September 14, 2006
Remembering the Ryan Express (Tom Lederer, Baseball Analysts)
The recent rant from Joe Morgan regarding radar gun readings while watching Detroit Tigers rookie fireballer Joel Zumaya placed a spotlight on measuring the speed of fastballs and recognizing the fastest of the fastest. It's a debate for the ages, covering legends Walter Johnson, Bob Feller and Nolan Ryan and continuing to a seeming glut of would-be fastball kings in the game today.
"Who throws the fastest?" and "How fast does he throw?" are questions that undoubtedly date to the origins of the game. Baseball Almanac put together an interesting chronicle of "The Fastest Pitcher in Baseball History." The article details a variety of tests to measure fastballs over the years, with Johnson's recorded at 134 feet per second or 91.36 miles per hour. Feller's 98.6 mph entry was achieved using a speeding motorcycle. But Rapid Robert claimed to have been clocked as high as 107.9 in a 1946 demonstration.
One of the most famous of the fastball documentation events was Nolan Ryan's official "clocking" at 100.9 MPH in 1974. As the oldest son of George Lederer, the California Angels Director of Public Relations and Promotions, I had an opportunity to play a small role in the event.
I sort of assumed the film of Feller vs. the motorcycvle would be on-line, but, if it is, couldn't find it. The amazing thing is that even with the distraction of having to time his throw, for precisely when the bike crossed the start line, he still threw a strike. Posted by Orrin Judd at September 14, 2006 3:18 PM