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Did Pitchers of Yesteryear Throw With "Much Less" Velocity Than They Do Today?

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  • DoubleX
    replied
    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.

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  • Brian McKenna
    replied
    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
    Last edited by Brian McKenna; 01-20-2006, 03:09 PM.

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  • johnny
    replied
    the babe stayed in shape lifting...

    Blondes and redheads from barstools, swallowing rib eye steaks, and hydrating himself with some of Jacob Ruppert's tasty brew.

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  • Honus Wagner Rules
    replied
    Originally posted by [email protected]
    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.
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 02-19-2006, 10:16 PM.

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  • johnny
    replied
    Was Feller all wet?

    Originally posted by leecemark
    --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.

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  • Honus Wagner Rules
    replied
    Originally posted by [email protected]
    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/arti...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.

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  • leecemark
    replied
    --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?

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  • SHOELESSJOE3
    replied
    Originally posted by DoubleX
    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.

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  • DoubleX
    replied
    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.

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  • Bill Burgess
    replied
    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
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 01-22-2006, 08:28 AM.

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  • CyNotSoYoung
    replied
    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.

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  • santotohof
    replied
    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

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  • pretorius
    replied
    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.

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  • csh19792001
    replied
    Originally posted by ElHalo
    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...rs/175838.html

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

    http://www.baseball-almanac.com/arti...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.

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  • ElHalo
    replied
    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?

    Leave a comment:

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