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