What is it about a quality fastball that brings us to the edge of our seats? How is it humanly possible to throw faster than 100 mph? And the big question: Who is the fastest pitcher ever?
High Heat takes us on what filmmaker Ken Burns calls a "compelling, relentless, riveting" quest to deliver answers to the most intriguing questions about the fastball. Wendel provides insight into one of baseball's most exhilarating yet mystifying draws while exploring the remarkable feats and trials of the pitchers who have attempted to master it.
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.