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.”