Blu Ray Release: June 28, 2016
Director: Jonathan Hock
Review by Travis North
Following on the previous documentary Knuckleball! comes another pitching movie. This time about everyone’s favorite pitch, the fastball. No one really obsesses about the break on a curveball or slider, but fans ooh and ahh over how many miles per hour someone can chuck a baseball. This films touches on some of the most famous practitioners of the power pitching game.
Kevin Costner provides narration that walks you through baseball’s obsession with the fastball. You get lots of interviews and clips of past and present stars who reminisce about the fastball. It is a bit choppily edited, going from Walter Johnson and Bob Feller to Aroldis Chapman, then back in time to Nolan Ryan. While the anecdotes are interesting, they do intersperse PhDs in physics to break down the science of the fastball, as well as debunk the idea of a “rising fastball”. Most interesting is their attempts to scientifically determine who threw the fastest baseball ever. Extrapolating from military measurements used in the past, early radar gun tests, and comparing to the methods today, I found the answer quite surprising. Baseball and science! This is no doubt a much sought after “four quadrant film”.
Other goodies include rare home footage taken of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game. Interviews with Goose Gossage and George Brett allow for the infamous Tom Bowles Pine Tar Incident video to get shown again. Brett losing his absolute shit never gets old. I was surprised that even though they do show a few clips of strikeout machine Randy Johnson, he’s somewhat overlooked. With all the talk of intimidation and throwing at people’s heads, this would have been a good time to recap his incident with John Kruk.
There is one segment of the film that is easily the highlight and not your normal puff piece. That is about the tragic Steve Dalkowski who may have been the hardest thrower ever, but whose wildness kept him from ever making the majors. Combined with his alcoholism and disappearance for almost three decades, I couldn’t help but feel the filmmakers should have focused their efforts on this. The fact that they include an extended version of his story as a disc supplement somewhat confirms my suspicions. And it gets even more depressing! He now has alcohol induced dementia and is dependent on his sister to take care of him. At a minimum someone make a 30 For 30 about Dalkowski please! This miserable story needs to be documented better.
Other extras on the disc include extended interviews with players. All of them are interesting, but the best is a grizzled Whitey Herzog getting pissed at a question and storming off. Picture and sound are fine for what this is. Unless you are experiencing a raging baseboner, you probably won’t be too interested in this. But any baseball fan should give this a watch. Besides one translated “shit”, I expect this to be played extensively on the MLB Network during ray delays or as a late night time filler.
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