SPORTS FILM REVIEW – “Fastball (2016)”

Goosebumps.

I had them a lot while watching this film:

There was the footage of the Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax and his 1965 perfect game during which we heard the buttery voice of Vin Scully calling the final out…  Goosebumps. 

Bob Gibson discussing his 1968 season when he had “complete control” over his game.  (13 of 22 complete game shutouts.  1.12 ERA.  17 Strike Outs in a 1968 WS game, a record that still stands today) … Goosebumps.

Watching a montage of Nolan Ryan’s legendary career with his record 7 no-hitters and renowned longevity until at age 46, he walked off the field in tears knowing it would be his last game… Goosebumps.

When it was revealed who really threw the fastest pitch in the history of baseball and it wasn’t Aroldis Chapman…  Goosebumps. 

If you’re a hard-core baseball fan like me, then you’re going to have goosebumps too after viewing this 2016 documentary film released by respected sports filmmaker Jonathan Hock (of the “30 for 30” ESPN shorts fame).

This fascinating movie, narrated by Kevin Costner, is divided into chapters each centering on a renowned fastball pitcher.

Interspersed is a roundtable discussion between 5 legendary hitters in Cooperstown, archival footage, interviews with 20 HOF baseball greats and scientific experts who try to discern the physics of the sport’s most popular and polarizing pitch (the fastball).

Put together, Hock gives us a unique perspective on America’s pastime, while posing the ultimate question every baseball fan yearns to know: “Who threw the fastest pitch, ever?

Beyond the fun stories the legends share with us and their rumination of each era’s own version of Nolan Ryan, we are reminded that pitchers who throw over 90 mph bend the lines of what is humanly possible and on the other end of the 60’6 that separates the mound from home plate is a batter who also tries to push the limits of human reaction (i.e: How fast can a hitter make a decision?).

As is pointed out by the scientists who conduct the fastball experiments in the film – there’s a real “beauty” in that.

Also, particularly fun is a discussion of the phenomenon known as the “rising fastball” and how it is basically an optical illusion (well, Hank Aaron and Bryce Harper dispute that proven fact.)

This is all a very different viewpoint than the nearly 300 other movies made about baseball. (Source: Baseball Almanac.)

I can’t wait to see if Hock now makes a film about the curveball, a pitch that is seeing a resurgence in MLB, according to SI’s Tom Verducci.

In his latest column, Verducci indicates that the curve is now the modern pitcher’s preferred choice and is being used more than the fastball.

Apparently, the four-seamer is considered to be a “dying pitch” while “spin, not velocity” is in.

Well, that may be technically so, but the curve could never be as sexy as a fastball.

This film proves that and it is ultimately, good for the game.

RATING: A+  (Ok for children and a great choice for any person interested in learning more about baseball.)

Available on Netflix.

 

 

 

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