The New York Times‘s unfortunately named but generally excellent sports magazine, Play, comes out infrequently, so I tend to miss it when it comes out. As a result, I didn’t find this wonderful profile of Kerry Wood from June until this week. It’s by H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger, author of the classic Friday Night Lights, who’s hopefully making a return to good writing after the overwritten, crushingly disappointing Three Nights in August. Anyway, this paragraph really got me:
“PITCHING A BASEBALL is, to put it mildly, a torturous and self-destructive act. Pitching is the fastest known motion in human biomechanics, the shoulder rotating at the rate of 7,200 degrees per second at its maximum, or the equivalent of 20 full revolutions per second. At the time of the ball’s release, the forces acting on the shoulder are basically equivalent to the pitcher’s body weight; they are akin to someone of similar size trying to yank his arm out of his shoulder socket. Right before release, the pitcher’s elbow straightens at a rate of 2,000 degrees per second, or the equivalent of 5.5 full revolutions per second. As Glenn Fleisig, the research director of the American Sports Medicine Institute, told me, the elbow was never designed for that type of stress.”
Despite being defiantly anti-Cub, I can’t help but root for Wood, one of the more tragic tales in baseball. And now that Rick Ankiel is back in the majors after reinventing himself as a power-hitting outfielder, I’m a little more hopeful about everything these days.