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High Heat: The Secret History of the Fastball and the Improbable Search for the Fastest Pitcher of All Time

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  146 ratings  ·  28 reviews
What is it about a quality fastball that brings us to the edge of our seats? How is it humanly possible to throw more than 100 mph? And the big question: Who is the fastest pitcher ever?

Drawing on interviews with current and former players, managers, scouts, experts, and historians, Tim Wendel delivers the answers to some of the most intriguing questions about the fastbal
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 9th 2010 by Da Capo Press (first published 2010)
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Jul 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Not for everyone, for probably obvious reasons. But a definite, amusing lark for anyone who enjoys baseball and the idiosyncrasies of the game. The writer takes us through the history of many of the famous fastball pitchers, with an attempt to decide exactly who was the fastest of all time. A bit redundant in parts, and too much time spent on certain individuals (Dalkowski) and insufficient time, or none at all, on some (Gossage). But a good read for those interested in a sports story or the que ...more
Dave Kirschner
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
A surprisingly fun book. The way the book flows from subject to subject was engaging, and the author's wit and skill in sketching out anecdotes and memories made this a quick read.
Apr 16, 2011 rated it liked it
I actually was asked to review this for the Deseret News before we find out that it had been reviewed a year earlier when it came out in hardback. I enjoyed it. Generally, I would prefer a writer to get out of the way, but Tim Wendel takes on his journey to find the fastest pitcher of all time, and I mostly liked that. But he seemed to waffle between fully including us and maintaining some distance, and that weakened the structure. The best thread through the book was how difficult it is for fas ...more
Jul 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Everybody has played baseball, in some form or another. Everybody has made a really good catch, or caught one right on the sweet spot and drove it a mile. But, throwing the ball, with an otherworldy velocity is reserved for a very select few. That what Tim Wendel is on a mission to explore here. How did those guys deal with this gift? Did they cultivate it, and bask in that glory? Or did they let the weight of it ruin not just a promising baseball career, but the whole of their lives as well.
Mar 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: those who enjoy flimsily-premised Baseball books
Despite the fact that Mr. Wendel seems to share my enthusiasm for BULL DURHAM, I can't say that this book made a favorable impression on me; frankly, the whole thing seems kind of jumbled. Apparently, he quested after the answer to "life, the universe, and everything...": no, sorry: wrong under-specified question. He apparently wanted to find out who threw the fastest fast ball, or the best fastball: we're never sure which. So he spends time on Steve Dalkowski, who threw fastballs through wooden ...more
Ken Bronsil
May 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
You have to love baseball to love this book. You have to be fascinated by all the stories, legends, and folklore built up over the years to get all worked up about a book like this, devoted to the fastest pitchers of all time, especially to which one was the absolute fastest. They have ways of measuring that now, but they didn't in the earlier days, when many of baseball's legends did their stuff.

So this is a history about all that, but Wendel tells stories, sometimes going off on tangents and
Reid Mccormick
Dec 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: baseball
We all love the curveball. The hook. The deuce. Public enemy number one. Uncle Charlie. It is an amazing pitch to watch.

But nothing beats the fastball. The numero uno. The terminator. The high heat.

In my opinion, the most dominating pitchers in Major League Baseball were probably Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax. Those are pretty safe picks, but there are a lot of other deserving pitchers out there: Roger Clemens, Walter Johnson, Satchel Paige, etc.

High Heat is simply about the fastball; how it works
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: baseball
Wendell tries to determine who was the fastest pitcher of all time and gives the reader a wide ranging and informative look at some of the contenders from the end of the nineteenth century up until the beginning of the twenty- first. There are lots of interesting tidbits here for any baseball fan. I particularly enjoyed learning more about Steve Dalkowski. Dalkowski may have been the fastest there ever was, but he could not learn control and never made it to the major leagues. In one minor leagu ...more
Apr 25, 2014 rated it liked it
You get what the title says. This is a book about the fastball and about the men who threw it with most velocity. It is not a book about pitching, though you learn about pitching. And it is not a history of baseball, though you get a lot of history. It is a book meant to answer one question: who threw the fastest. So we learn about the "Big Train" Walter Johnson, but not Christy Matthewson. We read about Steve Dalkowski, who played for Baltimore but never made it to the bigs, but not Jim Palmer. ...more
Jun 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I am a baseball fan. But I've never been the kind of fan who cares about statistics. That's my husband's realm. So when my husband's mom bought him this book, I thought, "well, that will be good for him but I can't see myself reading it."

That quickly changed when I picked up the book myself. Tim Wendel's narrative kept me engaged and excited, and I could not wait to see what happened with each of the most amazing pitchers of all time. The only thing that, to me, was a little disappointing, was
Howard Mansfield
May 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read this wonderful book as a parable of patience. This is a story of persistence and discipline. The golden arm of the young “phenom” that can fire the ball in, is a thrilling thing that grabs our attention. But to really succeed it takes a work ethic and a kind of steadiness that may be a rare match for the flash of such talent. We're all dazzled by "the natural" but the stories in High Heat that really stand out for me are Sandy Koufax's and Nolan Ryan's. I didn't know that it took the grea ...more
Sep 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: baseball fans
Nothing Earth-shattering, but an entertaining read. I consider myself an avid fan of baseball and baseball history, but I did not know anything really about Amos Rusie. It is also the most definitive account I have read of the curious case of the legendary Steve Dalkowski. I also appreciated to looks, although admittedly shallow, into the mechanics of pitching a world-class fastball and the physical risks involved. I would have liked there to have been a more in-depth profile of Bob Gibson, and ...more
Apr 29, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: baseball
Interesting topic and overall structure, but for me something was lacking. The style was a mix of journalistic and novelistic that didn't quite work. Maybe I've been reading too much fiction lately (not that such a thing is possible) but Wendel lacks a unique voice as a writer (or maybe I just don't like the one he has). Also, there were a couple too many religious references for me, almost like Wendel was covertly trying to pass along the idea of "God-given" talent as actually coming from God.
Eric Holmlund
Nov 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports
Tim Wendel's High Heat is an interesting search for the fastest throwing pitcher of all-time. The beauty of this book is the stories that come from common men trying to harness a special and fragile gift. A gift that brings high expections to those who may or not be ready to live up them. Some of my favorite profiles featured on Nolan Ryan, Bob Feller and Steve Dalkowski. High Heat does a fantastic job in covering all fireballers regardless of the era they dominated. Wendel's search is a fast pa ...more
Michael Webb
May 01, 2010 rated it liked it
A perfectly competent, but somewhat self involved look at the fastball and the fastest pitchers ever. A fine job-he hits everyone you might expect-W.Johnson, Grove, Feller, Ryan, Wagner, Gossage, Paige, all the way up to The Anchorman, Steven Strasburg. But the author is too visible in the prose, too willing to make the story about himself rather than the baseball. Other than that, it's a fine book.
David Press
Mar 20, 2012 rated it liked it
I read a lot of baseball history, and authored A Multicultural Portrait of Professional Sports (Marshall Cavendish, 1994). To me, Wendell's High Heat lost its way, and had the misfortune of being published at a time when several fast-ballers are about to become strong MLB prospects.

The best story line within the book is the career of Steve Dalkowski. Maybe this should have been the sole focus of Wendell's book. It seems to be the story line he for which has the most passion.
Apr 03, 2011 rated it liked it
A great account of fastball pitchers through the ages of baseball. Learn the stories of some names you know, and some that you don't. The book mostly centers around around the notion that while you really can't teach a player to throw hard, to some its a gift making them stars, and to others its a curse that they can never overcome. Fascinating to a baseball fan, but probably not to the general reader.
Cecilia Tan
Mar 15, 2010 rated it liked it
Just got this book in the mail and at first glance it looks like exactly the kind of book I'm going to love. Deep geekery and baseball lore, well written and well told. The package is beautiful, too, on very nice paper with a textured dist jacket, the kind of design that says no, ebooks won't be the same as printed books at all. Would make a great gift for anyone who is a total baseball nut.
Sarah Alawami
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very good read. I finished it in about 8 hours, that is, I was up all night. I'm not a base ball fan, but the book was so entertaining I could not stop laughing at some of it especially the poor hot dog guy that got hit in the rear. Ouch! I am surprised though at the final pick of the author though in term of the fastest pitcher. I'm still not understanding why he picked him
May 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012, baseball
An enjoyable summary of biographical snippets, this book was at its best when it focused on the "troubled" aspects of history's best fastball pitchers. It seems that every pitcher with a live arm is somehow defective in attitude or aptitude. I wish Wendel would have focused more on this link than on some of the other directions he takes.
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is about the fast ball in baseball - it has stories and stats and a whole lot more. It is lots of fun. I used this to get me through one end of season -for anyone with a modicum of interest in baseball this is a key book.
Apr 20, 2014 rated it liked it
I always seem to enjoy baseball anecdotes and this book is full of interesting stories of fastball pitchers from all eras. The narrative jumps around in time and requires a little attention to keep up, but this may be in part due to the narration of this audio version of the book.
Oct 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
For any baseball fan who enjoys some of the history behind the people who made the game because of their pitching this is a must read. Great!
Apr 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Only a few pages about potentially great pitchers and then their "yips." I need more stuff on the yips.
Collin Prince
Apr 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic read on the legends of baseball, known and some less so, who threw with epic force and the publics fascination with them.
Matthew Stetz
Jun 28, 2012 rated it it was ok

Not as good as The Summer of '68 but still pretty good.
Jan 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read_2013
A little dry at times, but in general a nice read with insights into lots of fireballers. If you have never heard of Steve Dalkowski, he features prominently in the book.
Jun 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: sports
A fun book about fastballers past and present.
Adam Davis
rated it really liked it
Nov 16, 2019
rated it liked it
Feb 11, 2011
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Tim Wendel is an award-winning novelist and journalist. He is the author of 13 books, including Summer of '68: The Season When Baseball, and America, Changed Forever and Castro's Curveball: A Novel. His stories have appeared in Gargoyle and The Potomac Review, and his articles in The New York Times, Esquire, GQ, Washingtonian and USA Today. A writer-in-residence at Johns Hopkins University, Tim ...more

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