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To try to exploit SteveMania and still meet deadlines, for this week’s cash-machinelike print version of Washington City Paper, I wrote about the history of the 100 mile an hour fastball in our town. Sort of. Pick up a copy, read about it, patronize all the advertisers twice.
The Nats’ marketing campaign leading up to Stephen Strasburg’s debut focused on his ability to throw a 100 mph fastball. He put the truth to his team’s advertising in the second inning of last night’s Nats/Pirates game. That toss grants him membership in an exclusive club of freaks.
I learned a number of interesting things about the quest to hit triple-digit speed from the mound.
The late, great Shirley Povich wrote in a 1937 column* in the Washington Post that Walter Johnson could throw 100 mph. But Povich doesn’t mention that the legendary Big Train actually had gone to a gun manufacturer in 1912 to have the speed of his fastball certified, and that equipment only caught him at about 83 miles an hour.
Bob Feller still claims he threw 107 miles an hour here at Griffith Stadium in 1946, but there’s not much to back that up.
Feller’s timed tosses came at an event staged by Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith, who brought in the machines the U.S. Army used to measure the speed of its artillery shells to gauge the speed of the Indians’ returning WWI hero.
But despite Feller’s boasts, the Washington Post account of the Griffith Stadium performance back in the day says he only hit 98.6. That’s fast.
But it ain’t triple digits.
Before Stephen Strasburg blew past the century mark for the first time as a pro last night, the only Washington baseball guy who could boast about hitting the century mark was…Rob Dibble, the color commentator for the Nationals TV broadcasts.
Dibble, a former Cincinnati Reds hurler, was measured at 101.0 mph on June 8, 1992 in a game at Candlestick Park.
That means the big crowd showed up to see Strasburg throw 100 mph on the 18th anniversary of Dibble’s big toss. Wonder if even Dibble knew.
*Povich’s story about pitching speeds has some hilarious prose. Writing about how the Yankees’ pitcher Bump Hadley had beaned a player with a wayward fastball: “Before the ball hit Schulte, Hadley ejaculated a wild ‘Look out!’ But Schulte couldn’t duck. As he sagged to the ground, Hadley blanched and whitened in horror.'”
Who among us hasn’t sagged, blanched and whitened after a wild ejaculation?