WHERE THERE'S SMOKE...
Your excellent article on Nolan Ryan in particular (The Bringer of the Big Heat, June 16) and fastballers in general reminded this ancient fan of a story that has been told about Lefty Grove:
Joe Kuhel of the old Washington Senators, after taking one of Grove's high, inside hard ones, was waved to first base by the umpire. Kuhel looked at him in astonishment.
"Look at your cap," the ump explained. "That last one turned the beak around."
How can Ron Fimrite compare Nolan Ryan to fireballers of old and completely overlook possibly the fastest of them all, Rex Barney of the Brooklyn Dodgers? Joe DiMaggio recently said on national TV that Barney was the fastest he ever went up against. Barney's speed was blinding.
How could you fail to mention Rube Waddell? Connie Mack called Waddell by far the fastest pitcher he ever saw. Waddell struck out more than 300 men a season in an era when most pitchers barely struck out 100. His 349 strikeouts in 1904 stood as the alltime high for 61 years. Waddell is the only pitcher who pitched before 1955 to be in the top 25 in strikeouts per nine innings (he is 11th on the alltime list).
?Some statisticians credit Waddell with only 343 strikeouts, in which case Bob Feller would have surpassed his record with 348 in 1946.—ED.
I believe that when you mentioned Walter Johnson and his strikeout record of 3,508, you should have included one other great strikeout pitcher, Bob Gibson. At the end of the 1974 season, he had a career total of 3,057 strikeouts, and he has struck out 40 more so far this year.
For Ron Fimrite even to imply that Nolan Ryan is faster than the Big Train is a gross insult to all us members of the Walter Johnson Fan Club, and we won't stand for it! We'll admit there were no accurate fastball-measuring devices in Walt's day, so the next-best method, we figure, is to go by the stories handed down over the years. It is no secret that since 1915, by using this system of measurement, Johnson's fastball has been increasing in speed by about 10 mph each year. In fact, one of our members, a mathematician, using what he calls an extrapolation technique, figures that by the year 2000 the ball will be smashing into the catcher's mitt just as old Wall is starting his windup. Eat your heart out, Nolan!
J. M. BURKE
Ron Fimrite asks if Nolan Ryan is faster than the old greats? The answer is yes. Ryan truly is the bringer of the biggest heat.
The story on Nolan Ryan was great, but that cover says it all.