7/16/41=56

7/16/41=56
When we think of records that seem to be unbreakable, one invariably always comes up. That would be the 56-game hitting streak of Joe DiMaggio. On July 16, 1941, Joltin’ Joe extended his hitting streak to that magical number of 56 games…unbelievable. So unbelievable that in that same year, there was s song (Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio by Les Brown, sung by Betty Bonney) written about it. Since that time, there have been many noble tries to eclipse that mark, but in reality no one has really come close. I remember watching Pete Rose take a hitting streak to 44-games in 1978. It was enthralling stuff to a 14 year-old baseball infatuated teenager. My friends and I used to watch this event unfold on a daily basis, and we were disappointed when it ended in August 1st of that season.
Of course, this has got me thinking. What other MLB records are ‘untouchable’? Before McGuire / Sosa, it was thought that the home run records of Babe Ruth (60 in 154 games) or Roger Maris (61 in 162 games) was unbreakable. Well, WRONG!!! In the summer of 1998, Mark McGuire of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs gave us an unbelievable fireworks show, with BOTH of them eclipsing Ruth and Maris. In fact, between Mark and Sammy, they would surpass the 60 or 61 home run mark 5 more times. This would stand as the gold standard of slugging until 2001, when Barry Bonds hit 73 dingers. Of course, now I have to ask if the 73* mark will ever be broken…
Let’s give the pitchers some love also. The modern era (post-1900) record for strikeouts is 383, set in 1973 by one Nolan Ryan. A close second is the 382 K’s by Sandy Koufax in 1965. Randy ‘Big Unit’ Johnson came close in 2001 with 372, and there have been several other worthy mentions, but in my humble opinion I don’t see anyone breaking Ryan’s mark. As good as Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner are, and as good as I think Jacob deGrom may become, breaking Ryan’s record is a tall order.
And now on to Mount Olympus. Lou Gehrig was considered to be the Iron Man. His 2,130 straight games played was thought to be unbreakable, until Cal Ripken Jr. did just that on the night of September 6th, 1995. Ripken became the all-time Iron Man. Ripken would go on to set the new consecutive game record at 2,632. I also do not ever see this record falling.
Whenever I think of records and how they are considered untouchable, I am reminded of one Roger Bannister. You may have heard of him. Roger Bannister is the first human being to ever break the 4-minute mile. On May 4th, 1954, Bannister accomplished what many experts considered to be a ‘physical impossibility’. It was believed that the human pulmonary and respiratory systems were simply incapable of supporting such an effort, and that the human heart would just explode. The experts were wrong, and since that historic day, the sub 4-minute mile is almost routine.
Oh. My original point. On this day in 1941, Joe DiMaggio etched himself in the Mount Rushmore of baseball immortals with his 56-gamne hitting streak. Many have tried to equal it. All have failed. It is a record that I do not see ever being broken.

Joltin' Joe DiMaggio

Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio

MLB…The 110 MPH Fastball.

MLB…The 110 MPH Fastball…
Think for a minute about the hardest throwing pitchers that you have ever heard of. Who did you come up with? Bob Feller? Nolan Ryan? Aroldis Chapman? Someone else? That’s okay, because those are a few of the guys I came up with as well. A pitcher like Mark Wholers once had his fastball clocked at 103 mph. Neftali Feliz’s fastball was once clocked at 103.4 mph during a game in Texas, a speed that is third all-time behind only Aroldis Chapman (105.1 mph) and Joel Zumaya (104.8 mph). I am not going to include the stories of guys who could supposedly throw harder than these guys with no numbers to back it up. There are tales of pitchers who could supposedly hit in the 106-107 range, but these are stories, not facts. There are tales of Krakens, Loch Ness Monsters and Bigfoot too, but they aren’t included here either.
What I am wondering is whether or not if someday there will be a pitcher who hits 110 mph on the JUGS Gun? Can the human arm tolerate such a violent strain? Is he human body, whose physiology is really not made to throw a ball overhand the way we do, capable of throwing a ball that hard? Did you ever watch fastpitch softball pitchers? These people can throw game after game with virtually no arm issues. Why? Because the human body (and arm) is more ready made to throw a ball underhanded. By comparison, baseball pitchers do not, and that is where the trouble starts.
Back to baseball pitchers. If we look at the deliveries of some of these guys, we have to wonder how their arms don’t just fly off and land in the third row. Look at Tim Lincecum or Aroldis Chapman. Go back a little and you can study the pitching motions of Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, J.R.Richard, or Randy Johnson. These guys all had hard, violent deliveries, and could all throw at 100mph+ on occasion. But that brings up a question. In spite of these wild pitching deliveries, none of them ever topped 102mph, with the exception of Chapman. So if we were to calculate how many thousands of pitchers have pitched at the major league level, times how many of these pitchers hit 110 mph, the answer will be ‘zero’. Why then, in this collection of thousands of pitchers has only ONE, Aroldis Chapman, hit even 105 mph?
Bob Gibson was 6’1”. Bob Feller was 6’0”. Neftali Feliz is 6’3”. J.R. Richard and Randy Johnson are 6’8” and 6’10” respectively. But Tim Lincecum is only 5’11”. We can write off height as the determining factor in pitch speed. There is a lot of biomechanics, kinesiology, and physiology out there that all provide some insight in to what makes one pitcher throw harder than another. Lever length, ligament and tendon strength, and throwing motion all are part of the discussion, and is way too long of a discussion to be had in this short space.
So I put it to you. Will we ever see a major league pitcher hit 110 mph with a pitch? My thought is that with the modern training methodologies, better nutrition, and improvements in analysis through sports science, it will someday be possible. I couldn’t say when, but consider this… it has taken one baseball pitcher over 100 years to hit 105.1 on the radar gun…one time. My bet is that it will happen, but not very soon. I welcome your thoughts and comments.