Monday, December 6, 2010

Gillick in Hall

Great to see Pat Gillick reach the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was once roommates with fireballer Steve Dalkowski and was a major source for High Heat.
Also, Marvin Miller should have gotten in and good to see my friend Davey Concepcion in the running.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New book coming along

I've been on the road a ton, researching SIXTY-EIGHT, a new book about sports in the year 1968. While the nation was being pulled apart back then, the sports world (baseball's Tigers and Cardinals, the rise of the American Football League, the Mexico City Olympics) was certainly memorable to watch and may have helped hold everything together.
I'm writing away -- about half way done with the working draft.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Price wins AL Players Choice

David Price was honored to win the Players Choice Award as the American League's outstanding pitcher, especially since it was voted by his peers. "That does make it a little more special...," Price said. "The guys that I'm playing with, they feel that I deserve that this award, so that does mean a lot to me."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A shout-out for Castro's Curveball

This from Joe Gray, who heads up BaseballGB, a great blog about baseball writing from a British point of view:
"Most of the book reviews on BaseballGB are on non-fiction publications, but we do run the rule over an occasional novel as well. For a classic work, I thoroughly recommend Ring Lardner’s You Know Me Al (at least you won’t feel ripped off, as it retails at just £1.25 for a new copy on a website that shares a name with a big river). Among 21st Century publications, I’m still yet to read anything that tops Castro’s Curveball by Tim Wendel ... (It) was definitely an excellent piece of writing."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Price rolls on

I recently finished the Afterword for the tradepaper edition of High Heat, which will be out in February 2011. Here's what I wrote about the Rays' David Price, who led the Tampa Bay Rays to a playoff berth last night.
"Every time I saw Price pitch during the 2010 season, I was tempted to say that I knew him when. In researching High Heat, Price was the latest phenom, a season or so ahead of Stephen Strasburg, Aroldis Chapman and the new crop. Still, Price was on the outside looking in back then. When I first interviewed Price, he was at Triple-A Durham, wondering if a move to the bullpen would hasten his final call-up to the majors. In 2010, though, the left-hander came into his own, establishing a club record for victories and perhaps providing solace for the young guns following in his wake."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

105 mph clocking....

Those High Heat readings continue to happen. Reds rookie Aroldis Chapman was clocked at 105 last night in San Diego. Pretty impressive. Just finished the Afterword for the trade paper edition of High Heat and the Cuban defector gets his due. Does he belong with Feller, Ryan, Dalkowski, etc.? Certainly. But I'm not ready to put him in the top rung yet.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Up in Michigan

I've returned from four days in the Detroit area. Caught up with family, attended the Knight-Wallace Fellowship reunion in Ann Arbor and had a great interview with ex-Detroit Tiger Willie "the Wonder" Horton. Research for the new book, working title SIXTY-EIGHT, rolls on.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Chapman hits 103 mph

In his major-league debut, Cincinnati Reds rookie Aroldis Chapman was clocked at 103 miles per hour. The High Heat club has a new member. Ironically, this comes days before Stephen Strasburg is scheduled for Tommy John surgery.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fun time in Portland

The reading at Powell's went well. Thanks to everyone for coming out. Photos will be going up soon.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Off to Portland

I've healed enough to be in Portland, Oregon, this weekend. Reading at Powell's (Hawthorne breanch) on Monday night at 7:30 p.m.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Beginnings of the new book

Working my way through a lot of great research material from Cooperstown. Trying to tease out the threads for this new book, SIXTY-EIGHT. In search of narrative.

Friday, July 9, 2010

New book project

It is entitled SIXTY-EIGHT: WHEN BASEBALL SAVED AMERICA. Just agreed to a deal with Da Capo (the publisher of HIGH HEAT). It will be out in Spring 2011.
Of course, 1968 was the Year of the Pitcher, with amazing individual performances by Bob Gibson, Denny McLain, Luis Tiant, Don Drysdale, etc. But it was also the time of Mexico City Olympics, Lombardi's Packers, the rise of the American Football League, as well as national sorrow and upheaval (MLK and RFK assassinations, the Chicago riots). It's a large canvas and that has me excited and nervous. But I'm back with my good friend and editor Jonathan Crowe.
Any ideas or insights are always welcome.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

At Bethesda Big Train

OK, I did throw my ceremonial first pitch over the catcher's head. (I think Steve Dalkowski would have been proud.) But I did get to hang with these guys, including my good friend Paul Dickson, at the Bethesda (Md.) Big Train game Sunday night. The rain held off and the hometeam won.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Strasburg & The Big Train

Stephen Strasburg already shares many similarities with Walter "Big Train" Johnson. Before the season began, I documented many of these in Washingtonian magazine. They are similar in build, both right-handers. They pretty much came out of nowhere to national prominence and they're both epic fireballers.
Last week they began to share another similarity as Strasburg lost 1-0 to Kansas City. Nobody lost more 1-0 games in big league history than the Big Train (26).
But there's another area the new kid in town doesn't want to share with Johnson. During his Hall of Fame career, Johnson was so concerned about hitting a batter that he rarely buzzed batters inside. In fact, Ty Cobb figured that out. Now comes word that Nationals' officials are a mite concerned that Strasburg is around the plate too much, too. Will he come inside more? Give hitters an up-close glimpse of that high heat? We'll see what happens in future starts.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Power pitching

Good to see David Price pick up his 10th victory last night. Of course, he's the phenom character in High Heat. For the new edition, out next spring, I'm working up an Afterword with David, Stephen Strasburg and Ubaldo Jimenez. Looks like we could be seeing Price and Jimenez as the All-Star starting pitchers next month. Nothing wins like sheer speed.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Writing about Strasburg

My column about Stephen Strasburg's amazing debut just went up on Huffington Post. I think I'm going to be writing about this guy some more down the line.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Strasburg's amazing debut

Fun to have D.C. be the center of the baseball universe for a night. Strasburg's 14 strikeouts ranks behind only J.R. Richard and Karl Spooner all-time for a rookie debut. My editor is already asking for more Strasburg in the paperback edition of High Heat.

Friday, June 4, 2010

NYT Review this Sunday

High Heat will be reviewed in the New York Times Book Review this Sunday. We haven't seen the whole piece, but the snippets are a rave. See below.

"Sensitive and scrupulous, (Wendel) never forgets that for every Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax, lucky to have their unearned gifts, there are flameouts like Steve Dalkowski ... High Heat is ‘a séance with the game’s past,’ an almost literary fantasy in which all the great pitchers throw side by side on the same diamond.”

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Strasburg alert

It's official. Stephen Strasburgh will make his major league debut Tuesday, June 8, here in D.C. His arrival comes 103 years after Walter "The Big Train" Johnson turned the local team into a contender. Some fans expect nothing different from Strasburgh
Also on the fireballer alert wire, Aroldis Chapman may soon be up for the Reds.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

S.F. Chronicle review

High Heat was included in a roundup of new titles in the San Francisco Chronicle. That's my old stomping grounds, as I used to work at the S.F. Examiner, which is right next door. Here's the short review:
"You can teach a good curveball, you can teach a changeup, but you can't teach arm speed. It's a God-given ability." So says pitcher Troy Percival in this highly entertaining exploration of the pitch that has made so many careers (and destroyed so many arms). Fascinating details emerge: Until 1887, batters could call for their preference: a high or low pitch. A high school coach recalls Nolan Ryan's budding skills: "Those kids were so scared, they'd swing at anything just to get out of there." When the Baltimore Orioles were too cheap to invest in a newfangled portable radar gun, manager Earl Weaver bought one himself, for $1,200.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Boston Globe review

The Boston Globe Review. My publisher, Da Capo, is in Cambridge, Mass., so this is a good one to land.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Happy birthday to Stan Mikita

OK, we're off baseball for a moment, as I need to wish my friend Stan Mikita a happy 70th birthday. Of course, Stan was the inspiration for my novel for young readers, My Man Stan. He graciously did the foreword. Here we are signing books at the Blackhawks' convention two summers ago. The Blackhawks haven't been this good since Stan's heyday.

Blogcritics review

The Baseball Cabal at Blogcritics gives High Heat a thumbs-up.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Price continues to roll

What a difference a year makes. Last season, I caught up with the Rays' David Price at Triple-A Durham. He was so frustrated about not being with the big-league club he wondered if he should move to the bullpen, perhaps try to be a closer. Well, he stuck it out as a starter and last night went six innings against Cleveland to become the American League's first six-game winner.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Wisconsin connections

I'll be on 92.1, The Mic, Madison's Progressive Talk station, on Sunday at 11 a.m. So much of book touring these days is doing radio, and I had a lot of fun talking with host Stu Levitan. Not only is Stu a great interviewer, but you can find his review of Bob Dylan's Chronicles in the trade paper edition. He wrote it for the Capital Times in Madison, which David Maraniss' father used to edit. Of course, David, along with Ken Burns, graciously wrote cover blurbs for High Heat. Small world.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Strasburg in D.C. by mid-June

Back in February, I predicted that Stephen Strasburg, the next great fireballer, would be in the majors by mid-June. Now it looks like he's ahead of schedule. The Washington Post reports that the hard-throwing, right-hander could be in D.C. by June 4 when the Nats open a homestand against the Reds. After no-hitting Norfolk through six innings last night, he doesn't have anything else to prove in the minors.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

More reviews

ARETE, the sports literature journal, weighs in about HH. Calls the book "intriguing and informative." And singles out the sections about biomechanics, "the miraculous Tommy John surgery" and "the extensive analysis of
the talents and problems of little-known Steve Dalkowski."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Ryan Interview

Some were asking about the interview I did with Nolan Ryan last summer in researching High Heat. Here's an excerpt that recently ran in Guideposts.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Third printing

Da Capo announced that High Heat will go into a third printing this week. Thanks for the help and support, everybody.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Thumbs-up from LA Daily News

Tom Hoffarth calls High Heat, "a fastball down the middle ... maybe one as fast as (Steve) Dalkowski's..."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Live from New Britain. CT

Part of the fun during my swing through New Britain, Conn., last week. Here I am with Ken Lipshez, the top baseball writer for The Herald.
Thanks to Ken, the students at Central Connecticut State, their teacher Mary Collins and several of Steve Dalkowski's friends and former teammates for making it a grand evening. It was a real joy to read about Steve before an audience that treasures him.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Price stepping up

Great performance by the Rays' David Price on April 25. He pitched his first compete game at the major league level, a four-hit shutout victory over Toronto. Of course, David is the phenom character in High Heat. He often struggled last season and began the year at Triple-A Durham, but he's coming into his own now.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Nationals' fireballer

Stephen Strasburg
Dave Sheinin profiled the newest fireballer in The Washington Post. In High Heat, I focused on the Rays' David Price as the hard-throwing phenom. Still, Strasburg and the Reds' Aroldis Chapman are featured in the book, with the Nats' star among the photo package. We will likely have more about Strasburg and Chapman in the paperback edition next season.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

High Heat a Hit in Utah

Seth Bracken at the Deseret News calls High Heat "a perfect companion for fans of America's greatest pastime."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Publisher's Weekly review

[Wendel] presents a satisfying search for the ultimate fastball pitcher, with a result that's just conclusive enough…while leaving plenty of room for baseball die-hards' second-favorite sport: debating other fans.”—Publishers Weekly, April 12, 2010

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Simon, Edwards, iPad

The interview with Scott Simon ran on NPR Saturday morning and the one with Bob Edwards for Sirus/XM was replayed on NPR over the weekend. In addition, High Heat is the No. 1 sports book on the new Apple iPad.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

On the road

No rest for the wicked. The first week of promoting High Heat opened with a reading at the Barnes & Noble in Alexandria. The manager there is my friend Brighid Moret and it was a fun evening.
From there, it was on to the Virginia Festival of the Book, where I joined Roland Lazenby (author of a great bio about Jerry West) and Arlynda Lee Boyer (author wild read Buddha on the Backstretch).
The interview with Bob Edwards aired on Sirus/XM (37 minutes long!) and I have one with NPR's Scott Simon coming up.
Thanks to everyone for the support.

Monday, March 15, 2010

AP review is a home run

Called it "a fascinating book..." By noon today the review had been picked up by 15-plus outlets, including Huffington Post.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Book Cheer from LJ

In Library Journal's new Book Cheer column, Chris Vaccari of Sterling Publishing ranks High Heat as one of the top titles for this spring.
"Is a great fastball about a state of mind, arm mechanics, or both?" he writes "No chin music here! High Heat will make you think."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Koufax in camp

Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax will make an appearance at the Dodgers' spring training camp as an instructor this week.
Perhaps he can be as beneficial for the club's young arms (Clayton Kershaw?) as ex-catcher Norm Sherry once was for him.
A half-century ago, at a spring training game in Orlando, Sherry convinced Koufax to take something off his fastball. Koufax's stuff was so electric he didn't need to overthrow to get batters out. That's how Koufax went from being a journeyman to a Hall of Famer. Yes, the transformation was that sudden and remains one of success stories in High Heat.
"With any of these great pitchers, the questions become, 'Can they harness their stuff? Can they pull together what's been given to them sufficiently to become great?'" says Jeff Torborg, who caught Koufax's perfect game in 1965.
Sherry agrees that "throwing fast is a God-given talent. That's for sure. But it's not like it's a present with all the bows."

Sunday, February 28, 2010

New York Post Review

High Heat was included in the NY Post's Required Reading column. They said the effort "draws you in right from the first pitch..."
My friend Tim Gay's latest, Satch, Dizzy, and Rapid Robert, was also included in the Post review.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Review, updates

Spitball, the Literary Baseball Magazine, just reviewed High Heat. They call it "freewheeling and always entertaining."
Yesterday, I did an extended interview with Bob Edwards for his show on Sirus/XM. I'll keep you posted about when that airs. Also, future reviews pending from Newsday and The Boston Globe.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chapman brings the heat

Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman is opening eyes in the Cincinnati Reds' spring camp. Pitching coach Bryan Price hinted that Chapman could open his professional career in the major leagues this April.
"He could start anywhere," Price said. "But we want to access him and make sure it's the right place. Maybe it's in Cincinnati. Maybe it's somewhere else in our system. Turn him loose. Let him compete and see what he's all about."

Monday, February 15, 2010

Great expectations for Price

Last spring, when I was researching High Heat, I needed a young phenom, somebody who could really bring it, to be one of the main characters. That guy became David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays.
He was coming off an epic postseason that saw the Rays reach the World Series for the first time in their history.
Despite such accomplishments, he wasn't guaranteed a job with the major league club when camps opened last year. In fact, he began the year at Triple-A Durham, N.C., where I caught up with him.
What a difference a year makes. Barring injury, Price will open this season in the Rays' rotation. He, along with Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis will make up the 3 through 5 spots. The Rays are banking a lot on their young guns. Between them, Price, Niemann and Davis have started only 62 big-league games, winning only 27.
Of course, this season such fireballers as Stephen Strasburg (Washington) and Aroldis Chapman (Cincinnati) are following in Price's footsteps.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book trailer

We did a short bit on YouTube with the last novel and it worked so well that here's the one for High Heat. Check out the vintage photos.
High Heat book trailer

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cover on Amazon

We're definitely getting closer to the March 9 pub date. Cover for High Heat went up on Amazon this morning. In addition, I did the pre-interview for a session with Bob Edwards on Sirus/XM that will tape on February 24. Not sure when that will be airing yet, but I'll let you know.
High Heat on Amazon

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tony C.

One of the great things about living in the Washington, D.C. area is having the Library of Congress nearby.
When I was working on High Heat, my friend Paul Dickson mentioned that the LOC had recently acquired the Look magazine collection. Of course, Look was one of the most photogenic magazines ever. At that point, I was working on the section about the fastball's dark side. While we are enthralled with the high heat, there sometimes is a cost to pay (see Ray Chapman, Tony Conigliaro).
As a kid, Tony C. was my favorite player. The slugger got off to a Hall of Fame start but was never the same after being beaned by Jack Hamilton in 1967.
At the LOC, I found great background info about that tragic incident. But I also found never-before-published photos of Conigliaro taken by Look magazine photographer Jim Hansen. One of them appears in High Heat.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Verlander signs

More good news for Tigers fans as Justin Verlander, another fireballer, signs a five-year contract worth $80 million. He won a career-high 19 games with a career-best 3.45 ERA in '09. But what really impressed the scouts I talked with in doing High Heat was his velocity often increased the later he went into ballgames.
That distinction puts him in such rare company as Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan. Sounds like a sound investment to me.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Zumaya blazing again

Good news for Tigers fans. Fireballer Joel Zumaya is throwing like a fireballer again. The imposing right-hander has been working in Florida, looking to rebound from three consecutive injury-shortened seasons.
“I like what I’ve seen recently,” said Tigers pitching coach Rick Knapp. “All the indications are that he’s healthy, that he feels good and strong, and that there’s not a weak link in his delivery.”
GM Dave Dombrowski added that “everything at this point is encouraging. Basically, he’s been cleared (to pitch) 100 percent. If he didn’t have an injury history, you’d say he’s ready to go."
Nothing can turn around a ballclub faster than an infusion of high heat. When healthy, Zumaya ranks with the top fireballers ever. That’s why I put him in the Top 12 in High Heat: The Secret History of the Fastball and the Improbable Search for the Fastest Pitcher of All Time.
Zumaya had 186 pitches clocked at or above 100 mph thrown, twice as many as the next highest total and achieved in only 31 innings, according to figures compiled by Nick Stamm of STATS, Inc. Detroit had three pitchers in the top eight with RHP Justin Verlander third with 33 and RHP Fernando Rodney tied for eighth with seven.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

First review clears bases

From Library Journal
"Wendel (Far From Home: Latino Baseball Players in America ) moves across baseball history to show that choosing the fastest pitcher, and defending such a choice, is subjective: there are no agreed-upon criteria, since speed alone is not useful if you can't hit the plate. In our era of moneyball and sabermetrics, it's refreshing to read a book so vividly written that we can easily envision the old-time players and scouts spit tobacco juice to punctuate their opinions while disdaining mere radar readings. Wendel teaches us as much about the evolution of the values of our society as he does the development of the national pastime: will all information gathering rely only upon machinery, or will we trust our eyes, instincts, and judgment? Highly recommended."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Photos Galore

The way it usually works in publishing is that the author takes care of the inside photographs or illustrations and the publisher is on the hook for the cover.
For High Heat, we decided upon an eight-page photo insert, along with full page photos for each of the sections. The later include Walter Johnson, Bob Feller, David Price and Steve Dalkowski.
In assembling the eight-page insert, I put the word out to several of my best friends, who also happen to be great photographers. One who really stepped up was Jose Luis Villegas.
We had worked together on Far From Home, the coffee-table book about Latinos in baseball (National Geographic, 2008). Frankly, I wasn't looking to do another Latino-themed book after Castro's Curveball and The New Face of Baseball. But once I saw Jose Luis' images, I had to be on board.
When I contacted Jose Luis about any possible images for High Heat, he mentioned a vintage shot he had somewhere of Nolan Ryan.
"Let me see if I can find it," Jose Luis said.
A few weeks later, the image to the right arrived. It's from Ryan's sixth no-hitter, against the Oakland A's. It's one of 24 photographs in High Heat.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Fireballer's Allure

With the signing of Aroldis Chapman, we're once again reminded that nothing is valued more in professional baseball than the ability to throw a baseball better than 100-plus miles per hour.
As a starter and reliever with Cuba's national team, Chapman, 22, has been clocked at 102 miles per hour. Today the Reds signed him to five-year, $30 million deal.
Of course, last year fireballer Stephen Strasburg was the game's biggest bonus baby. The season before it was left-hander David Price. Fireballers all. And all of them are in High Heat.
But pardon me if I find myself thinking about Steve Dalkowski at such times. He was a bonus baby, too. Even though his contract was in the tens of thousands rather than in the multi-millions. That's a vintage shot of Dalkowski to the left.
He would have been remembered as the best of the bunch -- if he had truly made it.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cover blurbs

Cover blurbs for High Heat: The Secret History of the Fastball and the Improbable Search for the Fastest Pitcher of All Time
(March 2010 release from Da Capo Press)

"High Heat is a great idea brilliantly executed. Tim Wendel, one of my favorite baseball writers, delivers this fastball with a winning mix of science, biography, and mythology."
-- David Maraniss, author of Clemente and When Pride Still Mattered

"This is a blazing fastball of a story, compelling, relentless, riveting."
-- Ken Burns, Filmmaker