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High Heat: The Secret History of the Fastball and the Improbable Search for the Fastest Pitcher of All Time
Synopses & Reviews
What is it about a quality fastball that brings us to the edge of our seats? How is it humanly possible to throw more than 100 mph? And the big question: Who is the fastest pitcher ever?
Drawing on interviews with current and former players, managers, scouts, experts, and historians, Tim Wendel delivers the answers to some of the most intriguing questions about the fastball, providing insight into one of baseball’s most exhilarating yet mystifying draws. In High Heat he takes us on a quest to separate verifiable fact from baseball lore, traveling from ballparks across the country to the Baseball Hall of Fame, piecing together the fascinating history of the fastball from its early development to the present form while exploring its remarkable impact on the game and the pitchers who have been blessed (or cursed) with its gift.
From legends such as Nolan Ryan, Walter Johnson, Steve Dalkowski, and Satchel Paige to present-day standard bearers like Tim Lincecum, Billy Wagner, and Randy Johnson, Wendel examines the factors that make throwing heat an elusive ability that few have and even fewer can harness. Along the way he investigates the effectiveness of early speed-testing techniques (including Bob Feller’s infamous motorcycle test), explains why today’s radar gun readings still leave plenty of room for debate, and even visits an aerodynamic testing lab outside of Birmingham, Alabama, in order to understand the mechanics that make throwing heat possible in the first place.
At its heart, High Heat is a reflection on our infatuation with the fastball—the expectation it carries, the raw ability it puts on display, and, most of all, the feats and trials of those who have attempted to master it. As Wendel puts it, “The tale of high heat can lead in several different directions at once, and the real story has more to do with triumph and tragedy that with the simple act of throwing a baseball.”
"Intent on determining the fastest pitcher ever, Wendel (founding editor of USA TODAY Baseball Weekly) questions former and current players, managers, scouts, historians and other experts for insight into what has become one of the most prized proficiencies in all of sports. Wendel examines such high-heat icons as Walter Johnson, Satchel Paige, Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson, but also brings readers along on field research: browsing, white-gloved, through documents at the National Baseball Hall of Fame; visiting a rural cemetery in search of the unusual grave marker of James Creighton ('the game's first true fireballer'); making his own fastball attempt at the American Sports Medicine Institute; and more. Wendel also reflects on the fastball's dark side, looking at the steroids era and batters struck (in one instance, killed) by high-speed pitches. Wendel's too-clever organization can muddle the narrative-chapters are arranged by the phases of a pitch ('The Windup,' 'The Pivot,' 'The Stride,' etc.)-but he presents a satisfying search for the ultimate fastball pitcher, with a result that's just conclusive enough (going to the player 'who persevered the most with what was bestowed upon him') while leaving plenty of room for baseball die-hards' second-favorite sport: debating other fans." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
An irresistible journey to the heart of baseball and our infatuation with one of the games most fascinating and elusive draws
About the Author
Tim Wendel is the author of six books, including Far From Home and Castro”s Curveball. A founding editor of USA Today Baseball Weekly, he has written for Esquire, GQ, and Washingtonian magazines. He lives in Vienna, Virginia.
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