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"Yes stand right there - the ball will be hurtling towards you. No, no - its not agony at all if you get hit by the ball because its - er.. yes, that's it - its a SOFT ball"
It's to lure kids/adults new to the game into a false sense of security at the start, to inflict the maximum amount of pain as is possible.
Except in fastpitch softball where the speeds can get up over 100 mph. That hurts ;-)
Notice how even high level softball games almost never show radar readings, unlike baseball? Top women softballers top out around 70 mph which is average speed for a high school freshman baseball pitcher. I used to hear about male softballers who could hit 100... in the days before radar. LOL Most of those played exhibition softball and likely juiced the facts to draw paying crowds.
Throwing underhand just isn't as fast as doing it overhand. Baseball submarine pitchers often top out in the low 80s although a few are faster.
[edited by: jsinger at 7:18 pm (utc) on Oct. 31, 2006]
Zumaya was hitting over 100 on ESPN's radar. The Busch Stadium radar, otoh, showed him topping out around 99 when I was at the WS game last Tuesday. (he was very wild, btw). I doubt these guns are precisely calibrated. The networks have a strong incentive to provide a good show.
There are no "official records." But Guiness says:
The greatest reliably recorded speed at which a baseball has been pitched is 100.9 mph by Lynn Nolan Ryan (California Angels) at Anaheim Stadium in California on August 20, 1974.
How fast did old timers throw? (a very popular discussion on baseball groups)
In the 19th century, teams sometimes held various contests between double headers. There are records of players throwing 350 feet on the fly which requires a velocity of more than 90 mph. A critical missing piece of info is whether the thrower was running before the toss, and what the wind was doing.
There were scientific attempts to measure velocity around WWI. They suggest that the fastest were near 90 but those methods "timed" a ball over a distance. The ability to measure a peak reading, from the pitcher's hand (the modern method) waited for the arrival of radar much later.
One thing is clear. Top pitchers haven't gotten much faster over the past 100 years. That contrasts with athletic improvement in almost every other field. Limiting factor is mostly the ability of the skeletal system to withstand the peak forces.