, that would be questionable. However, Earl, who was a tremendous major league manager and a wizard at using a pitching staff, said there was no comparison. I believe him. There was a ten year delta there, but I still trust a baseball lifer and genius like Weaver to be able to make that statement and not be so far off that Dalko actually couldn't even match Ryan's radar gun feats.
You read all the stories about Dalko throwing balls through metal backstop screens and outfield fences, completely out of baseball parks, so hard that he put an ump in the hospital after cracking his mask...I don't think that this was all made up or exaggerated. The man was a prodigy, plain and simple, and the people who saw him are still amazed by what he could do. Too bad Weaver didn't get him straightened out before his arm was about shot so we'd have some major league testimony about him.

Dalkowski110
07-25-2008, 11:23 AM
Ah, evetts, thank you for treating me like a condescending jerk. I will return the favor...

"who's to say that the measuring device used for Feller was any more accurate. It was an Army device, but the government has been known to be wrong a couple of times."

Not surprisingly, you're completely wrong here. The device the Army used is called a photo cell chronograph. A chronograph is far more accurate than any radar gun on the planet. In fact, if you handloaded ammunition (as I do; I have other hobbies as well), you would realize that photo cell chonographs are A) still in use and B) are accurate to within thousandths of a foot per second. In fact, since you're suggesting that it was somehow tampered with, I'd like to know how. You can only adjust one of these devices for distance.

"And Pat Gillick still says what? That Dalkowski was the hardest thrower he ever saw or that he threw 110?"

He claims both, actually, but it's not as if you're going to take that seriously...

"Did Williams say that Dalkowski threw a lot harder than anyone he ever saw or simply was the fastest he ever saw?"

I guess "easily the fastest" and "faster than Feller" aren't going to do it for you.

"How do you know he started a game the previous day? Have you seen a box score or something?"

Actually, yes, I have...

"For all we know he rested every couple of minutes anyway."

Uh, no. According to Steve, his sister, and literally everyone there for the test, he was just winding and firing. He didn't rest...he was actually frustrated he couldn't get it over.

"Also, throwing off of flat ground vs. a mound doesn't make that much of a difference. I pitched a little in college and I can tell you that it just doesn't."

You believe that pitching in college makes you an expert on Steve Dalkowski? Hello? McFly? Ever read Adair's book on physics in baseball? You lose 1-2 mph off your fastball sans a mound.

"As for all of these people who supposedly have said that Dalkowski was the fastest they've ever seen, most, if not all of them saw him while they were first in the minor leagues (some were probably right out of high school)."

Yes, like Earl Weaver, who had played or managed professionally 11 years before he even saw Dalkowski (and that includes ST invites where he saw Major League pitchers' fastballs). And Ted Williams, who had only been playing since 1939...

Okay, but to respond to someone else in a civil way...

"However when we are talking about the difference between 100 mph and 103 mph a person cannot distinguish such a small difference in speed especially if they saw the two pitchers many years apart which is the case of Dalkowski and Ryan."

Not that many years apart. Weaver last sees Dalkowski in his prime (pre-injury) in Spring Training 1963. He first sees Nolan Ryan in Spring Training, 1966. Not that far apart, IMO, and Ryan was likely throwing pretty hard then. While one could second guess Andy Etchebarren (caught both pitchers over a decade apart and claimed Dalkowski was somewhat faster, but not a lot), I find it much more difficult to second guess Weaver. I should also throw in the theory of mine that not only was Dalkowski throwing regularly throwing 105-110 mph at 45 feet (and 103-105 at 60'6"), but he was also likely "sneaky fast." He started out his windup kinda slowly and then sped up after he dropped his leg.

"I don't know the details of the 93.8 reading that was brought up, but D110 did mention that some say it was 99.8, with Steve's sister claiming it was the lower reading...I guess Steve doesn't remember. Feller registered 81mph at one of his tests...let's just pick that number and run with it, he would be lucky to throw 90 at best. FWIW, an article on the Hardball Times indicates that Dalko was also exhausted from trying to sneak a ball through that measuring device and took something off it to just get the whole thing over with...those who were there said it wasn't close to his best fastball, even on that day right after a start."

Correct. Steve had to throw a pitch through *the same* photo cell chronograph you see in the Feller youtube video. As you can see, that's a small target for a guy who walked 12.88 per nine innings over his professional career. One reason it wasn't his best fastball was because Steve made the somewhat poor decision of just letting it rip from the get-go. The first pitch it actually registered wasn't even a fastball...Steve threw a changeup simply because he wanted to get it overwith. They told him to go back to throwing fastballs and whether he took something off it or not (Steve claims he did not), it registered within a few pitches. Aside from stretching a little, he wasn't throwing any warmup pitches at reduced velocity. Feller had warmed up. Incidentally, no one knows where the 99.8 reading came from; it was 93.8. As I said, there ARE a lot of myths about Steve out there. But then again, there's also a lot of truth.

evetts18
07-26-2008, 06:14 AM
Ah, evetts, thank you for treating me like a condescending jerk. I will return the favor...

"who's to say that the measuring device used for Feller was any more accurate. It was an Army device, but the government has been known to be wrong a couple of times."

Not surprisingly, you're completely wrong here. The device the Army used is called a photo cell chronograph. A chronograph is far more accurate than any radar gun on the planet. In fact, if you handloaded ammunition (as I do; I have other hobbies as well), you would realize that photo cell chonographs are A) still in use and B) are accurate to within thousandths of a foot per second. In fact, since you're suggesting that it was somehow tampered with, I'd like to know how. You can only adjust one of these devices for distance.

"And Pat Gillick still says what? That Dalkowski was the hardest thrower he ever saw or that he threw 110?"

He claims both, actually, but it's not as if you're going to take that seriously...

"Did Williams say that Dalkowski threw a lot harder than anyone he ever saw or simply was the fastest he ever saw?"

I guess "easily the fastest" and "faster than Feller" aren't going to do it for you.

"How do you know he started a game the previous day? Have you seen a box score or something?"

Actually, yes, I have...

"For all we know he rested every couple of minutes anyway."

Uh, no. According to Steve, his sister, and literally everyone there for the test, he was just winding and firing. He didn't rest...he was actually frustrated he couldn't get it over.

"Also, throwing off of flat ground vs. a mound doesn't make that much of a difference. I pitched a little in college and I can tell you that it just doesn't."

You believe that pitching in college makes you an expert on Steve Dalkowski? Hello? McFly? Ever read Adair's book on physics in baseball? You lose 1-2 mph off your fastball sans a mound.

"As for all of these people who supposedly have said that Dalkowski was the fastest they've ever seen, most, if not all of them saw him while they were first in the minor leagues (some were probably right out of high school)."

Yes, like Earl Weaver, who had played or managed professionally 11 years before he even saw Dalkowski (and that includes ST invites where he saw Major League pitchers' fastballs). And Ted Williams, who had only been playing since 1939...

Okay, but to respond to someone else in a civil way...

"However when we are talking about the difference between 100 mph and 103 mph a person cannot distinguish such a small difference in speed especially if they saw the two pitchers many years apart which is the case of Dalkowski and Ryan."

Not that many years apart. Weaver last sees Dalkowski in his prime (pre-injury) in Spring Training 1963. He first sees Nolan Ryan in Spring Training, 1966. Not that far apart, IMO, and Ryan was likely throwing pretty hard then. While one could second guess Andy Etchebarren (caught both pitchers over a decade apart and claimed Dalkowski was somewhat faster, but not a lot), I find it much more difficult to second guess Weaver. I should also throw in the theory of mine that not only was Dalkowski throwing regularly throwing 105-110 mph at 45 feet (and 103-105 at 60'6"), but he was also likely "sneaky fast." He started out his windup kinda slowly and then sped up after he dropped his leg.

"I don't know the details of the 93.8 reading that was brought up, but D110 did mention that some say it was 99.8, with Steve's sister claiming it was the lower reading...I guess Steve doesn't remember. Feller registered 81mph at one of his tests...let's just pick that number and run with it, he would be lucky to throw 90 at best. FWIW, an article on the Hardball Times indicates that Dalko was also exhausted from trying to sneak a ball through that measuring device and took something off it to just get the whole thing over with...those who were there said it wasn't close to his best fastball, even on that day right after a start."

Correct. Steve had to throw a pitch through *the same* photo cell chronograph you see in the Feller youtube video. As you can see, that's a small target for a guy who walked 12.88 per nine innings over his professional career. One reason it wasn't his best fastball was because Steve made the somewhat poor decision of just letting it rip from the get-go. The first pitch it actually registered wasn't even a fastball...Steve threw a changeup simply because he wanted to get it overwith. They told him to go back to throwing fastballs and whether he took something off it or not (Steve claims he did not), it registered within a few pitches. Aside from stretching a little, he wasn't throwing any warmup pitches at reduced velocity. Feller had warmed up. Incidentally, no one knows where the 99.8 reading came from; it was 93.8. As I said, there ARE a lot of myths about Steve out there. But then again, there's also a lot of truth.



Here's the sort of thing your asking me to believe. The best sprinters in the world run the 100 meters in just under 9.7 seconds and probably, on average, run it in about 9.75 to 9.8 or so. However, suddenly some guy could come along who could consistently run the 100 meters in under 9.7 seconds and set the world record at 9.6 seconds, or maybe less. I don't believe that sort of thing is possible, no mater what Earl Weaver thinks.

One thing the radar guns over the last 20 years have told us, if nothing else, is that no one performs that far out of the norm. We know what the fastest pitchers throw and that the next really hard thrower who comes along isn't going to throw 107 or 108. He'll top out in the low 100's and probably not be able to sustain that for more than a couple of innings. You can bet on it.

By the way, don't be such a sensitive guy. This is all in good fun, isn't it?

OleMissCub
07-26-2008, 07:14 AM
I don't even know if it is even humanly possible to throw higher than 103 or so. I know that some guns have picked up pitches that high before from Zumaya (I think), but I do think some radar guns are juiced a bit these days.

Ubiquitous
07-26-2008, 07:39 AM
Here's the sort of thing your asking me to believe. The best sprinters in the world run the 100 meters in just under 9.7 seconds and probably, on average, run it in about 9.75 to 9.8 or so. However, suddenly some guy could come along who could consistently run the 100 meters in under 9.7 seconds and set the world record at 9.6 seconds, or maybe less. I don't believe that sort of thing is possible, no mater what Earl Weaver thinks.


Actually if we use your analogy then according to that logic what did in fact happen in track would be an impossibility. Heading into the 90's 9.9 was the record for 100m at the end it was 9.79, now going into the 10's the record is down to 9.72. In 1988 the record was 9.93 and Ben Johnson came along and posted a 9.79.

evetts18
07-26-2008, 08:13 AM
Actually if we use your analogy then according to that logic what did in fact happen in track would be an impossibility. Heading into the 90's 9.9 was the record for 100m at the end it was 9.79, now going into the 10's the record is down to 9.72. In 1988 the record was 9.93 and Ben Johnson came along and posted a 9.79.


That's primarily because of better training techniques and nutrition. And the times get only marginally better, they move by 100's of a second, not 10th's of a second.

Dalkowski110
07-26-2008, 09:25 AM
"I don't even know if it is even humanly possible to throw higher than 103 or so."

Depends on the distance you throw at. Zumaya is timed at 45 feet with those off-the-charts, 105 mph readings. On a JUGS Radar gun...at 60'6", he likely throws about 99-100 mph.

"I don't believe that sort of thing is possible, no mater what Earl Weaver thinks."

Then you're wasting my time. Weaver saw Dalkowski and Ryan throwing at their fastest (if not best) within FOUR YEARS of each other. Fact is, even if there was a catcher who'd caught Dalkowski and Ryan within one year, you'd discount it. Even if Dalkowski managed to get a pitch over, you'd complain about the device being innaccurate like you did with Feller. But a parting thought unrelated to Steve Dalkowski.

"One thing the radar guns over the last 20 years have told us, if nothing else, is that no one performs that far out of the norm. We know what the fastest pitchers throw and that the next really hard thrower who comes along isn't going to throw 107 or 108. He'll top out in the low 100's and probably not be able to sustain that for more than a couple of innings. You can bet on it."

The radar guns over the last twenty years haven't told us much at all. Joel Zumaya threw a pitch at 107 mph. Mark Wohlers hit 103-104 with regularity. Well, at 45 feet. Ironically, we probably agree that Steve could top off in the low 100's for a couple innings. But it's you who foolishly believe it's at 45 feet and I believe, far more convincingly, that he could do it at 60'6".

"This is all in good fun, isn't it?"

Nope, not this time. You have never made a single post outside this thread. Every one of your responses save one has been to mock me. Your only evidence provided to the contrary is that you pitched in college once, which oh so obviously has to make you an expert on the physics of baseball. :rolleyes: In one post, you even sarcastically asked how fast Bigfoot could throw. You are a TROLL.

evetts18
07-27-2008, 10:00 AM
"I don't even know if it is even humanly possible to throw higher than 103 or so."

Depends on the distance you throw at. Zumaya is timed at 45 feet with those off-the-charts, 105 mph readings. On a JUGS Radar gun...at 60'6", he likely throws about 99-100 mph.

"I don't believe that sort of thing is possible, no mater what Earl Weaver thinks."

Then you're wasting my time. Weaver saw Dalkowski and Ryan throwing at their fastest (if not best) within FOUR YEARS of each other. Fact is, even if there was a catcher who'd caught Dalkowski and Ryan within one year, you'd discount it. Even if Dalkowski managed to get a pitch over, you'd complain about the device being innaccurate like you did with Feller. But a parting thought unrelated to Steve Dalkowski.

"One thing the radar guns over the last 20 years have told us, if nothing else, is that no one performs that far out of the norm. We know what the fastest pitchers throw and that the next really hard thrower who comes along isn't going to throw 107 or 108. He'll top out in the low 100's and probably not be able to sustain that for more than a couple of innings. You can bet on it."

The radar guns over the last twenty years haven't told us much at all. Joel Zumaya threw a pitch at 107 mph. Mark Wohlers hit 103-104 with regularity. Well, at 45 feet. Ironically, we probably agree that Steve could top off in the low 100's for a couple innings. But it's you who foolishly believe it's at 45 feet and I believe, far more convincingly, that he could do it at 60'6".

"This is all in good fun, isn't it?"

Nope, not this time. You have never made a single post outside this thread. Every one of your responses save one has been to mock me. Your only evidence provided to the contrary is that you pitched in college once, which oh so obviously has to make you an expert on the physics of baseball. :rolleyes: In one post, you even sarcastically asked how fast Bigfoot could throw. You are a TROLL.



Sorry for the Bigfoot remark. I admit that one was over the top. Also, I didn't realize that your's was the only thread to which I've been posting.

Hey, look, I'm just asking some fundamental questions. For example: (A) How do you know he pitched the previous day before being timed? Is this actually documented somewhere? (B) How do you know that he pitched continuously for 15 minutes before getting the ball through the machine? (C) It's fair to assume that he pitched off of flat ground, but how do we know he did? (D) How do you even know the effects of these things when put together? They would have no doubt have reduced the velocity of his fastball to some extent, but by how much? (E) How do you know the distance from which he threw into the machine? (F) What was the velocity recorded by the machine? There seems to be some confusion on that.

I'm not arguing that Dalkowski didn't have a great fastball, otherwise the Orioles wouldn't have sent him to the Army facility to have his fastball clocked. Although, I wonder if they sent others, as well. But as far as Earl Weaver's (who I really like by the way) comments are concerned, Dalkowski appears to have been his special project. Don't you think that he might have been tempted to exaggerate just a little when talking about him? Also, I'm not sure that the other comments, when read on their own, indicate that Dalkowski was anything other than simply the hardest thrower these players believed they had ever seen. In other words, I don't think that they (Williams, Gillick, etc.) thought Dalkowski was in a league by himself.

There's no need to go through it again. Because you're right, I'm not going to believe it. I think that you make the best case possible, but I just don't think that the evidence is strong enough.

P.S. Here's a quote from Bobby Cox and/or Pat Gillick from an article on Dalkowski in the Dayton Daily News (4/29/07):

Gillick, Cox (the Atlanta Braves' manager, who batted against Dalkowski) and others say "it was definitely over 100, perhaps 105."

I can believe this, but you could say the same about Ryan or Zumaya.

Dalkowski110
07-27-2008, 10:42 AM
"For example: (A) How do you know he pitched the previous day before being timed? Is this actually documented somewhere? (B) How do you know that he pitched continuously for 15 minutes before getting the ball through the machine? (C) How do you know the distance from which he threw into the machine? (D) How do you even know the effects of these things when put together? (E) What was the velocity recorded by the machine? There seems to be some confusion on that."

A) I know it because I've seen the boxscore. He pitched against the Reno Silver Sox (was with Stockton at the time) and was yanked in the sixth after walking 12 batters. I've also talked to Steve, and even he thought at the time it was kinda illogical to get him the next day after he started.

B) Based on estimates from Steve and his sister. They said the 45 minute figures from Sports Illustrated's 1970 article on Steve had been exaggerated and that while he was struggling to get one over, it was more like "15 or 20 minutes, not 45."

C) The distance was actually specified and recorded by the Baltimore Orioles. You can find that Harry Brecheen, the guy who asked for the test, wanted the same device that recorded Feller for a reason: it was about the width of home plate.

D) This question is pretty fuzzy, but read any article by anyone from ASMI or Adair's book on physics in baseball and you 1) lose 1-2 mph from not throwing off a mound and 2) depending on who you are, you lose 5-7 mph off your fastball when it decelerates from 45 feet to 60'6". You lose about 30 mph from your hand to the plate; the area of most rapid deceleration is from your hand to the 45' marker.

E) The velocity recorded was 93.8 mph at 60'6", which at LEAST translates to 99.8 mph at 45 feet.

"Although, I wonder if they sent others, as well."

Nope. The Orioles were actually quite reluctant to let Paul Richards and Harry Brecheen set the tests up and because Dalkowski just reared back and fired for fifteen minutes to no avail, they considered the tests a waste of time and a failure.

"But as far as Earl Weaver's (who I really like by the way) comments are concerned, Dalkowski appears to have been his special project. Don't you think that he might have been tempted to exaggerate just a little when talking about him?"

No. Absolutely not. And in fact, talk to Steve and if anyone was interested in getting Steve to the Majors, it was Paul Richards and Harry Brecheen. They acted through Weaver, who initially didn't even like Steve much, though was very impressed by his stuff from the get-go. The only reason one would get that impression about Earl Weaver is because back then, the Orioles were very hands off with regards to their pitchers. Steve Dalkowski essentially forced a change in that policy and the guy who best implemented it was Weaver (due to him already employing the hands-on approach he'd become famous for in the Majors).

"In other words, I don't think that they (Williams, Gillick, etc.) thought Dalkowski was in a league by himself."

Then there is clearly no way in hell you've ever spoken with Pat Gillick.

"There's no need to go through it again. Because you're right, I'm not going to believe it. "

So why the hell did you ask me a bunch of questions? And what exactly is your angle on this forum, other than to second guess me in the silliest ways possible?

deadball-era-rules
07-27-2008, 10:57 PM
But as far as Earl Weaver's (who I really like by the way) comments are concerned, Dalkowski appears to have been his special project. Don't you think that he might have been tempted to exaggerate just a little when talking about him?

Ok, truthfully, I don't have one sliver of knowledge about dalkowski, but I can say this in his defense: A manager doesn't just pick a favorite player if they don't have something special. there are a few famous cases of managers with pet players, but look at who they were: John McGraw was crazy for Christy Matthewson, Connie Mack had Rube Waddell, Clark Griffith had Walter Johnson. You think they loved these guys because they told good knock-knock jokes? Heck no, you don't become a manager's favorite unless they know you've got some serious special talent. I do think you're being a bit harsh with the incessant questions, you'll never get anywhere asking about every detail like that. I would say that Walter Johnson said it best when rating the fastest of the fastballers. (This isn't an exact quote) There isn't that much of a difference between a fast pitcher and the fastest pitcher, but that tiny difference makes a big difference.

I'd say that guys like Zumaya, Feller, Dalkowski, Johnson (Walter) and Rusie could all throw with a top speed differential of about two mph. Once you get to 101, a guy throwing 102 isn't that big of a deal, you can barely get a bat around fast enough to make contact.

Dalkowski110
07-27-2008, 11:24 PM
Well-put. BTW, here's one of only a handful of period articles about Steve and both his wildness and speed. It appeared in Time Magazine in July, 1960...

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,869618-1,00.html

Steve is referred to as "Steve Dalkowski Jr." because his father, Steve Sr., was a semi-pro and I believe briefly pro shortstop. Nobody called him Steve though...he was "Ratsy." If he played pro ball, both Steve and his sister claimed he anglicized his name. Steve thought he played as "Steve Dalko" and his sister wasn't sure either way.

hellborn
07-28-2008, 02:09 PM
I guess we need to quantify what we mean when we say a guy "throws 100".
The pitch that Ryan got his 100mph reputation for was measured crossing the plate. Feller's pitch just below 100 was measured the same way.
Based on that, I firmly believe that Dalkowski would have been over 100mph at the plate (assuming he could get it there), and substantially higher on a gun reading. I don't see hitting 93+ at the plate without a mound on the night after a start and after spending quite a bit of time throwing pitches and trying to get a reading to be inconsistent with that...especially when people there said that ball didn't have much steam on it, compared to others that night. If Zumaya could touch 107 on a particular night on a particular gun calibrated who knows how, maybe Dalko could have touched 110 on that night on that gun...?
Dalko was supposed to have thrown a ball from home over a fence 440 feet away on a dare...I wonder what the rough initial velocity on that would have been? I think that was supposed to have been in street clothes without a warmup (no wonder his arm blew out with abuse like that and the O's testing him right after a start).

I guess I wonder how Ryan and Feller would have compared in reputation if they had just been firing 100% full steam pitches all over the place like Dalko did. Most pitchers are going make big adjustments if they keep throwing the ball 8 feet high, but Dalko didn't seem to have that usual feedback mechanism. Some accounts indicate that Weaver had Dalko taking a bit off the ball for control until he had a pitcher's count, and would then allow him to just let it fly...partly, I would assume, to intimidate the batter.
Can't we send an email to Earl Weaver to ask him about this?!?!!?
:hp

Dalkowski110
07-28-2008, 02:24 PM
"Dalko was supposed to have thrown a ball from home over a fence 440 feet away on a dare...I wonder what the rough initial velocity on that would have been? I think that was supposed to have been in street clothes without a warmup (no wonder his arm blew out with abuse like that and the O's testing him right after a start)."

Nope. I asked him about that. He said he warmed up for it. I know he destroyed a mannequin with no warmup (as is mentioned in the period article in Time Magazine), but he did warm up for throwing it over the fence.

"(no wonder his arm blew out with abuse like that and the O's testing him right after a start)."

It was worse than that. The Orioles warmed him up twice as much as their average pitcher. They were convinced that if he were tired, the ball would finally sink. They also had him run two to three extra laps in the outfield before every start on the same logic. Steve supposedly had a rubber arm, but even rubber breaks if you put too much stress on it.

"Some accounts indicate that Weaver had Dalko taking a bit off the ball for control until he had a pitcher's count, and would then allow him to just let it fly...partly, I would assume, to intimidate the batter."

Partially true. Weaver didn't want him using the four-seam, or "rising" fastball (didn't actually rise, though due to his release point problems and speed, it sure must've been a hell of a scary illusion) on first pitches. Rather, he either wanted him to throw a slider or a two-seam fastball (which Steve referred to as his "sinking fastball" and said it "didn't go quite as fast" as the four-seamer) with that first pitch.

"Can't we send an email to Earl Weaver to ask him about this?!?!!?"

Now there's an email addy I'd love to have...

hellborn
07-28-2008, 07:12 PM
Thanks for the info, D110.
Did you publish anything based on your discussion(s) with Steve?

A few quotes from a Ron Shelton essay on Dalko which, unfortunately, seems to have a number of factual errors in it...I hope that the quotes are correct!

Ted Williams - "Fastest ever. I never want to face him again."
Harry "The Cat" Breechen - "The best arm in the history of baseball."
Cal Ripken Sr. - "Nobody else was close."

Death to Crawling Things
07-29-2008, 12:55 AM
My take is there have been guys around that could put it in 95+ (maybe Walter Johnson was the first, maybe even Amos Rusie, whatever).


But, what I beleive is that there were probably less % of pitchers who could put above 90 overall. ANd today you'd never see a guy in the majors who cant throw 80 except maybe a knucleballer. Whereas back then you probably did like Stu Miller and Eddie Lopat and Dave LaPoint.


It probably doesnt matter.

Death to Crawling Things
07-29-2008, 01:03 AM
So far the responses have been pleasantly intelligent, thanks guys. I wonder, though, where the crowd is who literally ascribe old-time pitchers' fastballs as equivalent in velocity to today's batting-practice pitches? Believe it or not, but I have read just such a sentiment expressed multiple times on this forum.

Yeah, that is a bit far fetched. I'd say the avg. would be a max of 5 miles slower. ANd likely less (maybe way less) than that.

SABR Matt
07-29-2008, 01:17 AM
That's probably true for pitchers prior to 1890.

They weren't throwing it hard back then...they were supposed to throw the ball over the plate and let the defense work back then. Pitching didn't become a significant skill until the 1890s IMHO.

But quickly thereafter, guys figured out that if you threw it harder, you had more margin for error.

hellborn
07-29-2008, 04:50 AM
Weren't very early pitchers required to throw the ball with a stiff arm and no wrist snap? Then there were a lot of arguments about whether pitchers were REALLY snapping their wrists, and that was dropped because there was no high speed video to settle the argument at the time :dance, and then guys started bending their arms a little, then a lot, and finally it was all dropped.
I think that the batter could also signal whether he wanted a high or low pitch. Clearly, the emphasis was on getting a pitch for the batter to hit.

HitchedtoaSpark
07-29-2008, 06:36 AM
what I beleive is that there were probably less % of pitchers who could put above 90 overall.


But why? Why do you believe this? What is your argument?

stevebogus
07-29-2008, 07:38 AM
That's probably true for pitchers prior to 1890.

They weren't throwing it hard back then...they were supposed to throw the ball over the plate and let the defense work back then. Pitching didn't become a significant skill until the 1890s IMHO.

But quickly thereafter, guys figured out that if you threw it harder, you had more margin for error.

Baseball in the early days was constantly tinkering with the rules. Originally the pitcher had to deliver the ball underhanded with a stiff arm. But I'm sure that pitchers routinely ignored the "stiff arm" requirement and tried to whip the ball in with more speed. The rules were eventually modified to later allow sidearm and then overhand deliveries. While this was happpening the pitching distance was pushed back. The pitcher originally threw from a "box" with the front line just 45' away from home. This was moved to 50', and then in 1893 the modern pitching distance was established. This was a direct response to pitchers such as Amos Rusie and Cy Young, who both threw very hard. I would guess that by 1893, with no restrictions on the pitching motion, pitchers were able to throw as fast as today.

However, there were good reasons NOT to throw as hard as one could. Pitchers were expected to finish the game and had to pace themselves. And don't forget the catchers. While face masks appeared in the late 1870s the shin guards and chest protectors came much later. Catchers originally played several paces behing the plate and had to receive the pitch either on the bounce or very near the dirt. The difficulty of fielding a 90+ MPH pitch in the dirt should not be underestimated. Pitchers would have to take it easy so their catchers could survive the game intact.

The choice of pitchers to not throw as hard as possible should not be confused with the inability to to so. On reason Walter Johnson was able to throw fastballs all game long is because the catchers in his day had sufficient protection. His career nearly coincided with the introduction of shin guards.

hellborn
07-29-2008, 08:28 AM
I think stevebogus has made a lot of good points.
I do think that the fact that the early pitchers didn't "stretch it out" on a regular basis would have tended to make their maximum speed just a tad slower than modern pitcher. If you trained for a sprint by running almost all long distances, your sprint time would probably suffer somewhat. If a pitcher didn't fire it up full speed very often, his full speed probably wouldn't develop as it would with more "exercise".
Probably not a huge effect, but I think that it must have been a factor. But, even Walter Johnson claimed that he threw full effort all the time as a very young pitcher.

digglahhh
07-29-2008, 08:28 AM
But why? Why do you believe this? What is your argument?

Isn’t that always the key?

What I find to be particularly damning to this argument is that when going through the possible defenses, most of them seem to be circumstantial. Simply following Occam’s Razor in search of the explanatoin, we’d have to go quite far down the list before arriving at profound changes in biophysiology that are anomalous to the normal rate of evolution.

One possibility is that technique and exercise-specific training (yeah we know guys were strong, but how developed were programs intended to harness that strength specifically into throwing a baseball hard and accurately?) were less evolved. That, even assuming the above was true, would be a function of getting less out the same, not getting less out of less.

Another possibility is that talent scouting and mining hadn’t evolved to the point that baseball was drawing as great a percentage of those with the most gifted arms on the planet. Add segregation arguments here as well. Again, this is circumstantial. The sample didn’t represent the best of the pool to the extent that today’s does.

Another possibility is that the conditions of the game didn’t require it, at least not as such a high priority. Different skills have been prioritized throughout different eras as responses to macro conditions of said eras. Hopefully, I needn’t elaborate.

To me, while some of these arguments, if true, might prove the conclusion that previous pitchers didn’t throw as hard, with regularity and frequency, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t (as the function of simply their era or something). There’s a material difference between “didn’t” and “couldn’t” and the former doesn’t necessarily imply the latter.

Here’s a question though, Mark McGwire used a 35-ounce bat. Joe Dimaggio swung a 42. Is that evidence that pitching has gotten generally faster over the years (even if it’s a function of “did” and not necessarily “could”)?

I'm not saying I even agree with the above arguments - but they sound a lot better than Walter Johnson being a girly man in comparison to Kip Wells.

SABR Matt
07-29-2008, 08:33 AM
Agreed with pretty much all of that steve...

The rules made it nearly impossible for pitchers to ac tually demonstrate real skill until they allowed overhand deliveries and side-arm deliveries in the late 1880s...after which, pitchers like Cy Young and Amos Rusie IMMEDIATELY surfaced...that's when pitching became a skill...before that it might as well have been an automatic pitching machine in the box.

hellborn
07-29-2008, 08:54 AM
...
Here’s a question though, Mark McGwire used a 35-ounce bat. Joe Dimaggio swung a 42. Is that evidence that pitching has gotten generally faster over the years (even if it’s a function of “did” and not necessarily “could”)?

I'm not saying I even agree with the above arguments - but they sound a lot better than Walter Johnson being a girly man in comparison to Kip Wells.

I think that WJ actually wrote the "Lumberjack Song"...he really did want to be a girly just like his dear mama!
:dance

Interesting point on the bat weights. 31-33 ounces is probably the heart of the ML range now. Even immensely strong guys like Mantle and Killebrew used fairly light bats...Dick Allen is the last guy I've heard of over 40 oz (Jim Kaat wrote that Allen swung a 42 ouncer). Ruth was over 50 oz on occasion, typically in the 40s. Hornsby swung a bat in the 40s and ridiculed the tiny bats that players were using around 1960. Ted Williams was an avid proponent of a "light" bat (I think 33-34 ounces at 35") while Clipper was swinging his heavy bat.
This shift has also been attributed to a greater variety of pitches being used by the average pitcher...the lighter bat gives the batter a bit more time to adjust to a pitch he isn't expecting. Musial said that he liked a light bat because he felt it allowed him to watch the pitch as long as possible and "flick" it out of the catcher's mitt if he desired (his M159 is a fairly thin model that is still popular).
Many of the old models were not really that huge compared to modern bats, but much heavier wood stock was used (sometimes hickory). Players certainly could have gone lighter with ash if they had wanted to without changing models. I suspect that the shift in bat weight probably reflects an increasing sophistication amongst pitchers and hitters, and possibly better fastballs to deal with, especially since the old timers weren't striking out much with their heavy bats. I think there was also some machismo to deal with early on...real men were supposed to use meaty bats. I think that Splinter wrote that he used a much heavier bat until he met a guy in the minors using a very light bat that wasn't made from ash, believe that he called it Cuban Wood. Ted thought that it was pretty funny, but then tried the bat for the heck of it. He popped a HR, not a bomb but a good shot, and it got him thinking. He ended up dropping weight with ash, not to toothpick range but lighter than he had been using.

bluezebra
07-29-2008, 02:36 PM
It happened again. While perusing the threads this afternoon, I once again ran across the curious statement that pitchers of 20/50/100 years ago threw with "much less" velocity than they pitchers of today do.

What with all the talk of records and records being broken recently, this doctrine seems to be on just about every Fever-er's lips these days. As I have provided partial rebuttals to these claims in several threads, I thought it would be a good idea to collect them and centralize the argument in this one thread.

As for myself, I can offer at least four strong reasons/evidences that pitchers of yesteryear threw no slower than today, but I thought I would first toss the question out there.

Why do you think pitchers 20/50/100 years ago threw with much less velocity than their modern counterparts do?

Ask anyone who batted against pitchers like Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, Bob Feller, et al.

Bob

Ubiquitous
08-12-2009, 10:17 AM
Apparently the same device used to measure Feller's fastball at 98.6 mph also measured second baseman Mark Koenig's fastest throw at 127 mph. Somehow I doubt that. Years later Bob Turlet was measured at 94.2 mph.

PVNICK
08-12-2009, 10:24 AM
Apparently the same device used to measure Feller's fastball at 98.6 mph also measured second baseman Mark Koenig's fastest throw at 127 mph. Somehow I doubt that. Years later Bob Turlet was measured at 94.2 mph. What did they use to measure it, I gather this wasn't the motorcycle that you see in newsreelsy type stuff.

Ubiquitous
08-12-2009, 10:35 AM
According to study done by Frank Gilbreth, of Cheaper by the Dozen fame Fromme in 1916 threw pitches that had an average speed of between 117 to 148 mph.

SHOELESSJOE3
08-12-2009, 12:07 PM
Apparently the same device used to measure Feller's fastball at 98.6 mph also measured second baseman Mark Koenig's fastest throw at 127 mph. Somehow I doubt that. Years later Bob Turley was measured at 94.2 mph.

I'm also in doubt, for sure an error in the method used.

Bench 5
08-12-2009, 12:45 PM
A couple years ago I collected a bunch of articles on past attempts to measure the speed of pitchers including the ones that Ubi mentions above.

The Gilbreth study was done using a big stop watch. I have footage of the actual study which shows them attempting to measure the speed of the pitch as well as the speed of the throw from catcher to second and other times related to baseball. Gilbreth used a motion picture camera that included the pitcher and a stop watch in order to calculate the speed of the pitch. Based on the purported speeds, either the clock was in error or else he made a mistake in calculation. The actual study was done in May, 1913 before a Giants/Phillies game. Gilbreth performed the same study on a college team earlier that year.

Koenig threw the ball 150 feet per second which is about 100 MPH in 1930.

JRB
08-12-2009, 02:30 PM
According to study done by Frank Gilbreth, of Cheaper by the Dozen fame Fromme in 1916 threw pitches that had an average speed of between 117 to 148 mph.

Where did you find that fascinating information? At what distance? Did Gilbreth's rival theorist Frederick Winslow Taylor ever do any studies on the subject?

Eastvanmungo
08-13-2009, 04:03 PM
My take is there have been guys around that could put it in 95+ (maybe Walter Johnson was the first, maybe even Amos Rusie, whatever).


But, what I beleive is that there were probably less % of pitchers who could put above 90 overall. ANd today you'd never see a guy in the majors who cant throw 80 except maybe a knucleballer. Whereas back then you probably did like Stu Miller and Eddie Lopat and Dave LaPoint.


It probably doesnt matter.

Actually, anyone who has/had a change-up as good as Miller's would be able to pitch successfully in any era.

Iron Jaw
08-13-2009, 05:53 PM
Which era does Nolan Ryan fit into? He started his career in 1966 and made it to the Mets full time in 1968. Fast, raw and very wild. So wild, he never fit in the Met rotation and they shipped him to California for Jim Fregosi. He pitched through 1993. 60', 70's, 80's and 90's. He was probably at his fastest in the 70's when he was with the Angels.

I saw Ryan pitch as a kid and as an older man. I also remember seeing Sudden Sam McDowell pitch in his younger days. That guy had some heat comprable to any era. Wild too. Nobody likes to bat against a kid who is fast and wild. I remember batting against a kid who threw over 93 in high school, but he couldn't get it across the plate and had a lot of walks and HBP's (he hit me on the calf and the thigh one game). He wound up in the NFL later on.

Bench 5
08-13-2009, 06:55 PM
This website below has some good information on past attempts to measure speed and current speed of pitchers. The most important concept that they stress is the fact that the velocity of the pitch decelerates over distance. In order to compare the speed you have to take into account the distance and the conditions.

There are a few items that are not correct such as the story that Smokey Joe Wood, Matthewson and Johnson were timed in 1917. I have found no record of this. Matthewson was no longer playing and Wood was no longer a pitcher. I think this was first incorrectly introduced as a story in 1939 when the Speed Meter was rolled out by the Cleveland Plains Dealer.

Also Bob Feller was actually timed three different times. Once in 1939 by the Speed Meter, once in 1940 versus a motorcycle and once in 1946 by photo-electric cell.

Atley Donald as well as a couple other pitchers were timed at 95 MPH by the Speed Meter in 1939.

When I get some free time I will post all of the stories that I found from the past couple years ago. There were actually attempts to measure speed going back to 1884.

http://www.efastball.com/baseball/stats/fastest-pitch-speed-in-major-leagues/

elmer
08-14-2009, 03:21 AM
Well-put. BTW, here's one of only a handful of period articles about Steve and both his wildness and speed. It appeared in Time Magazine in July, 1960...

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,869618-1,00.html

Steve is referred to as "Steve Dalkowski Jr." because his father, Steve Sr., was a semi-pro and I believe briefly pro shortstop. Nobody called him Steve though...he was "Ratsy." If he played pro ball, both Steve and his sister claimed he anglicized his name. Steve thought he played as "Steve Dalko" and his sister wasn't sure either way.
At Risk of repetition:
http://stlcardinals.scout.com/2/447168.html

Bench 5
08-16-2009, 07:26 PM
Here's a picture of Art Fromme throwing a pitch to home plate in 1913 as he is being timed by a stop-clock set up by Frank Gilbreth. The apparatus behind home plate was set-up to help Gilbreth track the flight of the ball as it was thrown to home and subsequently thrown by the catcher to second. The clock was a high speed chronometer that went at the rate of 6 revolutions per second. Interestingly this is essentially the same concept that is currently employed by MLB Enhanced Gameday. Gilbreth had the right idea but his purported times were obviously inaccurate. One of the interesting items in the film is that the catcher is in a stand up position. That might explain why stolen base % was so low. My assumption is that the strike zone had to be called higher as well.

Steven Gallanter
08-30-2009, 06:05 PM
I'm afraid that I am the one who has asserted on this site, that I believe that old time pitchers, as a collective group, probably couldn't hit the 90's on the radar gun. But that's not to say that there were not any exceptions.

I have said this several times, since those few pitchers, such as Amos Rusie, Walter Johnson, Waddell, Vance, Grove, Feller were singled out as fireballers, while few other pitchers were ever mentioned as exceptional fastball pitchers.

I'm such a presumptious guy, here is what my gut tells me about their top end velocity. No evidence whatsoever.

Johnson 101, Rusie 99, Feller/Grove 98, Waddell 94, Vance 93. I doubt if any of the other pitchers pre-1950, could have hit 90.

I believe that the 60's featured such good fastball pitching due to the high strike zone. Larger your target area, easier to cut loose. Guys like Koufax were clocked at 93, Drysdale at 95, Bob Turley at 97. I haven't seen any number for Sam McDowell but he was probably at 98, at the least.

I further believe that todays pitchers can fire so fast is that they don't have to do it for very long. Not the whole game. But they're also limited by having to fire it into a much smaller target area. Which limits their velocity.

Bill Burgess

Plus the Negro Leaguers, like Paige/Williams, whom I forgot. They no doubt were over the 95 mph threshhold. And possibly over 100.
I am pretty sure that Vance threw considerably harder than 93 m.p.h. as did Van Lingle Mungo.

Take a look at the wide disparity between the K totals of Vance and Mungo and league averages.

The pitchers of the 1963-68 ERA Era threw the hardest as the height of the strike zone enabled the high release point that resulted from the windups of that time.

I think that velocity started to decline in the early 70's as the strike zone shrunk and the height of the 10" mound was enforced.

The increase in stolen bases prompted by artificial turf stadiums worked against young hurlers using the double-pump windups uised by Juan Marichal and Ferguson Jenkins.

This process was quickened by Jim Kaat's abandonment of the windup.
This enabled him to hold runners and conserve energy.
This practice was widely copied and is one of the many reasons Kaat should be in the Hall of Fame.

On recent Red Sox teams only Paul Byrd has had a full windup.

The pitchers of the last 20 years with the exceptions of the usual suspects haven't thrown nearly as hard as the pitchers of my youth.

Almost all of the hardest throwers of the past 20 years have been closers.

Honus Wagner Rules
03-04-2010, 05:22 PM
Here's the sort of thing your asking me to believe. The best sprinters in the world run the 100 meters in just under 9.7 seconds and probably, on average, run it in about 9.75 to 9.8 or so. However, suddenly some guy could come along who could consistently run the 100 meters in under 9.7 seconds and set the world record at 9.6 seconds, or maybe less. I don't believe that sort of thing is possible, no mater what Earl Weaver thinks.

One thing the radar guns over the last 20 years have told us, if nothing else, is that no one performs that far out of the norm. We know what the fastest pitchers throw and that the next really hard thrower who comes along isn't going to throw 107 or 108. He'll top out in the low 100's and probably not be able to sustain that for more than a couple of innings. You can bet on it.

By the way, don't be such a sensitive guy. This is all in good fun, isn't it?
Usain Bolt says hi. :waving

davewashere
03-05-2010, 06:33 AM
Usain Bolt says hi. :waving

LOL. What's really interesting is that there's evidence humans are capable of running considerably faster than that. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/19/wuss_men/

SHOELESSJOE3
03-05-2010, 10:03 AM
LOL. What's really interesting is that there's evidence humans are capable of running considerably faster than that. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/19/wuss_men/

Let me first make this clear, I don't doubt that Bolt or some one else could run even faster.
But this guy has to be kidding, he can tell the speed or that aboriginal man by his foot prints, are you buying, I'm not.

Ubiquitous
03-05-2010, 10:16 AM
I haven't read the article but yest you can compute the speed of a creature based on the footprints.

SHOELESSJOE3
03-05-2010, 12:11 PM
I haven't read the article but yest you can compute the speed of a creature based on the footprints.

I'm speaking of this particular case, 20,000 years ago.Figures for speed are arrived at by " estimating" leg length by foot size, key word estimating and also factoring in stride length.

Obviously stride length can be measured with accuracy but leg length is an estimate, not accurate enough to measure a number, speed.

In the past this method has been used to "estimate" speed of some dinosaurs. In some cases after a speed was reached it was noted that it might not be accurate because the leg length of that dinosaur could not be certain.

I'm not accepting, his conclusion, could be slower could be faster than the number he gives.

Honus Wagner Rules
03-05-2010, 12:40 PM
LOL. What's really interesting is that there's evidence humans are capable of running considerably faster than that. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/19/wuss_men/

What was so ironic is that just 21 days after that post regarding running 100 meters Usain Bolt broke the 100 m world record.

SHOELESSJOE3
03-05-2010, 01:19 PM
What was so ironic is that just 21 days after that post regarding running 100 meters Usain Bolt broke the 100 m world record.

This guy is on another planet, all by himself.
When he's out there it seems the only real race is for second place.

Honus Wagner Rules
03-05-2010, 02:09 PM
Does anyone have any detailed info on the design of the apparatus that timed Bob Feller at 98.6 mph? From what I understand they used army ordinance equipment called the Sky Screen Chronograph. It was designed to measure the velocity of artillery shells. From what I've found from Internet sources this device had an accuracy of 1/10,000th of second. But here is the kicker. The 98.6 mph reading is supposed to be the velocity as the ball crossed home plate! Doesn't a baseball lose about 8 mph from when the ball leaves the pitcher's hand to when it crosses home plate? That would imply that Feller threw that pitch at about 106-107 mph.

ItsOnlyGil
03-05-2010, 02:29 PM
Thats true. I saw a test (data) run on W.Johnson by a bullet mfgr (I think) that yielded results in feet per second which calculated out to a value below 90 mph, but that too was not likely the initial velocity. I believe that I posted the details on this somewhere here. I will see if I can dig that out.

Dick Groat's syndrome
03-05-2010, 06:40 PM
There are few ways to measure velocity, but every once in a while, there occurs other ways. For example:

Batters facing Walter Johnson often alleged that they could not actually see the ball. Umpire Billy Evans admitted that even he couldn't tell if the ball was crossing the plate or not. Quite an admission.

Batters often admitted that they couldn't tell if they were swinging over the ball, under the ball, or anything. Even Babe Ruth told of his first AB against Johnson in 1915. He says he stepped into the batters box. Bam, bam, bam. Back to the dugout. Easiest victim Walter ever had. Babe never swung, never saw any pitches. But he heard something swish by. He told the ump that the pitches sounded high.

Another batter, I think it was Jimmie Dykes was, was batting agaisnt Walter and his arm comes down. Jimmie is waiting and the ball never arrives. Then the catcher is returning the ball. Jimmie turns to the ump, with questioning eyes. The ump tells him to take his base. Huh? says Jimmie. The ump then informs him that if he doesn't think the ball clipped him, feel his bill cap.

Jimmie does and the bill is turned all the way around. Jimmie turns white. Never even saw a ball! Only Nolan Ryan was that fast in modern times.
No one ever alleged they couldn't even see a ball. So I equate Johnson with Ryan. Ryan was timed over 100 mph.

Feller was time at 98.6. Body temperature. Many equated Feller with Grove. But no one ever claimed that they couldn't follow Feller's pitches. So I measure Johnson over 100. With Ryan.

When Feller came along in '37, he electrified the BB world, with his 98.5 mph velocity. So that was the top rate for the BB world at the time.

Today, so many pitchers register over 98 on the radar gun, that I stopped counting. Rod Dibble, JR Richards were both over 100. Didn't create a stir then. But it would have in 1940. So that is one way to measure velocity by era. Today, I suspect that Clemens, Johnson, Martinez, Rivera, and lots of others could go over 100 perhaps several times a game.

If that were possible in 1938, they would have created the same stir as Feller did in '38.

Bill Burgess

I love these anecdotes and apocryphal stories, but I have one problem with them. If Johnson's fastball was so fast that the best batters and umpires could not track them, how did Johnson's catchers ever stand a chance? I believe that these stories are surely exaggerated. I will say this in agreement with you. Johnson might have had the fastest fastball relative to other pitchers ever. If he's throwing 93-95 and everybody else is topping out at 87-89, then it would be as if someone could throw 103 routinely in today's game when most everyone else is topping out in the 96-98 range.

Dalkowski110
03-09-2010, 06:40 AM
And wow, THIS thread has been resurrected! A few quick points that I believe need correcting from my prior comments...

-After doing some rather extensive newspaper research, Steve Dalkowski was attempted to be timed at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Aberdeen, MD AT LEAST four different times. I've also spoken with Joe Ginsberg, who caught Steve on perhaps the best-covered test by the media. This one took place in June 1958. I was lucky enough to obtain a photograph of Steve pitching, taken by James Kelmartin of the UPI (RIP). I have been thus far able to confirm...
-Steve was pitching on one or perhaps two days rest at most. He had indeed started a game either one or two days earlier with the Knoxville Smokies.
-Steve could not get the ball into the chronograph measuring him for a minimum of 15 minutes.
-Steve WAS wearing spikes and pitching off a mound.
-Baltimore was angry because he'd thrown a slip pitch through the machine to get it to record a speed of 85.8 mph at a distance of 60'6" from home plate, repeating the test once the season had concluded (unsure of the exact date), in Spring Training 1959 (where he likely hit 93.4 or 94.3; I've found both figures), and a third test I have almost nothing on that occured in 1960.
-The device Steve was measured on was a lumiline chronograph; almost identical to the one Feller was clocked on in 1946. Unfortunately, in my studies of the lumiline chronograph (often incorrectly referred to as a "sky screen"; this is but one of two components that takes speed), I've come to be absolutely convinced that it had such a horrific margin of error that it was almost useless. The device was designed to function in a controlled environment and some factors that could throw timing off included wind conditions, an insect flying over the aft lumiline screen, dirt blowing across the field, and even clouds! I would extend this being basically useless to Feller's 98.6 mph pitch, as well. The problems with the device included speed readings taken of pitches that were literally 10 mph apart or more. Feller also registered in the high 80's during that same test where he hit 98.6! I believe Frank Gilbreth's studies of Art Fromme suffered from something similar, albeit far worse.
-Nolan Ryan was almost certainly clocked between 30 and 45 feet away from his hand, NOT at home plate. The people at Rockwell International had actually published this prior to their taking his speed on radar. The sports journalists seemed to merely assume it was home plate, and while a few very early articles say it was "about 45 feet" from Ryan's hand, they were soon after replaced by Ryan being clocked at home plate. In my mind, that pitch would have registered about 104 mph on a modern radar gun. Highly impressive? Yes. But as fast as either Dalkowski or Zumaya? I doubt it.
-Zumaya's pitches (and everyone else's these days, as well) are measured between point of release and about 10 feet away from the hand.
-Walter Johnson's pitching mechanics (which HAVE been recorded on video and have been slowed down, and have been looked at by a ton of people) likely didn't allow him to throw much faster than 92-93 mph at release. But then consider that due to the primitive nature of throwing mechanics at the time, the league average for fastballs was in the high 70's or low 80's. Here you have a guy about 10-12 mph faster than the league average, on pretty much every pitch. In terms of simply being "faster than his peers," Walter Johnson was probably unparalleled on a Major League level at any time in history. Why was he so fast with such a mechanically-weak delivery? It's possible he simply had a tremendous amount of "fast twitch" muscle fiber in his right arm, allowing him to generate greater arm speed.
-I firmly believe based on what I've gathered that Steve Dalkowski threw a minimum of 105 mph and a maximum of 109 mph. However, bear in mind I'm using the Zumaya release point. The studies performed by Dr. Glenn Fleisig on the human arm saying the UCL explodes at just over 100 mph (possibly 101 mph) are indeed dead on...if you're using home plate as the 100 mph barrier. A fastball loses about 10-11 mph of velocity from point of release to home. Therefore, it's perfectly anatomically possible for Steve to have thrown 100 mph at home plate. Most pitcher can generate neither the mechanics nor tolerate the pain threshhold it takes to reach these speeds. With regards to pitching mechanics, you'll see more about that in my book on Steve. However, I will say this: Steve was almost certainly hitting 90 mph at release with a twice-torn MCL during California Angels Spring Training of 1966. He was in extreme agony, but pitched anyway. With regards to pain threshhold, I believe Steve's was incredibly high.

HitchedtoaSpark
03-10-2010, 02:25 PM
-Walter Johnson's pitching mechanics (which HAVE been recorded on video and have been slowed down, and have been looked at by a ton of people) likely didn't allow him to throw much faster than 92-93 mph at release. But then consider that due to the primitive nature of throwing mechanics at the time, the league average for fastballs was in the high 70's or low 80's.

Dalkowski, your passionate, meticulous research into the life and achievements of the eponymous baseball legend are always a highlight of my sporadic board lurking these days. You may yet do for Dalkowski what Bill Jenkinson has done for Ruth and other distance hitters.

However, in the five years plus since I originally posted this thread, I still have yet to see a convincing or well-thought out argument for the above claim. My research has found, among other things, way too many caved in batter skulls, broken arms, smashed ribs, ended careers, and other maiming/mangling physical traumae at the blow of wayward(?) twirler pitches to accept the early 20th century moundsman-as-soft-tosser model. (See post #16.)

It's well-established by now that, for various reasons, nearly all existing film (not video--a mid-20th century innovation) records of early 20th century baseball athletes are of extremely limited value for making determinations about player physical skills. Of far better utility are any surviving records of skill competitions in which definite measurements were made; such as the throwing contest figures I listed (also in post #16). If simple math based on his recorded best tells you that Honus Wagner (a position player) could demonstrably break 90mph on a hypothetical gun, it's all but certain that Johnson (as well as the other top speedballers of the day) were exceeding this implied figure by quite a wide margin.

dominik
03-10-2010, 03:00 PM
Of course the average pitchers speed has increased as the 100m times have improved over the time. esp. I think todays pitchers can maintain speed longer.
But of course that doesn't mean all pitchers where really slow then, because velocity in throwing like 100m speed is more a talent then speed thing.
100m runners 80 years ago didn't run 11.0(jesse owens ran 10.2) and of course not all pitchers did throw in the 80s.

sure there where some guys who could top out in the low to even mid 90s although they might not have thrown it as consistently as todays pitchers who can maintain top speed for 5 or 6 innings.

Ubiquitous
03-10-2010, 08:07 PM
You don't need to throw 100 mph to injure a human being.

Dalkowski110
03-10-2010, 08:36 PM
"However, in the five years plus since I originally posted this thread, I still have yet to see a convincing or well-thought out argument for the above claim. My research has found, among other things, way too many caved in batter skulls, broken arms, smashed ribs, ended careers, and other maiming/mangling physical traumae at the blow of wayward(?) twirler pitches to accept the early 20th century moundsman-as-soft-tosser model."

Here's the problem with this: do you recall Salomon Torres doing this...

http://reds.enquirer.com/2003/04/21/wwwred3a21.html

...to Sammy Sosa's batting helmet? Well, Torres "only" threw that pitch at about 92 mph at release. And yet, he shattered Sosa's batting helmet. A collapsed skull (something roughly equivalent) doesn't need a fastball thrown at Zumaya/Dalkowski/Ryan/Randy Johnson velocity to collapse it. If you can shatter a pretty-flexible batting helmet with a 92 mph fastball, imagine what you can do to bones.

"It's well-established by now that, for various reasons, nearly all existing film (not video--a mid-20th century innovation) records of early 20th century baseball athletes are of extremely limited value for making determinations about player physical skills."

Usually. And if you mean try and extrapolate a speed from it, then forget it; you're totally right. But it does allow us to examine Johnson's pitching mechanics. He has no scapular load to speak of, does not have a particularly powerful arm action (NOT be be confused with arm speed), throws with a relatively stiff lower half, and his stride is almost non-existent. Therefore, we must take into account what things he DOES show. Relative to the rest of his mechanics, Johnson shows remarkable arm speed. He also shows very good (unusually good considering the time period) hip/shoulder seperation; that is to say, his hips are facing home plate far before his shoulders start to turn. He also has an aggressive follow-through. Although I have extreme difficulty buying something in the high 90's/low 100's from examining the biomechanical aspect of his delivery, I can bring myself to believe that if he had a very significant amount of "fast twitch" muscle fiber in his right arm, he could have been throwing in the low 90's.

Further, Johnson's speed WAS likely accurately tested at about 92-93 mph. How could this be? Especially seeing as it was 1912? Well, I happen to be a bigtime firearms enthusiast as well as a baseball enthusiast. That's why I don't believe any of the lumiline chonograph readings can be taken seriously. But recall the story of Johnson's speed being tested at the Remington-Union Metallic Cartridge Company's Bridgeport line drop chronograph in 1912. That device was A) very accurate and B) could not be moved. Therefore, it was functioning under the conditions for which it was designed. And that's exactly the problem with the line-drop chronograph from a military logistics standpoint: it's immobile, too large to be practical, and while it can take effective measurements, it can't be moved from place to place. Johnson had warmed up, but reports vary as to whether he was pitching off a mound or not. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say he wasn't. Well, the Remington-UMC guys had set up the device to take measurements at 60 feet, but there was a problem: Johnson was a sidearmer and difficulty getting the ball through the shoulder-height measuring device (which was actually quite open, as Remington-UMC had designed it to measure anything up to 1 gauge punt shell loads [legal for "market hunting" at the time] from a gun with no choke at 50 yards; you're looking at something that had an opening several FEET wide). Therefore, for Johnson's pitching, the device was moved back to 75 feet. That may sound unbelievable, but it's actually not; though the device was initially placed at 60 feet away, it would have recorded the results of a pitch thrown at 45 feet. This is because the Remington-UMC line-drop chronograph was FIFTEEN FEET LONG and while the actual recorder was placed 60 feet away, it recorded speeds taken fifteen feet in front of it, to compensate for its gigantic size. This is well-documented based on firearms testing with the device and was well-known by 1912. Therefore, though almost certainly by chance, Johnson had the distinction of being the first pitcher measured at mound-to-home distance: 60 feet. His pitch speed registered at 122 feet per second; about 83.2 mph.

Given that a fastball loses 9-10 mph on its way to the plate, we safely say Johnson's pitch, for better or for worse, would probably have been clocked at 91-93 mph. Say he has no mound, though. So let's give him an extra 2 mph (this is the absolute most liberal measurement I can figure with no mound; and he may even have had a mound). You're looking at someone who is now throwing at maximum 95 mph on a modern radar gun on a remarkably accurate device that was sadly overlooked in its potential usefulness at the time (Bob Turley, who was timed at 93.8 mph on a magnetic oscillograph at release point, was also almost certainly throwing what he would have registered on a radar gun).

Interestingly, Johnson WAS supposedly measured on a West Point device 20 feet from his release point at 91.4 mph (which would give a similar speed; 93 mph). I know that West Point had a nearly identical device at the time, although supposedly, the historical details from that test don't seem to jive (it also had Christy Mathewson, who was completely worn out, and Smoky Joe Wood, who had injured his arm, as being timed), so that one must be either looked at with an enormous grain of salt or just discarded.

But there was another pitcher...a roughly average pitcher in terms of speed at the time, who was often described as being above average, though never as a fireballer...who took the Remington-UMC test and was measured at 45 feet: Nap Rucker. With the device placed 60 feet away and thus recording Rucker's fastball at 45 feet, he got one in at 113 fps; about 77.1 mph. We can probably give him about 6 extra mph, possibly even 8 if we don't think he was pitching from a mound. This means Nap Rucker was recorded on a very accurate device at about 85 mph on a modern radar gun, at maximum. If that's above average in 1912, then no wonder Walter Johnson is blowing everyone away.

Then there's this...

"Of far better utility are any surviving records of skill competitions in which definite measurements were made; such as the throwing contest figures I listed (also in post #16). If simple math based on his recorded best tells you that Honus Wagner (a position player) could demonstrably break 90mph on a hypothetical gun, it's all but certain that Johnson (as well as the other top speedballers of the day) were exceeding this implied figure by quite a wide margin."

Your throwing data is good, but you have to take into account the circumstances behind all of it; you can't just assume there was no wind and no running start or that Wagner was throwing from a crow hop. It's well known that Glen Gorbous took a running jump, was throwing into a 6 mph recorded wind, and had warmed up. He admitted to it. Wagner had also reportedly warmed up and was throwing into the wind from "a running start." But just what do we define as "a running start" and what as "into the wind?" Unfortunately, whatever that was, unlike the VERY precise data we have on Glen Gorbous, has been lost to history.

Then there's this: until the mid 1920's to early 1930's, pitching mechanics can't really be described as "modern" or really capable of producing as much speed from a biomechanical standpoint in terms of the arm actions, strides, leg drives, and (to an admittedly much-lesser extent) even the hip/shoulder seperations. That's why you all of a sudden start seeing so many "unbelievable, never-before-seen-speed" type pitchers from around that era. Dizzy Dean, Dazzy Vance, Lefty Grove...all these guys threw with reasonably modern mechanics compared to the Dead Ballers and all were quickly proclaimed to be the fastest pitcher in baseball the moment they showed up.

Personally, it's my belief that Bob Feller was probably the pre-WWII speed king (EDIT: or at least ONE OF the fastest pre-WWII; i.e. of the better-known guys). Why? Because in the (literally) dozens of rejected speeds he was recording on that chronograph before the "107 mph error," he was hitting somewhere in the high 80's. At 60'6". That translates into consistently throwing in the high 90's on a modern gun. Had he warmed up? Yes. Was he throwing off a mound? Yes. Was the chronograph mostly useless? Yes. But given that it had a 10-12 mph margin of error, Feller's 98.7 mph pitch was in actuality 86 mph at home plate AT WORST. That's about 95-96 mph on a modern radar gun, and that's the worst speed he could have recorded. To be honest, he was probably in the 98-100 mph range on a modern device.

HitchedtoaSpark
03-11-2010, 08:57 PM
You don't need to throw 100 mph to injure a human being.

What's it like arguing with yourself?



Here's the problem with this: do you recall Salomon Torres doing this...

http://reds.enquirer.com/2003/04/21/wwwred3a21.html

...to Sammy Sosa's batting helmet? Well, Torres "only" threw that pitch at about 92 mph at release. And yet, he shattered Sosa's batting helmet. A collapsed skull (something roughly equivalent) doesn't need a fastball thrown at Zumaya/Dalkowski/Ryan/Randy Johnson velocity to collapse it. If you can shatter a pretty-flexible batting helmet with a 92 mph fastball, imagine what you can do to bones.

Actually, you contradict your own point regarding the assumed velocity of old-time pitchers in selecting the instance of a 92-mph recorded pitch.

My beef is not with those whom--for whatever reason--claim that pitchers of a hundred years ago weren't quite as fast as today's equivalent specimen. Although I don't agree, and am confident that I have stated a persuasive argument as to why, it seems a reasonable presupposition in light of the groupthink that currently prevails regarding the assumed superiority of contemporary athletes. I do, however, quibble at the confidence and naivete of "high 70's/low 80's mph"--hardly more than batting practice speed--pronouncements as the likely threshold for hurlers of yore. The reasoning is so faulty and vulnerable to close scrutiny--bereft, as it is, of any actual or implied evidence--that I invariably shake my head at the scholarship void which gives asylum to such arrogance. (The argument invariably reminds me of the hypothetical which compares the size/stature of the average 21st century homo sapien with those of the early 19th; which is a difference of about six or more inches. Following from this model, human beings of the medieval period must have been midgets. [Wrong.])

Nobody here has said nor implied that a "Zumaya/Dalkowski/Ryan/Randy Johnson"-level fastball is required to break batter bones. However, I think we can agree that few instances can be called to memory of crushed temples, shattered jaws, fractured wrists, broken ribs occuring during batting practice sessions of any description (where pitches, alas, still occasionally go awry). There has to be a model intersecting the conditions of real-life (where pitches must be at least fast enough to cause serious bodily hurt, while preventing the necessary reaction time for successful dodge) on which to try the supposition if anything is to be proven. If you have few pitchers from a hundred years ago breaching the "high 70's/low 80's" threshold, how is it that you have so many recorded instances of serious batter injury, or even death, even from the most obscure of twirlers? How is it that Carl Mays was able to drill Ty Cobb in the ribs hard enough to have grievously fractured two of them if he was (extrapolating for his submarine delivery) chucking them in the high 60's/low 70's? Could the anonymous Ray White of the Columbia University nine have beaned Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game with such force as to reach the press box on the rebound if his fast one was, at best, "high 70's/low 80's"? (Weigh these considerations in light of the fact that both of these instances pre-date the era of the confidently dug-in batter--bisecting these events was the infamous Ray Chapman beanball fatality.) At this point, one must inevitably resort to impugning the eyesight and tracking ability of yesterday's batter in order for the argument to retain any water, which merely exposes the agenda of its proponent.

If you look at a history of serious, pitch-caused batter injury (such as that here on page 20: http://www.iihs.org/research/paper_pdfs/mf_0738.pdf), you'll find much the same description of trauma suffered, regardless of era. Unless we further wish to stretch this rubber band to intimate that players 100 years ago had more brittle bones than players today do, I think it's fair to conclude that pitches hurled from major league mounds have always been more or less commensurate in the speed and danger that they hold.



But it does allow us to examine Johnson's pitching mechanics. He has no scapular load to speak of, does not have a particularly powerful arm action (NOT be be confused with arm speed), throws with a relatively stiff lower half, and his stride is almost non-existent. Therefore, we must take into account what things he DOES show. Relative to the rest of his mechanics, Johnson shows remarkable arm speed. He also shows very good (unusually good considering the time period) hip/shoulder seperation; that is to say, his hips are facing home plate far before his shoulders start to turn. He also has an aggressive follow-through. Although I have extreme difficulty buying something in the high 90's/low 100's from examining the biomechanical aspect of his delivery, I can bring myself to believe that if he had a very significant amount of "fast twitch" muscle fiber in his right arm, he could have been throwing in the low 90's...

Then there's this: until the mid 1920's to early 1930's, pitching mechanics can't really be described as "modern" or really capable of producing as much speed from a biomechanical standpoint in terms of the arm actions, strides, leg drives, and (to an admittedly much-lesser extent) even the hip/shoulder seperations. That's why you all of a sudden start seeing so many "unbelievable, never-before-seen-speed" type pitchers from around that era. Dizzy Dean, Dazzy Vance, Lefty Grove...all these guys threw with reasonably modern mechanics compared to the Dead Ballers and all were quickly proclaimed to be the fastest pitcher in baseball the moment they showed up.

OK, first of all, I have never heard this latter claim, that "all of a sudden" there appeared in the mid-20's/early 30's scene a plethora of "unbelievable, never-before-seen-speed" pitchers. EVERY era has trumpeted a parade of "fastest evers", from the Jim Creighton to the present day (most not amounting to much). In Johnson's day alone, there were pitching on various rosters Rube Waddell, Smoky Joe Wood, Pete Alexander, Nap Rucker, Dazzy Vance, Bill Hallahan, Louis Drucke, Grover Lowdermilk, Marty O'Toole, and more arms that were considered the ultimate in speed.

Secondly, you again undermine your argument--here, in discussion of pitching mechanics--by bringing up Johnson, whom was considered in his time an outlier, a unique case in the matter of pitching mechanics. From professional top to bottom, Johnson always received an earful regarding the supposed "wrongness" of his mechanics (with an equal measure of stunned surprise that he was able to blaze them in just the same). Joe Wood, with his high leg kick and powerful, over-the-top motion (sound familiar?), was much more considered an object of standards and emulation. In point of fact, you are making the same mistake that certain authorities made in Johnson's day in assuming that speed is all mechanics; that there is only one universal, immutable, possible physical model to follow and adhere to. It is more than worth considering as an addendum that most authorities who saw Johnson, Grove, and Feller pitch during their prime years agreed that Johnson was the fastest of the three.


Further, Johnson's speed WAS likely accurately tested at about 92-93 mph...

[snip]

The dubiousness of ballistics equipment testing is thoroughly demonstrated by citing the fact that Mark Koenig, Yankee shortstop (never known as one of the top guns at his position), was in 1930 put through this same test and measured at just a few feet per second slower than Johnson. On the other hand, the great Lou McEvoy, New York super-ace, was recorded at a mere 150 ft/sec.



Your throwing data is good, but you have to take into account the circumstances behind all of it; you can't just assume there was no wind and no running start or that Wagner was throwing from a crow hop. It's well known that Glen Gorbous took a running jump, was throwing into a 6 mph recorded wind, and had warmed up. He admitted to it. Wagner had also reportedly warmed up and was throwing into the wind from "a running start." But just what do we define as "a running start" and what as "into the wind?" Unfortunately, whatever that was, unlike the VERY precise data we have on Glen Gorbous, has been lost to history.

Adair uses the term "crop hop" to indicate a running start, so that factor has been accounted for. On the existence of wind-aided throws, these are every bit as probable as wind-aided tape-measure home runs. However, we also have Wagner's throw of 399 feet, made eight years after his 403 foot toss, to reinforce these figures. (Of course, it's very easy to claim that this, like all other Paleolithic long-tosses, was also wind-aided; just as home run distances were once aided by wavering gravity and player footspeed times abetted by downhill-in-every-direction baseball diamonds.)

Ubiquitous
03-11-2010, 09:25 PM
What's it like arguing with yourself?


Pleasant and not as rude.

You made a statement about injuries and speed as if getting injured in those days happened because of pitch speeds that are comparable to nowadays. I disagree, because quite obviously you don't need someone to throw 95 mph to crush in a skull.

Dalkowski110
03-12-2010, 12:36 AM
"The dubiousness of ballistics equipment testing is thoroughly demonstrated by citing the fact that Mark Koenig, Yankee shortstop (never known as one of the top guns at his position), was in 1930 put through this same test and measured at just a few feet per second slower than Johnson. On the other hand, the great Lou McEvoy, New York super-ace, was recorded at a mere 150 ft/sec."

Umm, no it isn't. In fact, that argument has no merit at all (your only one that doesn't). It does not, because you presume that all factors are equal. Most ballistic devices of the time, when they had their innards moved, get thrown off, and pretty badly so. The military did not care if it had increased speed; they'd look good in terms of public relations (many have speculated Bob Feller's 98.6 mph pitch was in actuality measured at 88.6 with the Army tacking on 10 mph, although given the huge margin of error for the lumiline chronograph when used outside of its designed environment, I could believe 98.6 as a freakish outlier...but then, if the military really DID fudge an 88.6 pitch into a 98.6 pitch, I honestly wouldn't be surprised.). I've seen the West Point line-drop chronograph in photos, and I've also seen the Bridgeport, CT Remington-UMC line-drop chronograph from period photos. I should point out that the former device was dismantled and sold for scrap by West Point shortly after WWI (it was going to be reused at Picatinny Arsenal in NJ, but that facility was shut down); the device that may or may not have measured Johnson, Mathewson, and Wood was not the same device that measured McEvoy and Koenig. But not for the reasons you're thinking.

The Army figured they'd be getting an improvement over the older line-drop device, since it was so ridiculously cumbersome. They were wrong. Instead, they got the predecessor of the photocell chronograph (similar to the lumiline device, but without the fore and aft lumiline screens). It was nice,new, and horribly inaccurate. In 1923, when a General Order was issued to replace the standard US Rifle Cartridge, the .30-06, with the experimental .276 Pedersen as part of the US Army's modernization of its battle rifle, the General Order actually STATES which chronographs were accurate enough to measure the velocity of the roughly ten different experimental .276 Pedersen loads for ballistic data. Take a flying guess whose shiny new chronograph did NOT pass muster. Since Remington-UMC was a private company, they were not listed (Frankford Arsenal and Springfield Arsenal had the two devices where most of the testing was conducted). But they were also the only civilian manufacturer of .276 Pedersen ammunition, and I should point out their ballistics were so dead on that Great Britain ordered their ammunition from Remington-UMC. They had not yet replaced their line-drop chronograph. While I know the point is irrelevant, I should also point out that in 1932, we went right back to the .30-06, basically developing the .276 Pedersen for no reason.

Basically, before WWII, you actually have to know the exact device to ascertain accuracy of measurement. I happen to know that in many but not all cases (for example, I'm not sure when West Point replaced the device that recorded McEvoy and Koenig's throws), and making a blanket statement that EVERY SINGLE BALLISTIC MEASUREMENT DEVICE was badly off is patently absurd.

"I do, however, quibble at the confidence and naivete of "high 70's/low 80's mph"--hardly more than batting practice speed--pronouncements as the likely threshold for hurlers of yore."

Actually, I had so little confidence about the "high 70's" part that, if you looked back, I took Nap Rucker and gave him 85 mph. So we'll put league average in the low 80's. You do win there...slightly. However, more importantly, there's a lot more movement on those pitches than a BP fastball. If you don't think the spin on a pitch has an effect upon impacting something, think again.

"where pitches, alas, still occasionally go awry"

Awry? Yes. Thrown full tilt, but more importantly trying to get the hitter out, and with movement? Mind giving me some examples of BP thrown that way? Also, blows often depend on how the ball is spinning. Say a pitch thrown by an imaginary pitcher from no particular age glances off the side of a batter's head released at 101 mph. Now say that another pitch travelling inward from a different imaginary pitcher thrown with a ton of movement slams into a guy's temple released at 88 mph. Which of those pitches is more likely to kill someone? And don't forget the admitted handful of horror stories of Little League batters being killed. How fast do you think their pitches are going?

"extrapolating for his submarine delivery"

Wrong. The irony is, the submarine pitcher's mechanics have changed extremely little, if at all, since the days of Carl Mays. He could've very well thrown in the mid to high 80's. And you yourself knock him down to the high 60's/low 70's mph for sarcasm's sake, so I'm presuming that you think he probably threw in the high 80's or perhaps low 90's. Let's look at that for a minute: if you yourself are presuming that, and this guy CRUSHED A MAN'S SKULL, maybe there's a lot less force applied then you think need be?

"Could the anonymous Ray White of the Columbia University nine have beaned Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game with such force as to reach the press box on the rebound if his fast one was, at best, "high 70's/low 80's"?"

No, but you may be giving White far too little credit. Surely you'll concede that at that time, playing baseball really well did not mean you went into it as a career, especially for a college man. It could have been that White A) wasn't interested in baseball as a career, B) threw a straight-as-an-arrow fastball pretty hard with not very much movement (ever notice that not too many of these type guys turn up in the Majors at that time?), or C) both A and B.

"OK, first of all, I have never heard this latter claim"

Read some more Bill James and Rob Neyer.

"(sound familiar?)"

Sound? Maybe from the way you describe it. But Smoky Joe Wood did something of that era that most pitchers did not: he utilized in his mechanics a form of scapular load. This was, of course, totally ignored due to the lack of video, but it is present in footage of him. Wood got his speed from bending his elbow more than anyone else of his era, not from kicking high and going straight over the top as was assumed by looking at him with the naked eye and relatively primitive medical technology of the era (remember, this is the era when most of the intelligensia believe a curveball doesn't even curve)...

"It is more than worth considering as an addendum that most authorities who saw Johnson, Grove, and Feller pitch during their prime years agreed that Johnson was the fastest of the three."

Right. Because the 1870's guys all said George Zettlein was the fastest. Sometimes Joe Blong. And all the 1880's guys said Charlie Sweeney was the fastest. And then Amos Rusie in the 1890's. Cy Young in the 1900's. Johnson (and Smoky Joe Wood, from about 1910-1915) from the 1910's-mid-1920's. However, take someone with a relatively long career that faced Johnson a year or so after WWI and then faced Lefty Grove when he first came up. I'd be more interested in what these guys that bridged careers say.

"Adair uses the term 'crow hop' to indicate a running start, so that factor has been accounted for."

What about if Wagner rotated his hips out in front of his shoulders and then hyperabducted his elbow to make the throw? With no crow hop, you can gain serious velocity by merely doing that. I know he did the latter, but am genuinely unsure as to the former (although it often facilitates the former). And yes, watch some ballplayers today (especially outfielders). There are a few (not many) who use these throwing mechanics. Since Wagner's arm at short was legendary any way you look at it and there were no coaches to tell one the "right way" to throw in the infield, my guess is he had good throwing mechanics.

"Of course, it's very easy to claim that this, like all other Paleolithic long-tosses, was also wind-aided; just as home run distances were once aided by wavering gravity and player footspeed times abetted by downhill-in-every-direction baseball diamonds."

"Pleasant and not as rude."

I'll agree with Ubi on this one. I'm here for civil debate. You can lose the attitude and the sarcasm. And incidentally...

"The argument invariably reminds me of the hypothetical which compares the size/stature of the average 21st century homo sapien with those of the early 19th; which is a difference of about six or more inches. Following from this model, human beings of the medieval period must have been midgets. [Wrong.]"

Although I agree with you that 6 or more inches IS absurd, I will say that there was A height difference of a few inches, possibly as many as three; considering the average levels of nutrition, there literally could not have been. I mean, that IS the height difference in North Korea and South Korea, for two genetically identical sets of people on radically different diets.

thaa
03-12-2010, 01:46 PM
[...]
When Feller came along in '37, he electrified the BB world, with his 98.5 mph velocity. So that was the top rate for the BB world at the time.

Today, so many pitchers register over 98 on the radar gun, that I stopped counting. Rod Dibble, JR Richards were both over 100. Didn't create a stir then. But it would have in 1940. So that is one way to measure velocity by era. Today, I suspect that Clemens, Johnson, Martinez, Rivera, and lots of others could go over 100 perhaps several times a game.

If that were possible in 1938, they would have created the same stir as Feller did in '38.

Bill Burgess


A couple of comments about the famous 98.6 for Feller. First, I'm not sure how that measurement was taken and whether it demanded any accommodations-to-the-instruments on Feller's part. I THINK I read, once, that the measurement was made just after WW 2, and it would be interesting to know how the accuracy of that measurement might stand up to what is achieved using contemporary instruments. Second, IF the 98.6 were obtained post-war, then, in 1936, when Feller was 18 and "electrifying" observers with his speed, it's not out of the question that he might have been reaching 100.

As to whether a "stir" would have been created by exceptional speeds, back in 1940, I'm not so sure. We're measurement crazy now, and the very existence of the instruments and the routine-ness of their use get crowds oooohing and ahhhhing and looking for more. In 1940, no speed guns, no expectations, no oohs, no ahhs.

thaa
03-12-2010, 02:04 PM
My take is there have been guys around that could put it in 95+ (maybe Walter Johnson was the first, maybe even Amos Rusie, whatever).


But, what I beleive is that there were probably less % of pitchers who could put above 90 overall. ANd today you'd never see a guy in the majors who cant throw 80 except maybe a knucleballer. Whereas back then you probably did like Stu Miller and Eddie Lopat and Dave LaPoint.


It probably doesnt matter.

Ahhh, if only the Yankees of today could have another Eddie Lopat! Look up, some time, what Ted Williams had to say about him. I saw this attributed to Lopat once: "Take four pitches - the fast ball, the curve, the slider and the screwball. Now throw these at different speeds and you have 12 pitches. Next, throw each of these 12 pitches with a long-armed or short-armed motion, and you have 24 pitches." If I'm not mistaken, Williams may have hired him as pitching coach. You don't need to impress a radar gun in order to have a memorable big league career on the mound.

Dalkowski110
03-12-2010, 02:58 PM
"A couple of comments about the famous 98.6 for Feller. First, I'm not sure how that measurement was taken and whether it demanded any accommodations-to-the-instruments on Feller's part. I THINK I read, once, that the measurement was made just after WW 2, and it would be interesting to know how the accuracy of that measurement might stand up to what is achieved using contemporary instruments. Second, IF the 98.6 were obtained post-war, then, in 1936, when Feller was 18 and "electrifying" observers with his speed, it's not out of the question that he might have been reaching 100."

Feller's pitch was measured on a lumiline chronograph, the successor to the photocell chronograph. When used properly and in an almost completely-sterile environment, it was dead on. Problem was, if you take a look at the film (go to youtube and type in "Bob Feller pitch speed"), the machine is not used as it was designed to be. It's right out there on a baseball field, which is far from sterile. As I said, such tiny things as insects, cloud conditions, the wind, and even possibly the sun could have thrown off the reading (inflating it) by as much as 10-12 mph. Also bear in mind that most pitches, when we think of pitch speed taken on a radar gun, are measured either at release or 10 feet away (there's really not much difference). A baseball loses 9-10 mph from that point to the hand, so we'd have to assume Feller's pitch was recorded travelling at 107 mph. But considering the frames from his hand to the plate visible in the film, there's simply no way he's throwing that hard. MANY who batted against Feller before his back injury (which, as Feller himself claims, was what cost him his speed, not WWII...he was allowed to stay in shape by running around the decking on the USS Alabama...) doubt this figure when compared to other pitchers they either went on to face or had faced earlier. Also, Feller's pitch was an extreme outlier. Most of his pitches in that session were coming in at the high 80's at home plate...which is to say, the high 90's on a modern radar gun. The Army never averaged out Feller's speed...they just picked the outlier that he didn't even approach with any other pitch thrown. I will say this and doubt anyone will disagree with me...in any era, any league, any pitcher, there is simply no way a guy can, at random, add 7-8 mph onto his fastball when he's reaching back for a little extra.

But the potential margin of error for the lumiline chronograph is about 10-12 mph added on. We know Feller had warmed up, was not tired, was throwing off a mound in full uniform, and was getting it through the lumiline screens consistently. So, how fast WAS he throwing? Well, if we give that 98.6 mph pitch the full 12 mph knocked off, it goes through the device at 86.6 mph. That's about 96 mph at home plate. Considering he was consistently hitting the high 80's outside of that, I honestly do wonder if he wasn't averaging what would be about the consistent high 90's in mph on a modern radar gun (which is certainly nothing to sniffle at). Could he have hit triple digits in his career as we interpret it on a modern radar gun? I believe so. His mechanics are highly conducive to it.

Bench 5
03-13-2010, 09:06 PM
According to an article in the Washington Post on the day after Feller had his speed measured, he was originally scheduled to throw three pitches into the lumiline chronograph prior to the game. He wound up throwing two extra pitches for a total of five tosses. On his fifth throw he actually splintered the wood box as you can see on the youtube clip. Given that he only threw five pitches I actually would expect that there may be high variability in his speed since he may have thrown at a slower pace to get his bearing on the first couple pitches. The test involved accuracy as well as speed.

Feller had his pitches measured on two other occasions. In 1939 he threw a ball into a speed meter device developed by the Cleveland Plain Dealer at 81.1 MPH (119 FPS). According to an article at the time Feller "lobbed the ball" into the machine. Four players were measured at 94.7 MPH (139 FPS) throughout the course of the year - Atley Donald, Rudy York, Ralph Kress and Roy Cullenbine. When Feller threw 98.6 in 1946, he was credited with breaking "Atley Donald's record" even though three other players held the record with Donald. Apparently Koenig's earlier attempt was not recognized or commonly known.

Feller had his pitch timed against a motorcycle traveling at 88 MPH in 1940. I have a copy of that video and Feller beats the motorcycle easily. His pitch was calculated around 104 MPH based on how much he beat the motorcycle.

Johnson was measured in his street clothes. He took his hat and sport jacket off before he tossed the ball into the machine. His warm-up consisted of playing catch with Nap Rucker before they both made their attempts. The kicker is that neither of them had gloves so they were not tossing the ball very hard to each other to get warmed up. The articles at the time express the belief that they could both throw much harder than the times they put up and they also express reservation about the accuracy of the test due to the fact that the device was not intended to measure a baseball. It took each pitcher several attempts to even record a time since they had to trip the fine copper wires in order to get a reading. 83 MPH plate speed is about 8-10 MPH slower than the fastest plate times recorded in 2009. Assuming that the device was fairly accurate (which is a guess), I think it is very likely that Johnson could have been throwing as hard as anyone today if he was on a mound, in uniform, warmed up in game conditions.

I have searched long and hard and I find no contemporaneous evidence that Johnson was measured at any other time. I contacted his Grandson Henry Thomas and he also said that he found no evidence of another attempt to measure his speed. I found an article in the 40's that claimed that Johnson had his speed measured using a Pathe camera at 103.3MPH in 1923 but I cannot locate an article backing it up.

Prior to the invention of radar guns in the 1970's most of the historical attempts to measure the speed of pitchers is roughly the equivalent of having your speed measured at a carnival. In most cases the pitcher is throwing on a flat surface and only had a few pitches measured. So out of the thousands of pitches that they threw we have a recording of just a handlful of pitches into a variety of devices and at different distances. Contrast that to modern times - since the early 80's virtually every pitch thrown in a major league game has been recorded.

What would be an interesting experiment is to build a replica of those old-time devices and see how accurate they are compared to a modern device. My guess is that none of them are still in existence.

Bench 5
03-13-2010, 09:39 PM
According to efastball.com here are the fastest pitches of 2008 and 2009:

Bench 5
03-13-2010, 09:49 PM
This list is not a comprehensive list but it is still very interesting. I remember some pitchers in the 80's who were clocked on radar in the 100-103 range such as Lee Smith, Doc Gooden, Jim Kern etc.

They attempt to make the comparisons on an "apples to apples" basis by using the measurement from the pitcher's hand as the baseline.

Dalkowski110
03-13-2010, 10:37 PM
"My guess is that none of them are still in existence."

The Army still has chronographs 100% identical to those used in the Feller test. You can find them at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds Museum. If I had to guess, you could get one up and running in hurry if you wanted to. Unfortunately, as to the Remington-UMC line-drop chronograph, it was replaced in the 1950's. The West Point device from after WWI was unceremoniously trashed because it was a complete and useless piece of junk.

"that the device was not intended to measure a baseball."

Correct, but one of Remington-UMC's boasts (and the reason Johnson was tested at that particular facility) was that their device could measure anything. Could it? Probably...many arrowsmiths actually tested their arrows on the device.

"It took each pitcher several attempts to even record a time since they had to trip the fine copper wires in order to get a reading."

Sort of. What actually "tripped" the device was hitting a steel plate. If they experienced problems with copper wires, which were not used in the function of anything other than the actual calculation device, that would indicate they had electrical problems and probably had to re-set the device.

"According to an article in the Washington Post on the day after Feller had his speed measured, he was originally scheduled to throw three pitches into the lumiline chronograph prior to the game. He wound up throwing two extra pitches for a total of five tosses. On his fifth throw he actually splintered the wood box as you can see on the youtube clip. Given that he only threw five pitched I actually would expect that there may be high variability in his speed since he may have thrown at a slower pace to get his bearing on the first couple pitches."

Sort of. According to both Feller and the Army, he had a "rehearsal" session a few days prior where threw on order of 25+ pitches. The device...the exact device he was pitching into that you see on youtube...was registering all over the place, but generally in the high 80's and low 90's near the end (yes, he was throwing off a mound...). The Army basically wanted to see if Feller could record a speed and keep within the device, plus calibrate it so they wouldn't be registering speeds that were 30-40 mph off either way. Feller never spoke about the speeds taken at this test until recently, when he claimed to have hit 121 mph (which is absurd, but it does lend credence to the "rehearsal" happening when the Army said it happened...ironically, I actually COULD see a pitch registering at 121 mph on a completely-uncalibrated device that was probably going more along the lines of about 90 mph.).

"The test involved accuracy as well as speed. "

With a 10-12 mph margin of error under the circumstances at which it was functioning, I just don't buy it.

"a speed meter device developed by the Cleveland Plain Dealer"

I've often wondered about how this device was constructed. To date, nothing about its construction has surfaced. Any ideas? If I had to guess, judging from descriptions about "electric eyes" floating around at the time, it may have been a variant of the photocell chronograph. I doubt it was accurate at all.

"Feller had his pitch timed against a motorcycle traveling at 88 MPH in 1940. I have a copy of that video and Feller beats the motorcycle easily. His pitch was calculated around 104 MPH based on how much he beat the motorcycle."

This was a favorite with many pitchers of Feller's day and kept being used well into the 1950's in Minor League promotions. Unfortunately, due to its highly unscientific nature (because of the motorcycle's tires and not running on completely 100% flat ground, it literally can't be travelling in a completely straight line), I suggest the results of any such test be tossed out.

"Assuming that the device was fairly accurate (which is a guess), I think it is very likely that Johnson could have been throwing as hard as anyone today if he was on a mound, in uniform, warmed up in game conditions."

I wouldn't completely disagree there. I've been researching heavily and as I said, Johnson probably had a huge amount of "fast twitch" muscle fiber in his right arm (his left arm too, actually). I wouldn't be surprised if he managed to get it into the mid 90's, possibly even high 90's now and then, on a modern radar gun. To be honest, since there's nothing we can measure Johnson's arm speed against except, well, himself due to the quality of film, the mid 90's with an occassional hit in the high 90's is a guess. However, I still think league average was somewhere in the low to mid 80's. The reason I say this is because I've interviewed enough ballplayers from the 1950's and early 1960's who have actually said "pitchers on the whole were slower simply because control was so highly valued, which is why you get the ridiculous 'Steve Dalkowski threw 120 mph' guesses, because he looked like it compared with the other guys." I'm NOT directing this at you, Bench 5, but the speed of the league average from the Dead Ball Era did not skyrocket, drop with the advent of modern mechanics in the 1920's/1930's or after WWII, and then suddenly climb right back up in the mid 1960's. That's out and out absurd to assume so.

"Johnson was measured in his street clothes. He took his hat and sport jacket off before he tossed the ball into the machine. His warm-up consisted of playing catch with Nap Rucker before they both made their attempts."

Did not know this, thanks.

"In most cases the pitcher is throwing on a flat surface and only had a few pitches measured."

I can say this: Feller had the benefit of a mound. As for how much difference a mound makes, to be honest, my guess is 1-2 mph.

"I found an article in the 40's that claimed that Johnson had his speed measured using a Pathe camera at 103.3MPH in 1923 but I cannot locate an article backing it up."

Very interesting, but let's consider this: let's look at all the abortive and/or fabricated attempts to measure Steve Dalkowski's pitch speed. The most well-known speed cited, 96.8 mph, is a complete fabrication. In three tests, all using a lumiline chronograph, 93.4 mph was reached once in 1959 as were 88.1 in 1958 and 85.6 in 1960. One other test was conducted; one in which Steve failed to get a single pitch through the machine (1958, before the season). But other speeds, like 98.7, 108.2, 110 on airport radar or a radar machine that Earl Weaver purchased, and 98.6 (Feller's speed) into a wind-measuring device are out-and-out fabrications. I've also seen 94.3 mph, but my guess is someone just confused that with Steve's recorded speed of 93.4 mph.

"According to efastball.com"

I don't trust them for Ryan, Feller, or Steve. Like I said, Rockwell International fudged their distance with Ryan (or, rather, had it fudged for them by the press). Still very interesting to see the other guys, though, since you can at the very least compare them.

leewileyfan
03-15-2010, 10:07 AM
I'm late to this party and sorry I missed all the fun that went before. I am an old-timer, so much of what I say is oral history passed on to me by my father [who was offered a contract by the Cubs @ 1919; his brother, who was a bullpen catcher for Cincinatti; my grandfather, who caught for an Oriole-affiliated clubs in the 1880s; and my own observations, starting just before WW II.

-Dad traced the flamethrower family tree from Walter Johnson to Smoky Joe Wood to Bob Feller to Tommy Byrne ........ that would cover much of the 1910s through WW II, with Feller being clocked before WW II. Tommy Byrne, given to fits of wildness, had Dad describing Byrne on his ON days, as "throwing aspirin tablets passed the batters." This was at the MLB level; but my father and his brother both added, "You can't leave out Satchel Paige when he wasn't throwing 'other stuff.'"

In this model, Feller was generally "granted" a 100 mph with nothing to back it up scientifically but eyesight and emotion. He was teated in a wind tunnel @ 103and allegedly radar had him at 98.6 after WW II. So a young prime Feller @ 100 seems easily believable. Old-timers had a hard time with Feller and Johnson comparisons, generally believing Johnson to be a bit faster, as allegedly was Smoky Joe Wood. Point is, yes - older guys could bring it.

Part of the thread title seems to leave the door open to explaining why pitching speeds might generally have been slower during the deadball era:

1. The ball iself often lasted well into the earlier games game[/B] before 1901. This is not a put-down on MLB before then. To me, it was just a differnt sport. This took a dead ball and made it even deader, smudged, scuffed, and cut:

a. Why throw hard when you can use cuts, scrapes, dings and discoloration to throw breaking stuff [often wicked ball movement]?

b. Why exert yourself when spit, emory, slippery elm and other substances [like Vaseline] can make an easily delivered ball play tricks on the hitter?

c. If you've got 90+ mph in your arsenal, why not set up hitters with stuff - then blow one by them as a change-of-pace. This, in some was, refelects the strategies of "pitching to the score;" "pitching to the count;" and pacing. It wasn't laziness. It was strategy.

d. My uncle, you can believe this or not - but i';s true, saw me pitch. Happily, he liked what he saw. His phisosophy of pitching:

... deliver the ball for every pitch with the same motion, so as not to "telegraph" what's coming;

... allow your fingers to favor a particular "spin" to the ball, without cranking the mechanics to make it break. Physics will move the ball.

... don't choke the baseball with your grip on it. Ntice how a lighter grip encourages the ball to "float" [move] as it travels.

... aplly all the above [that focus on comfort and ease] with the one necessary skill: the ability to control where the ball will cross the batter's contact zone.

[At the time, it sounded to me like a guy willing to be [I]shelled. Now that I am older, this is probably the best approached to getting a kid young enough to learn how to pitch first.

There have been lots of tables presented here; but to really be on the same page, I'd suggest we agree on the best available tests, given modern measurement technology:

-the Doppler push effect at instant of release, realizing a drop-off from that speed recording of 8-12 mph by the time the ball gets into the batter's contact zone.

-taking into consideration that no such test was available in Johnson's, Feller's or Grove's time[s], but that the mound was several inches higher before 1968.

Then, we can allow some credibility to oral history and make the comps from that understanding.

Great thread.

Dalkowski110
03-15-2010, 12:54 PM
"with Feller being clocked before WW II."

To this day, I've been unable to find any record of Feller's windtunnel test. For his fastball, anyway. I know that pitchers often used this test to see how much their curveball curved (as Ken Raffensberger did so famously with the aeronautical great/helicopter pioneer/genius in general Igor Sikorsky in attendance and proclaiming that a curveball did in fact curve...it was actually an excellent, extremely accurate form of testing for movement) and have often wondered if Feller took a shot at seeing just how much spin his curve had, then having people mix it up with the horribly innaccurate "speed meter" test that occured around the same time.

"Tommy Byrne"

Funny you should mention Tommy Byrne. He once concluded that two pitchers he'd seen were faster than himself: Steve Dalkowski and Herb Score. He believed that both Ryne Duren and he threw at the same velocity.

"Old-timers had a hard time with Feller and Johnson comparisons, generally believing Johnson to be a bit faster, as allegedly was Smoky Joe Wood. Point is, yes - older guys could bring it."

Johnson and Wood? Yes. But the league average? I doubt it was all that fast. Also, recall that most of the guys that saw Johnson and Wood that commented on Feller never faced Feller. Many of those that faced Lefty Grove (a pitcher throwing with a modern pitching motion), on the other hand, concluded Grove was faster than Johnson. Of course, the Johnson defenders said they were too young or some such thing. I sincerely believe Feller>Grove>Johnson in terms of speed. One of the truly remarkable things about Steve Dalkowski was just how many of the people that faced him pre-injury also faced guys like Ryne Duren, Nolan Ryan, Bob Turley, Dick Radatz, Herb Score, Sandy Koufax, etc. while they were still throwing really hard or had just come up and were throwing really hard as well as the guys his managers faced (with Billy DeMars probably being the most prominent of those). I don't think you really have that at all, unfortunately, with Joe Wood, but you do have it at some level with Walter Johnson vs. Lefty Grove and Bob Feller vs. Bob Turley or Herb Score.

"If you've got 90+ mph in your arsenal, why not set up hitters with stuff - then blow one by them as a change-of-pace. This, in some was, refelects the strategies of "pitching to the score;" "pitching to the count;" and pacing. It wasn't laziness. It was strategy."

Never implied it was laziness. To a certain degree, I think it was strategy, combined with less advanced pitching deliveries. If you think of it, the first really modern guys start coming in dribs and drabs in the early to mid 1920's. That coincides with the end of the Deadball Era/end of the Ball-Doctoring Era. It takes about a decade for pitchers to completely up their league average to what it was at the very least post-WWII. I think guys started taking a look at what could make them either faster or more confusing regarding pitching deliveries (ever notice you start seeing a lot of crazy deliveries in the 1920's?).

"the Doppler push effect at instant of release, realizing a drop-off from that speed recording of 8-12 mph by the time the ball gets into the batter's contact zone."

I'd say it's more like 9-10 mph, but we're in basic agreement. You can also extrapolate some of the 60'6" readings taken on lumiline chronographs this way during the 1950's, and usually find some rather strange results.

"-taking into consideration that no such test was available in Johnson's, Feller's or Grove's time[s], but that the mound was several inches higher before 1968."

Believe it or not, I don't think this had the kind of effect on speed that it's cracked up to have been. Look at when pitchers throw in Dodger Stadium vs. pretty much any other ballpark. The difference isn't really that severe; maybe 1 or 1.5 mph added on at most. Now if you want to talk about effects on pitch movement, I think we're talking about a much more significant thing.

"Then, we can allow some credibility to oral history and make the comps from that understanding."

Also "bridge guys." That is to say the few batters who faced multiple guys who threw really hard/are proclaimed the fastest ever in their primes. I'd like to see more of this. When someone tells me "Steve Dalkowski threw much harder than Joel Zumaya," I really can't conclude much from it other than my own extrapolations, which agree, but there's no firsthand experience. On the other hand, when you get someone who has caught Steve Dalkowski at full tilt and both batted against and caught Nolan Ryan at full tilt saying Steve was faster (Andy Etchebarren) or someone who faced Steve Dalkowski and Sudden Sam McDowell in consecutive years, that's something where you have to put a lot more stock into it.

leewileyfan
03-15-2010, 01:53 PM
"with Feller being clocked before WW II."

To this day, I've been unable to find any record of Feller's windtunnel test. For his fastball, anyway. I know that pitchers often used this test to see how much their curveball curved (as Ken Raffensberger did so famously with the aeronautical great/helicopter pioneer/genius in general Igor Sikorsky in attendance and proclaiming that a curveball did in fact curve...it was actually an excellent, extremely accurate form of testing for movement) and have often wondered if Feller took a shot at seeing just how much spin his curve had, then having people mix it up with the horribly innaccurate "speed meter" test that occured around the same time.

Over my lifetime I have read clockings for Bob Feller @ 103; 101.6; 100 flat and 98.6. I every instance the variables were huge: equipment used, testing site and conditions, and the velocity control element. He was fast.



Funny you should mention Tommy Byrne. He once concluded that two pitchers he'd seen were faster than himself: Steve Dalkowski and Herb Score. He believed that both Ryne Duren and he threw at the same velocity.

Score is a tragic example of brilliant talent cut short. Duren we can appreciate because, despite a short career, he was a reliever with lots of appearances and a reputation that preceeded him for those examining his velocity. He was under a microscope.

Steve Dalkowski has become a household word for pitching velocity, a unique niche I would never take away from him. However, in the context of earning your bread and butter at the MLB level of competition, with some relevant statistical basis for arriving at a qualifying performance level, Dalkowski must become just that - an external model /device for arriving at comp standards.


"If you've got 90+ mph in your arsenal, why not set up hitters with stuff - then blow one by them as a change-of-pace. This, in some was, refelects the strategies of "pitching to the score;" "pitching to the count;" and pacing. It wasn't laziness. It was strategy."


[quote]Also "bridge guys." That is to say the few batters who faced multiple guys who threw really hard/are proclaimed the fastest ever in their primes. I'd like to see more of this. When someone tells me "Steve Dalkowski threw much harder than Joel Zumaya," I really can't conclude much from it other than my own extrapolations, which agree, but there's no firsthand experience. On the other hand, when you get someone who has caught Steve Dalkowski at full tilt and both batted against and caught Nolan Ryan at full tilt saying Steve was faster (Andy Etchebarren) or someone who faced Steve Dalkowski and Sudden Sam McDowell in consecutive years, that's something where you have to put a lot more stock into it.

This raises a few questions which I believe are legitimate:

1. Human nature [B]loves to participate in the making of mythology. This is not to call "bridge batters" liars; but it does suggest that the mere fact of having faced Dalkowski makes them part of the legend.

2. Being part of a legend, by extension, attracts attention to the non-legend player, who emotionally demands credibility. The extension of the legend becomes expert in the technological facts defining the legend.

3. Steve Dalkowski threw hard; and, if healthy, might have thrown a baseball through a solid brick wall. However, he rises to the status of [I]myth because of the tragedy f injury. His documented appearances are rare; and the rarity adds fuel to the elusive magnitude of his velocity.

4. Mere mortals, like Nolan Ryan, may face a batter [a "bridge batter"] on an off day; at an advanced age; on a day when the curve or slider is biting and the fastball is sailing .... BUT he is held to a standard no mortal can attain.

Joel Zumaya has been clocked @ 104 mph at point of release, and several times between 101 and 104, which statisticians refer to as 10 standard deviations above the norm.For all intents and purposes, a burned-out Zumaya has one place to go after the flame is gone .... into the realm of myth.

However, too many of us have actually seen Zumaya; so his chances of reachin mythological proportion[s] are very nearly shot. To get there, you need a degree of invisibility and absence from the game.

This is not intended to mock or cheapen Dalkowski, just to suggest that so long as we have him as a standard, no MLB ever will completely satisfy examiners of their greatness.

Dalkowski110
03-15-2010, 02:48 PM
"Over my lifetime [born in the 1930s] I have read clockings for Bob Feller @ 103; 101.6; 100 flat and 98.6. I every instance the variables were huge: equipment used, testing site and conditions, and the velocity control element. He was fast."

103 was the motorcycle test, so that can be discarded. 101.6 is something Feller claimed he hit early on after throwing the 98.6 mph pitch, but it later turned out to have been the same pitch (which he now claims was going 107 mph), 100 flat I've never been able to find the source for, and 98.6 was of course the lumiline chronograph. Not as consistent or accurate as you might think. But I will agree he was fast.

"Duren we can appreciate because, despite a short career, he was a reliever with lots of appearances and a reputation that preceeded him for those examining his velocity. He was under a microscope."

In a way, if you think of it, he was the Joel Zumaya of his time.

"1. Human nature loves to participate in the making of mythology. This is not to call "bridge batters" liars; but it does suggest that the mere fact of having faced Dalkowski makes them part of the legend."

Which is why I use the example of Etchebarren in particular. He didn't like Steve particularly much and was a good friend of Ryan's. If anything, wouldn't he have wanted to participate in Ryan's legend and not Dalkowski's?

Billy DeMars is another guy not exactly crazy about Steve (if you want some details, PM me). Yet, he believes that Steve was the fastest he ever saw and probably the fastest ever.

"2. Being part of a legend, by extension, attracts attention to the non-legend player, who emotionally [in the eyes of the awed] demands credibility. The extension of the legend becomes expert in the technological facts defining the legend."

Actually, none of the guys independently analyzing the stills and (very soon) the film I have of Steve ever batted against him and are quite determined to be unbiased. In fact, one of my analysts set out to prove he was NOT the fastest and came away believing he was.

"4. Mere mortals, like Nolan Ryan, may face a batter [a "bridge batter"] on an off day; at an advanced age; on a day when the curve or slider is biting and the fastball is sailing .... BUT he is held to a standard no mortal can attain."

Actually, you have multiple examples of guys that faced Steve in 1962 (especially) and Ryan in 1966 or 1967. Hardly an off day at an advanced age. In fact, Ryan was pretty much raring back and firing as hard as he could at the time and most will say that Ryan was probably throwing his hardest during that time/his early tenure with the Mets.

"This is not intended to mock or cheapen Dalkowski, just to suggest that so long as we have him as a standard, no MLB ever will completely satisfy examiners of their greatness."

Don't be too sure. I and severeal other guys that actually batted against Steve Dalkowski are convinced that if his motion were smoother, Aroldis Chapman may approach/equal the kind of velocity Steve had. Zumaya has the mechanics, but not the range of motion in his wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints (something Steve had plenty extra of for his scapular load) to probably even surpass Steve Dalkowski. If he had a greater range of motion in wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints by about 10%-15%, he would be throwing as hard as Steve was. I am convinced of that.

Also, recall that during his career from 1957-1961, when Paul Richards was promising everyone left and right that Steve would make the Majors easily, you had the same kind of talk going on. In 1962, when he gained control and had a 53 inning scoreless streak, the AP and UPI were following him around. That's hardly in the realm of "myth that a few people saw." He HAD been seen, was not invisible, and was not absent. He was right there and would gladly pitch for any journalist that wanted to see his fastball.

"Dalkowski must become just that - an external model /device for arriving at comp standards."

Why so? He pitched in pro baseball, didn't he? Do we then have to exclude guys like Mark Sampson, Harry Fanok, Mike Marinko, Ray Culp, and Dick Smith, too, since they all pitched with tremendous velocity in the Minors (Fanok also pitched in the Majors, I know, but only briefly...Ray Culp had actually injured his arm before coming to the Majors and threw far harder in the Minors)?

leewileyfan
03-15-2010, 06:00 PM
103 was the motorcycle test, so that can be discarded. 101.6 is something Feller claimed he hit early on after throwing the 98.6 mph pitch, but it later turned out to have been the same pitch (which he now claims was going 107 mph), 100 flat I've never been able to find the source for, and 98.6 was of course the lumiline chronograph. Not as consistent or accurate as you might think. But I will agree he was fast.

Throughout this discussion, you have repeatedly accepted or rejected certainn tests or observations purely on the basis of your viewpoint. This is not intended as a personal attack; but if technological best-efforts in any generation are dismissed as unreliable, then so too are the velocities of any "hopeful" from that era. It becomes moot.



"1. Human nature loves to participate in the making of mythology. This is not to call "bridge batters" liars; but it does suggest that the mere fact of having faced Dalkowski makes them part of the legend."

Which is why I use the example of Etchebarren in particular. He didn't like Steve particularly much and was a good friend of Ryan's. If anything, wouldn't he have wanted to participate in Ryan's legend and not Dalkowski's?

Billy DeMars is another guy not exactly crazy about Steve (if you want some details, PM me). Yet, he believes that Steve was the fastest he ever saw and probably the fastest ever.

"2. Being part of a legend, by extension, attracts attention to the non-legend player, who emotionally demands credibility. The extension of the legend becomes expert in the technological facts defining the legend."

Actually, none of the guys independently analyzing the stills and (very soon) the film I have of Steve ever batted against him and are quite determined to be unbiased. In fact, one of my analysts set out to prove he was NOT the fastest and came away believing he was.

All of the above relate credibility either to the way observers [I]felt about Dalkoski, personally. This is totally irrelevant.


I and severeal other guys that actually batted against Steve Dalkowski are convinced that if his motion were smoother, Aroldis Chapman may approach/equal the kind of velocity Steve had. Zumaya has the mechanics, but not the range of motion in his wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints (something Steve had plenty extra of for his scapular load) to probably even surpass Steve Dalkowski. If he had a greater range of motion in wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints by about 10%-15%, he would be throwing as hard as Steve was. I am convinced of that.

Also, recall that during his career from 1957-1961, when Paul Richards was promising everyone left and right that Steve would make the Majors easily, you had the same kind of talk going on. In 1962, when he gained control and had a 53 inning scoreless streak, the AP and UPI were following him around. That's hardly in the realm of "myth that a few people saw." He HAD been seen, was not invisible, and was not absent. He was right there and would gladly pitch for any journalist that wanted to see his fastball.

Dalkowski's career [all in minor league ball] spanned the years 1957 through 1965. Overall, his W-L record was 46-80, with an ERA of 5.57. By 1962-65, when he was ages 23 through 26, we may reasonably assume that at the A ball level and above, as his BB seemed to be getting into a realm of manageability, his hits surrendered/9IP had t=risen from the 6-7 range to the 8-12 range. Overall, his WHIP was >2.000.


"Dalkowski must become just that - an external model /device for arriving at comp standards."

Why so? He pitched in pro baseball, didn't he? Do we then have to exclude guys like Mark Sampson, Harry Fanok, Mike Marinko, Ray Culp, and Dick Smith, too, since they all pitched with tremendous velocity in the Minors (Fanok also pitched in the Majors, I know, but only briefly...Ray Culp had actually injured his arm before coming to the Majors and threw far harder in the Minors)?

The key here is that he did not pitch in pro baseball. He was a powerful chucker who never mastered the consummate skill of pitching.

If we want a head-on match up of a MLB reminiscent of Dalkowski, check out Rex Barney of the Dodgers. On a much more productive level, bring in Rob Dibble, who just may have been faster than any of those mentioned.

Dalkowski110
03-15-2010, 07:01 PM
"Throughout this discussion, you have repeatedly accepted or rejected certainn tests or observations purely on the basis of your viewpoint. This is not intended as a personal attack; but if technological best-efforts in any generation are dismissed as unreliable, then so too are the velocities of any "hopeful" from that era. It becomes moot."

This is because I happen to know the reliability of the devices in the cases of the chonographs firsthand. I know which ones worked well with bullets and arrows and can assume the same of baseballs. I know which ones did not work well with anything, per se. And try finding someone...ANYONE...who will take the motorcycle test seriously. I happen to have spoken with Minor Leaguers at the time who called the test, and I quote directly "a joke." You have to be selective about the accuracy or lack thereof of a device if you know for a fact that it is or is not accurate. To do otherwise would be foolish.

"All of the above relate credibility either to the way observers felt about Dalkoski, personally. This is totally irrelevant."

Why? If you took the interviews yourself and had people trying to avoid you or dodge questions because of how they felt about him (though I will admit Billy DeMars was not one), you would not believe the same way. No way in heck.

"Dalkowski's career [all in minor league ball] spanned the years 1957 through 1965. Overall, his W-L record was 46-80, with an ERA of 5.57. By 1962-65, when he was ages 23 through 26, we may reasonably assume that at the A ball level and above, as his BB seemed to be getting into a realm of manageability, his hits surrendered/9IP had t=risen from the 6-7 range to the 8-12 range. Overall, his WHIP was >2.000."

Steve suffered a grade two MCL tear in Spring Training, 1963. The fact he was able to pitch through it caused him to lose a significant amount of his speed, but is remarkable for his simply being able to pitch through it at all. And I am fully aware that the Orioles misdiagnosed him with a pinched ulnar nerve; the symptoms do not match at all.

"The key here is that he did not pitch in pro baseball. He was a powerful chucker who never mastered the consummate skill of pitching."

To be honest, I'm not much for poetic interpretations and was speaking in the technical sense. Likewise, in the technical sense, Steve was a left-handed pitcher. It is what he was announced into the game as and pitcher was the position he played. Until you find me a box score that says "chucker" or "thrower" listed as a position next to "Dalkowski," he was a professional pitcher. Period.

"check out Rex Barney of the Dodgers."

I have. Though somewhat unrelated, most of the batters that faced Feller and Barney said Feller was faster.

"On a much more productive level, bring in Rob Dibble, who just may have been faster than any of those mentioned."

Seeing as he was unable to match Zumaya's speed or Ryan's speed (and remember, Ryan was clocked 45 feet from his hand, not at release like Dibble was, and on an accurate device), I find that to be highly doubtful. And for that matter, I doubt he was as fast as Dalkowski, either.

Macker
03-15-2010, 08:03 PM
A list of the "90 MPH Club" made the rounds in 1974-75. Some versions list where & how the pitchers were timed. I'm not posting this as an indication of who was fastest when or where. Consider it for amusement only.

1. 100.9 Nolan Ryan, Angels 1974
2. 98.6 Bob Feller, Indians 1946
3. 95.5 Steve Barber, Orioles 1960
4. 95.3 Don Drysdale, Dodgers 1960
5 94.7 Atley Donald, Yankees 1939
6. 94.2 Bob Turley, Yankees 1958
7. 93.5 Steve Dalkowski, minors 1958
8. 93.2 Sandy Koufax, Dodgers 1960
9. 91.1 Ryne Duren, Yankees 1960
10. 91.0 Herb Score, White Sox 1960

leewileyfan
03-15-2010, 08:59 PM
... I happen to know the reliability of the devices in the cases of the chonographs firsthand. I know which ones worked well with bullets and arrows and can assume the same of baseballs. I know which ones did not work well with anything, per se. And try finding someone...ANYONE...who will take the motorcycle test seriously. I happen to have spoken with Minor Leaguers at the time who called the test, and I quote directly "a joke." You have to be selective about the accuracy or lack thereof of a device if you know for a fact that it is or is not accurate. To do otherwise would be foolish.

OK.Let's go purely to your own personal expertise. I shall indeed check the credentials of those who participated in the set-up, measurement and execution of the "motorcycle test." If the credentials of Minor Leaguers who called the test "a joke" carry more weight than theirs, I'll lead the chorus of scoffers.

However, the motorcycle test, in solation, contributes nothing to your arguement for or against Feller, who was also tested at different times and by different measurements.


"All of the above relate credibility either to the way observers felt about Dalkoski, personally. This is totally irrelevant."

Why? If you took the interviews yourself and had people trying to avoid you or dodge questions because of how they felt about him (though I will admit Billy DeMars was not one), you would not believe the same way. No way in heck.[/quote]

You stress technology and exactitude of meauring devices, further calling to task those who would use the equipment in situations not exactly to their specifications, yet you are willing to stress the credibility of hearsay? I believe that is called begging the question.


"Dalkowski's career [all in minor league ball] spanned the years 1957 through 1965. Overall, his W-L record was 46-80, with an ERA of 5.57. By 1962-65, when he was ages 23 through 26, we may reasonably assume that at the A ball level and above, as his BB seemed to be getting into a realm of manageability, his hits surrendered/9IP had t=risen from the 6-7 range to the 8-12 range. Overall, his WHIP was >2.000.

Steve suffered a grade two MCL tear in Spring Training, 1963. The fact he was able to pitch through it caused him to lose a significant amount of his speed, but is remarkable for his simply being able to pitch through it at all. And I am fully aware that the Orioles misdiagnosed him with a pinched ulnar nerve; the symptoms do not match at all.

OK. In these exchanges, I come off as a bad guy, lacking empathy for Dalkowski. While I know this is not the case, your choice or argument forces my hand. What does an injury to a minor league ballplayer without one inning pitched in MLB, have to do with ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

1. Standards for measuring pitcher velocities across generations of play?

2. Techniques for accurately measuring that velocity?

3. Evaluation of pitcher mastery [domination] using velocity as a critical element?

4. Comporting velocity with greatness?



"The key here is that he did not pitch in pro baseball. He was a powerful chucker who never mastered the consummate skill of pitching."

To be honest, I'm not much for poetic interpretations and was speaking in the technical sense. Likewise, in the technical sense, Steve was a left-handed pitcher. It is what he was announced into the game as and pitcher was the position he played. Until you find me a box score that says "chucker" or "thrower" listed as a position next to "Dalkowski," he was a professional pitcher. Period.

Yep, I said that - chucker. You go 46-80 in minor league ball with an ERA @ 5.57 and a WHIP > 2.000 AND you are being held up as a standard of measure for the likes of Feller, Koufax, Johnson, Wood, Barney, Dibble, etc., [and holding any test or oral history that supports their cases as outmoded, unreliable and discarded junk] - then I call it like it is at its most elemental level.

Personally, I empathize with Dalkowski as I would with any young talent, like a Herb Score, who, for any reason, has a career cut short by injury or accident. I do empathize as well with older pitchers, like Feller who lost years to military service, then had test results held up after his five year absence and the passing of his prime.


"check out Rex Barney of the Dodgers."

I have. Though somewhat unrelated, most of the batters that faced Feller and Barney said Feller was faster.

Just wondering how many qualify in that population since they pitched in different leagues.


"On a much more productive level, bring in Rob Dibble, who just may have been faster than any of those mentioned."

Seeing as he was unable to match Zumaya's speed or Ryan's speed (and remember, Ryan was clocked 45 feet from his hand, not at release like Dibble was, and on an accurate device), I find that to be highly doubtful. And for that matter, I doubt he was as fast as Dalkowski, either.

As you are entitled to doubt that Dibble matched Dalkowski, I too can reasonably doubt that Dalkowski bested Dibble.

In reality, at the bottom line, a skilled and masterful pitcher will have more than one pitch. If one set up a Dopler push test, set up perfectly behind the hitter and impeccably calibrated [without the pitcher knowing the test was being conducted at all, then we might have 110 pitches thrown as follows [all timed at instant of release:

67 fastballs, fastest 103.7 mph; slowest, 93 mph, average all 67 = 98 mph
29 sliders, fastest 91 mph; slowest 83 mph; average, all 29 = 87 mph
7 split-finger pitches @ average 81 mph
7 change-ups, fastest 77 mph; slowest 62 mph - average = 70 mph

How would you evaluate that pitcher relative to Dalkowski? As I see it, the only pitch suited to this thread is the one released @ 103.7 mph. Dalkowski, certainly not being compared as an effective MLB pitcher would serve only as a speed-test model. If someone told us that this particular effort resulted in a two-hit CG shutout with 11 K's, we wouldn't be too surprised at all.

I'm sure that Dalkowski would take a certain well-deserved sense of pride in being compared to greats as a standard of velocity. However, I am equally sure that he would appreciate the context of the comparison being made .... as a very narrow one.

Dalkowski110
03-15-2010, 09:44 PM
"OK.Let's go purely to your own personal expertise. I shall indeed check the credentials of those who participated in the set-up, measurement and execution of the "motorcycle test." If the credentials of Minor Leaguers who called the test "a joke" carry more weight than theirs, I'll lead the chorus of scoffers."

Don't forget Bill James and Rob Neyer, as they do an excellent job of ripping the unscientific test to bits. As does Adair, for that matter. you may counter that Adair has a few ridiculous theories, but that doesn't mean EVERYTHING the man says is wrong.

"However, the motorcycle test, in solation, contributes nothing to your arguement for or against Feller, who was also tested at different times and by different measurements."

Prove it. No, really. Prove it. Other than Feller himself, you won't find these readings coming from anywhere. The only one that anyone's proven happened outside of the chronograph test is the chronograph rehearsal, which the Army says happened but gives speeds all over the place.

"You stress technology and exactitude of meauring devices, further calling to task those who would use the equipment in situations not exactly to their specifications, yet you are willing to stress the credibility of hearsay?"

Yes, for people who were actually measured on devices that one can either lend credence to (Johnson, Turley, Ryan though it's not reported correctly) or discredit (the lumiline chronograph functioning under conditions it was not designed for). Feller, Duren, Sandy Koufax, Steve Barber, Steve Dalkowski...all measured on a lumiline chronograph, and I'd say to trash their speed recordings as being recorded on a device not capable of recording under the conditions that existed.

"Yep, I said that - chucker. You go 46-80 in minor league ball with an ERA @ 5.57 and a WHIP > 2.000 AND you are being held up as a standard of measure for the likes of Feller, Koufax, Johnson, Wood, Barney, Dibble, etc., [and holding any test or oral history that supports their cases as outmoded, unreliable and discarded junk] - then I call it like it is at its most elemental level."

Feller-Test disproven. Look at the device please.
Koufax-Measured on the same device Feller was (or at least the same type).
Johnson-I actually gave him credit for 95; far faster than his era.
Wood-Most batters said Johnson was faster, Johnson said Wood was faster. My guess is they threw around the same speed.
Barney-At various points in their careers, you can find over two dozen batters that faced Feller and Barney in their primes. I think Feller was high 90's/low 100's, and that Barney was high 90's.
Dibble-Measured on modern radar repeatedly. Why should he be thrown out or have his speed boosted? After all, his measurements were correct.

I still don't care about being poetic.

"1. Standards for measuring pitcher velocities across generations of play?

2. Techniques for accurately measuring that velocity?

3. Evaluation of pitcher mastery [domination] using velocity as a critical element?

4. Comporting velocity with greatness?"

Nothing, but you're the only one equating velocity with greatness. I'm simply giving you velocity as I know it. Look at the title of the thread. "Did pitchers of yesteryear throw with much less velocity than they do today?" Answer: No (well, those that pitched and developed their deliveries during the Dead Ball Era...probably). Was Steve Dalkowski a pitcher of yesteryear? In the sense the question is being asked? Yes.

"In reality, at the bottom line, a skilled and masterful pitcher will have more than one pitch."

Dalkowski had three by 1962: the fastball, a plus slider, and an average slurve.

"How would you evaluate that pitcher relative to Dalkowski? As I see it, the only pitch suited to this thread is the one released @ 103.7 mph."

On a substandard machine that nobody with any real knowledge of the device trusts. You want to talk to someone who is a REAL expert on chronographs about that? I can actually put you in touch with someone who fits the bill.

"Personally, I empathize with Dalkowski"

I don't doubt it, but I honestly don't see it, either.

Dalkowski110
03-15-2010, 10:19 PM
Macker...

Added in are all the devices used for testing and some notations...

1. 100.9 Nolan Ryan, Angels 1974 (Rockwell International Radar, Between 30 and 45 feet away from his hand)
2. 98.6 Bob Feller, Indians 1946 (Lumiline Chronograph, 60 ft)
3. 95.5 Steve Barber, Orioles 1960 (Lumiline Chronograph, 60 ft; Barber himself went on record in 1963 saying he didn't trust the reading and that he didn't believe himself this fast.)
4. 95.3 Don Drysdale, Dodgers 1960 (Lumiline Chronograph, 60 ft; See "Sandy Koufax")
5 94.7 Atley Donald, Yankees 1939 (Cleveland Plain Dealer Speed Meter, either 20 or 60 ft.)
6. 94.2 Bob Turley, Yankees 1958 (Magnetic Oscillograph, between 10 and 20 ft; actually, this device was far more accurate than the lumiline chronograph and was used as a staple at NASA for over a decade.)
7. 93.5 Steve Dalkowski, minors 1958 (Lumiline Chronograph, 60 ft; actual reading was 93.4 but I've seen this in 1970's newspapers off a tenth of a mile per hour)
8. 93.2 Sandy Koufax, Dodgers 1960 (Lumiline Chronograph, 60 ft; both Drysdale and Koufax lost faith in the device after Drysdale registered so much faster on it)
9. 91.1 Ryne Duren, Yankees 1960 (Lumiline Chronograph, 60 ft)
10. 91.0 Herb Score, White Sox 1960 (Lumiline Chronograph, 60 ft)

Dalkowski110
03-15-2010, 10:35 PM
Incidentally, I will take this time to bow out of this argument. Why? Because I have all of the following...

1) High blood pressure...
2) A quick temper...
3) A close personal friendship with Steve Dalkowski and...
4) An innate knowledge of ballistic measuring devices called into question and out-and-out dismissed by those who clearly know very little of such devices.

leewileyfan
03-15-2010, 11:02 PM
Don't forget Bill James and Rob Neyer, as they do an excellent job of ripping the unscientific test to bits. As does Adair, for that matter. you may counter that Adair has a few ridiculous theories, but that doesn't mean EVERYTHING the man says is wrong.

Funny you see fit to mention Bill James, Rob Neyer and Dr. Adair in the same context. Little that Adair says, on-the-record sriously is wrong. Bless him - he's willing to think outside the box occasionally, noodling with what ifs tossed his way.


Prove it. No, really. Prove it. Other than Feller himself, you won't find these readings coming from anywhere. The only one that anyone's proven happened outside of the chronograph test is the chronograph rehearsal, which the Army says happened but gives speeds all over the place.

From the start, I have had nothing at all to prove. I put some faith in historical context and informed oral history. I also apprciate it when people discussing pitched basebal mph are talking about the same thing. On this thread, they are obviously NOT; but this doesn't stop some from driving home points never really made or defined.


"You stress technology and exactitude of meauring devices, further calling to task those who would use the equipment in situations not exactly to their specifications, yet you are willing to stress the credibility of hearsay?"

Yes, for people who were actually measured on devices that one can either lend credence to (Johnson, Turley, Ryan though it's not reported correctly) or discredit (the lumiline chronograph functioning under conditions it was not designed for). Feller, Duren, Sandy Koufax, Steve Barber, Steve Dalkowski...all measured on a lumiline chronograph, and I'd say to trash their speed recordings as being recorded on a device not capable of recording under the conditions that existed.

So, you toss out the harware but maintain your expert conclusions from the vantage point of better hardware?


"you're the only one equating velocity with greatness. I'm simply giving you velocity as I know it. Look at the title of the thread. "Did pitchers of yesteryear throw with much less velocity than they do today?"

Right! And you've converted it into the Steve Dalkowski measre-up thread.



"In reality, at the bottom line, a skilled and masterful pitcher will have more than one pitch."

Dalkowski had three by 1962: the fastball, a plus slider, and an average slurve.[/quote

With mastery of none.

quote]"How would you evaluate that pitcher relative to Dalkowski? As I see it, the only pitch suited to this thread is the one released @ 103.7 mph."

On a substandard machine that nobody with any real knowledge of the device trusts. You want to talk to someone who is a REAL expert on chronographs about that? I can actually put you in touch with someone who fits the bill.

Aw c'mon! This stuff is NOT brain surgery or rocket science. Give me a trained official starter, like at track and swim meets at the highest level. Toss out all the hardware and the software and have the starter [armed with only a hundredths-of a second stop watch] and let him have at it:

Step 1. Set up behind the batter.

Step 2: Start at instant of release. Forget release point speed et al and concentratee on STOP as the ball crosses into batter contact zone [front of plate].

Step 3: Take reading. If your pitch went from release to front of plate in < .4 seconds, your > 97 mph. At .39, @ 99.7, I'll call it 100 and call it a day.

I'm easy: I can take the instant of release Doppler Push as sound science. If that tells me 101 mph @ release and the guy with the stop watch says .39, converting that for me into 99.65, I'll take the latter reading for only one reason: It tracks the pitch for its entire run of 57'.

Now someone is sure to argue for 55' from release to front of plate; but I'll get stubborn jest sayin' pitchers come in all shapes 'n sizes. One size don't fit ever'body/


"Personally, I empathize with Dalkowski"

I don't doubt it, but I honestly don't see it, either.

Wall, sir it's a matter of perspective. I know what's goin' on inside my haid .... you kin only take my word .... 'er not. 'Sup to you.

At this point, jes' determined to keep it light.

Dalkowski110
03-15-2010, 11:27 PM
"So, you toss out the hardware but maintain your expert conclusions from the vantage point of better hardware?"

I never said my conclusions were expert on anything but chronographs regarding speed testing devices. Hell, I actually asked you a question if you had any idea how the Cleveland Plain Dealer's "Speed Meter" was constructed. Stop putting words into my mouth. Further, you failed to address my point about Rob Dibble. Mark Wohlers repeatedly registered faster. And from your point of view, he'd be qualified to be construed as faster, looking at his period of dominance. I will ask this out of sheer curiocity...why Dibble instead of Wohlers, measured on the same, modern devices?

"From the start, I have had nothing at all to prove. I put some faith in historical context and informed oral history. I also apprciate it when people discussing pitched basebal mph are talking about the same thing. On this thread, they are obviously NOT; but this doesn't stop some from driving home points never really made or defined."

What point do you want me to make or define?

"Right! And you've converted it into the Steve Dalkowski measure-up thread."

My intent was merely to use him as a yardstick to measure Johnson and Feller against with less-than-reliable speed recordings available (while Johnson's speed was recorded accurately [ask the British Army...], it was pointed out that he may not have properly warmed up, was in street clothes, and had no mound). I firmly believe the fastest pitcher in the history of the Major Leagues is either Joel Zumaya or Nolan Ryan. If one discusses speed and only speed in conjunction with old-timers, you seem as if you don't want him mentioned at all, though, I will say that. Regardless, I do apologize if it got to anyone else and will dial it back, okey-dokey?

"Aw c'mon! This stuff is NOT brain surgery or rocket science."

A good question might be: why didn't more people measure speed correctly with the same devices that you propose? Educated guess of an answer: because they figured that dead reckoning on point of release would have too much margin for error, thus gadgeteering their way toward a slew of devices, some of which (such as the Remington-UMC Line-Drop Chronograph and Magnetic Oscillograph) were pretty accurate, but many more of which (the speed meter, photocell chronograph, and early lumiline chronograph) likely had far wider margins of error.

"From the start, I have had nothing at all to prove."

But you're trying to make me prove my point. Why shouldn't I make you try and prove yours?

"'Sup to you. "

Perhaps I should have phrased it as "I don't see it but I don't doubt it?"

leewileyfan
03-16-2010, 08:23 AM
Hell, I actually asked you a question if you had any idea how the Cleveland Plain Dealer's "Speed Meter" was constructed. Stop putting words into my mouth. Further, you failed to address my point about Rob Dibble. Mark Wohlers repeatedly registered faster. And from your point of view, he'd be qualified to be construed as faster, looking at his period of dominance. I will ask this out of sheer curiocity...why Dibble instead of Wohlers, measured on the same, modern devices?

1. The Cleveland Plain Dealer sponsored the test. The test itself was conducted by a Cleveland-based electrical engineering firm.

2. Further reading into various tests of all kinds reveals that they were clocked at ridiculously disparaye distances from the source [pitcher]. Each, given its own separate set of designs and callibrations, if NOT perfectly defined, becomes about as useful as putting a damp finger up to the wind to determine velocity.

3. You do [really, jusr re-read some of your posts] do fly off into many and varied tangents, like bringing in Mark Wohlers as counrepoint to my mention of Rob Dibble.
If I propose Dibble as a sound working model because 1. He pitched in MLB with some eye-popping effectiveness; 2. His major weapon was his fastball, why do you feel compelled to put up someone else.

If the topic is the focus of the discussion, as it should be, then passer-by Charlie Wattanabbe might suggest J.R. Richard as the best model, urging us to toss out both Dibble and Wohlers. I'd have NO problem with that. How about you?


"From the start, I have had nothing at all to prove. I put some faith in historical context and informed oral history. I also apprciate it when people discussing pitched basebal mph are talking about the same thing. On this thread, they are obviously NOT; but this doesn't stop some from driving home points never really made or defined."

What point do you want me to make or define?

Well, in all honesty, it seems the point[s] you have been stressing throughout this discussion, are two:

1. You are expert in various technologies of velocity measurement;

2. Steve Dalkowski was the fastest pitcher in baseball history.

Interwoven with these to focal points is your dismissal of all tests of pitchers other than Dalkowski AND your allusion to hearsay to support what others have said they saw in Dalkowski.

You ask what point[s] I want you to prove. Really? None. I have been trying to address the thread topic, which from the start has been pitcher velocity across the generations of play. I personally concentrate ONLY on careers between 1901 and present.

I believe the topic is an interesting one largely because it takes us back 110 years to show that certain elements of MLB have not changed drastically and that is because of certain observable common denominators:

-the relative size of "best" or "fastest" pitchers, with the core of most effective falling largely within a 5'11" to 6'2" range;

-the fact that the essential elements of the human body involved in throwing a baseball have NOT evolved, except in nutrition, training, workout philosophy and other accidentals not related to basic body function.

-oral histories that, if NOT accepted on blind faith, provide us with a thread of data and a basis for progressive comparisons.

We don't even have to touch 100 mph to stay within the thread topic. However, these discussions generally gravitate to 100 because it is seen as a cool number for standards. If we want to have robust and enthusiastic discussion of this topic, let's also be sure to define clearly what we are measuring.

I'll go on record as preferring a starter with a stop watch, clocking the pithed ball from instant of release to front of plate. Put simply, a pitch breaking .4 second = 100 mph. Anyone who qualifies gets admitted to the 39-ers Club.

The stop watch, if not as accurate as the Universal Clock, can at least put to rest ridiculous claims of 110 mph fastballs. A pitch timed @ .35 seconds would calculate to 111.04 mph, using 57' as the distance from release to front of plate. A pitch timed at .4 seconds would equate to 97.16 mph. It may not seem like much; but take a stop watch and try it. The .05 seconds, after repeated trial "tests" begins to loom large.

In my opinion, we could take the oral histories and comps and godfather in certain pitchers whose legacies argue for 100 mph qualification. I wouldn't go digging into archive for rare filmed footage, either; because odds are, we are not going to "catch" the pitcher throwing his best fastball. A curve or change-up, on film, would serve no purpose.

Modern times, get out that stopwatch.

Dalkowski110
03-16-2010, 10:41 AM
"2. Further reading into various tests of all kinds reveals that they were clocked at ridiculously disparaye distances from the source [pitcher]. Each, given its own separate set of designs and callibrations, if NOT perfectly defined, becomes about as useful as putting a damp finger up to the wind to determine velocity."

Which was a point of mine from the beginning.

"3. You do [really, jusr re-read some of your posts] do fly off into many and varied tangents, like bringing in Mark Wohlers as counrepoint to my mention of Rob Dibble."

But Wohlers actually threw harder, repeatedly, than Dibble, on the same equipment, with that equipment being a modern radar gun measured at the exact same distance, literally dozens upon dozens (perhaps hundreds) of times. How is that spinning off on a tangent? I'm just disproving your point of Dibble being the hardest thrower even recorded on a radar gun.

"If I propose Dibble as a sound working model because 1. He pitched in MLB with some eye-popping effectiveness; 2. His major weapon was his fastball, why do you feel compelled to put up someone else."

Because Wohlers threw harder, that's why. And the harder the pitcher can throw, the better working model you have.

"If the topic is the focus of the discussion, as it should be, then passer-by Charlie Wattanabbe might suggest J.R. Richard as the best model, urging us to toss out both Dibble and Wohlers. I'd have NO problem with that. How about you?"

Apples to oranges. Richard was unfortunately never clocked during his prime. One model must be a measuring standard and have his speed taken, one must have been prior to taking speeds. But then, by your logic, this thread will become the "measure up to Mark Wohlers and J.R. Richard Thread," so perhaps not.

"Well, in all honesty, it seems the point[s] you have been stressing throughout this discussion, are two:

1. You are expert in various technologies of velocity measurement;"

I do not like using the term expert, although I do know a man I feel qualified as an expert. He actually worked with some of these devices (not in a baseball capacity, but the same devices). He clued me into how they worked, and I thought it would help if I actually informed people about how certain devices worked, which ones were accurate, etc. Instead, you and another poster responded with outright vitriol and made it known that my presence on this thread was not welcome, obviously because you were hearing things about your treasured pitchers that you did not want to hear. So you responded by trashing my own model and ridiculed my knowledge of speed devices. Classy. Because I'm clearly being more of a hindrance than a help, I'll bow out.

"2. Steve Dalkowski was the fastest pitcher in baseball history."

I believe this, but not based on speed tests. I believe it on analysis of still pictures and mechanics.

"Interwoven with these to focal points is your dismissal of all tests of pitchers other than Dalkowski AND your allusion to hearsay to support what others have said they saw in Dalkowski."

Actually, if you actually read my posts, I dismissed the tests taken of Steve, as well. Also, the only reason I use hearsay to support my quotes is because of the stills and the mechanics with which Steve pitched. And if you accuse me of staying on topic too long by me saying this, I'm merely defending the reasons as to why I brought it up.

Walter Johnson's mechanics do not support the argument that he was repeatedly hitting triple digits. Bob Feller's do. Remember when I was repeatedly bringing him up and repeatedly saying that AT MINIMUM, his pitch was likely travelling at 96 mph at point of release, probably faster? If so, why aren't you telling me to stop saying this, since you're basically telling me to cease and desist with talking about Steve Dalkowski? My guess is that you probably dismiss Steve out of hand for no good reason, but since you're so adamantly opposed to him being discussed and since I wouldn't dare want to offend a fellow forumite, I will indeed cease said discussion. In fact, it's borderline insulting. When did you last calibrate a lumiline chronograph? Tell me, how do you compensate for innaccuracies when using in an uncontrolled environment (i.e. forced, as in the sterile conditions designed for the device to function aren't there)? Since you're the one ridiculing my knowledge of speed devices, you must obviously know more about them. So tell me how.

"-the fact that the essential elements of the human body involved in throwing a baseball have NOT evolved, except in nutrition, training, workout philosophy and other accidentals not related to basic body function."

I would disagree. I refer you to films of Dead Ball Era pitchers' mechanics on youtube, a possible exception being Smoky Joe Wood. I ask you to pay close attention to arm actions with no scapular load (even forced...if you watch Greg Maddux, his arm action forces even him into a state of scapular load), shorter strides, far less aggressive follow-throughs (Johnson is a notable exception, as is Wood), and less hip/torso seperation (Walter Johnson being a HUGE exception). I would point to videos of Three Finger Brown and Chief Bender as guys whose bodies almost rotate as a unit with regards to the lattermost point, which is actually counterproductive to the generation of velocity, yet I know Bender was actually held up as an example of what to do in certain circumstances.

"-the fact that the essential elements of the human body involved in throwing a baseball have NOT evolved, except in nutrition, training, workout philosophy and other accidentals not related to basic body function."

I agree 100%, although I would say league average height in the Dead Ball Era was somewhat shorter. However, despite the nutrition quality being lesser, I'd simply attribute the height disparity to the Dead Ball Era's extreme emphasis on control pitchers (look at the walk totals) and size having relatively little to do with control.

"-oral histories that, if NOT accepted on blind faith, provide us with a thread of data and a basis for progressive comparisons."

So why is it that everyone who faced Steve Dalkowski and someone else who threw really hard has to be disqualified from this but nobody else does just because you say so? The reason I disqualified so many who JUST saw Johnson is because of, well, THAT. They just saw Johnson, extreme emphasis on just. I'd like to see guys who saw Johnson and Lefty Grove (of which there would presumably be a decent number), Grove and Bob Feller, Feller and Rex Barney (I catalogued about a dozen, despite playing in different leagues), etc.

"I'll go on record as preferring a starter with a stop watch, clocking the pithed ball from instant of release to front of plate. Put simply, a pitch breaking .4 second = 100 mph. Anyone who qualifies gets admitted to the 39-ers Club."

I'll say this...beginning with the Ra-Gun and continuing with the JUGS Gun and Stalker Gun, there's no need. With the advent of fixed position radar, you don't need a guy with a stopwatch. The margin for error for someone with a stopwatch is greater. But if you want it in tenths of a second, I believe you could calculate your own conversions.

"I wouldn't go digging into archive for rare filmed footage, either; because odds are, we are not going to "catch" the pitcher throwing his best fastball."

Actually, although I'm bringing up the dreaded-to-you Steve Dalkowski, the film that exists of him was the security film taken on a newsreel type camera (as was the Army's practice in 1958...film every civilian on base using military equipment) of him throwing at full tilt at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Aberdeen, MD. To say that we might not catch him throwing his best fastball is certainly possible, but it's a fair idea.

"A curve or change-up, on film, would serve no purpose."

Hence why I'm going after film that would have no curve or changeup. Incidentally, feel free to look up those times taken in 1960 on lumiline chronograph. Those were also taken at Aberdeen Proving Grounds and the Army hadn't changed its security practices. Nor were the pitchers throwing curveballs or changeups. Also, with Steve Dalkowski, the camera was positioned to his left and behind him, capturing the pitch from release to catcher's glove. No reason for the Army to change that with the other pitchers, logically.

I'm gone, at least in terms of serious discussion, which you clearly do not want. Instead, you have an argument on your hands.

leewileyfan
03-16-2010, 11:28 AM
I do not like using the term expert, although I do know a man I feel qualified as an expert. He clued me into these devices, and I thought it would help if I actually informed people about how certain devices worked, which ones were accurate, etc.

Now a third party is the expert and you are simply a helpful interlocutor. It is very difficult to have relevant, direct conversations, when the contexts shift like desert sands.


Instead, you and another poster responded with outright vitriol and made it known that my presence on this thread was not welcome, obviously because you were hearing things about your treasured devices that you did not want to hear.

I hate to break the news to you; but you just revealed who is being disingenuous through this entire thread. You accuse me of being vitriolic. I have been nothing but courteous and patient here, while you have led the thread on a merry chase, dismissing this, that and the other technologies [from the viewpoint of an alleged expert,

The surest way to unveil weak arguments that turn to personal attacks and defensive responses is to find and reveal hurt feelings of one being wronged, like the "not welcome" crack. Compound this with "your [my "treasured devices" being attacked; and you have an Emperor parading in the buff:

1. I have not defended wind tunnels; motorcycle runs; camera boxes or any other device. What I have said, repeatedly, is that these tests and devices represent the technology of those contemporary to the pitchers being tested - recognized only as being what the testers personally believed to constitute their best possible efforts. I admire them for the effort.

2. I'll give you this: You have succeeded in getting me into a debate where we become the topic. That will NOT happen again soon. Apologies here to other posters.


So you responded by trashing my own model. Classy.

For heaven's sake! What model have you offered? There was nothing presented at all.


Because I'm clearly being more of a hindrance than a help, I'll bow out

Sounds like a matr going off to the Coliseum. Is this "good-bye?"


u can go back to playing around with some of these absurd devices because you like them and everyone actually familiar with them doesn't, however.

Covered above. The only device I suggested was a stop watch. Even that single item you misrepresented, suggesting I wanted 10th of a second. No, I said hundredths of a second ........................ and NOTHING finer.

Dalkowski110
03-16-2010, 11:46 AM
"Now a third party is the expert and you are simply a helpful interlocutor. It is very difficult to have relevant, direct conversations, when the contexts shift like desert sands."

Right, because the telephone is so hard to reach for when I have a technical question...

"I hate to break the news to you; but you just revealed who is being disingenuous through this entire thread. You accuse me of being vitriolic. I have been nothing but courteous and patient here, while you have led the thread on a merry chase, dismissing this, that and the other technologies [from the viewpoint of an alleged expert,"

Yeah? Alleged? You go work on Army chronographs for over a decade and come back to me when you do.

"The surest way to unveil weak arguments that turn to personal attacks and defensive responses is to find and reveal hurt feelings of one being wronged, like the "not welcome" crack. Compound this with your [my "treasured devices" being attacked; and you have an Emperor parading in the buff:"

Or, as I do, have high blood pressure as an inherited condition and have to deal with someone making statements as silly as this, or just flat-out attacking a real expert who worked on US Army chronographs in the 1960's and 1970's when you yourself clearly have no clue about the devices and how they work. Or just someone who is trying to follow an illogical argument replete with evading almost every question asked and can't stand it anymore. I wasn't making personal attacks; I was simply suggesting you were impossible to have a discussion with. Well, looks like you proved me right!

"I have been nothing but courteous and patient here"

Though I will say this struck me as quite funny.

"1. I have not defended wind tunnels; motorcycle runs; camera boxes or any other device. What I have said, repeatedly, is that these tests and devices represent the technology of those contemporary to the pitchers being tested - recognized only as being what the testers personally believed to constitute their best possible efforts. I admire them for the effort."

That's nice. How about actually looking back at the devices that actually worked? You want to chuck that out the window? Also would have helped if you had even tried making this clear...

"For heaven's sake! What model have you offered? There was nothing presented at all."

I offered Dalkowski and his mechanics (and also Feller for pre-War guys, based on his mechanics and really a test that probably put him somewhere in the high 90's at a time when the high 90's was next to unheard-of). You offered Dibble because you thought he might be the fastest based on...what, exactly?

"Sounds like a matr going off to the Coliseum. Is this "good-bye?""

No. Simply that I'm fed up and have had enough with your absurd picking away at random points you don't like, repeatedly changing your argument, and oh yes, shoving words into my mouth, such as...

"Even that single item you misrepresented, suggesting I wanted 10th of a second. No, I said hundredths of a second ........................ and NOTHING finer."

WRONG! Tell me, where did I say, imply, or misstate that you wanted a 10th of a second vs. a hundredth of a second? A radar gun would be more accurate than a human being with a stop watch. There's far less margin for error, even with a device that takes speed in hundredths of a second. Why? Because it's tripped by a human being, that's why!