3x Sports Questions

  1. Is it true that Nolan Ryan actually threw a baseball so hard that it broke the webbing on his catcher’s mitt? Furthermore, what would be (approximately, of course) the force necessary to do this?

  2. Has there ever been a football that’s busted during an NFL game? They’re all sewed, and while I’ve heard of baseballs busting during MLB games, I’ve never heard of a football doing this despite their being sewed up as well. Without a ‘core’ like a baseball, I’d imagine this could be a funny scenario.

  3. I remember as a kid seeing ‘The Babe’ with John Goodman, and remember a pop-fly Ruth hit so high that he had an in-side the park homer before it landed. Furthermore, I’d always hear this was the cause of the ‘infield fly rule’. I can’t believe a baseball would stay airborne that long, so is there any truth to this?

Thanks again all for satisfying my intellectual curiousity :slight_smile:

Dunno about the first two, but this one is false. A fly ball that’s caught before it hits the ground is an out regardless of how far the runner manages to go before the ball comes down, and a batter can’t score on a play where he’s put out. It’s been that way since before baseball was a professional sport. It’s also hard to believe a pop-up could be so high that a runner could make it all the way around the bases before it came down.

It also has nothing to do with the infield fly rule. This rule is only in effect when there are fewer than two outs, and there are runners on first and second (or first, second and third). If the batter in this situation hits an infield fly (a fly ball that can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort), one of the umpires will declare an infield fly and the batter will be out automatically, even if the ball isn’t caught before it hits the ground. If it looks like the ball might land in foul territory, the umpire will declare, “Infield fly if foul.” The purpose of this rule is to remove a dilemma for the baserunners - without the rule, if they run and the ball is caught, they can be put out easily for leaving their bases early, but if they don’t run and the ball isn’t caught, they can be put out on a force play. In either case, the defense gets an easy double play.

By the way, the infield fly rule was introduced in 1895, the year Babe Ruth was born, so nothing he did could have caused this rule change.

I forgot to mention that the player dropped the ball, which was why he scored. Sorry, I think that’s an important part.

But thanks for the info on the infield fly rule. Had no idea it was that old.

About question #3: a quick calculation reveals that you’d have to hit a baseball about 2000 feet high into the air in order to have enough time to circle the bases (11 seconds), and those numbers are very optimistic. Taking into account the Babe’s stocky frame and the fact that today’s hardest-hit homers go roughly 550 feet laterally, I feel confident saying it was just a tall tale.

A muffed fly in the outfield, though, certainly would allow enough time in some cases.

As for number 1, Ryan probably did, but then it’s not that unusual. Any major league pitcher should be able to break the webbing of a catcher’s mitt. That’s why catcher’s try to catch the ball in the pocket of the mitt – the webbing is not all that strong. If the webbing breaks it’s a sign the catcher didn’t catch the ball properly, not that the pitcher threw exceptionally hard.

This is true. In a 1973 game against Boston, catcher Jeff Torborg reached up for a pitch over his left shoulder. The ball tore a hole through the webbing of his glove and hit the backstop.

This seems unlikely. Footballs aren’t really subject to the kind of continuous high-velocity impact that baseballs are, so it doesn’t seem like there would be many scenarios in which a football could pop.

What I meant to say was the umpire will declare “Infield fly if fair.”

It’s harder still to believe Ruth could pull this off, since he wasn’t the slimmest or swiftest of ballplayers.

The NFL must have a rule to cover this (as well as every other) possibility. Anyone know it offhand?

Ruth didn’t get fat until mid-career, say around 1925. I’ve seen pictures of him from before 1920 in which he was pretty trim.

Still, I don’t think even a really fast ballplayer, like Mickey Mantle or Cool Papa Bell could have scored on his own dropped pop-up.

Why would they need it? The balls are swapped out all the time, damn near every down these days, and the only time a ball would pop would be if someone landed on it wrong. Play is dead, ball is swapped, no problem. It’s not like the ball is going to spontaneously go flat in mid-air.

Place kicker puts up field goal, ball deflates enroute…

Pass hits helmet, deflates and is caught as legal deflection…

If the ball is unfit for play, it will be replaced. But this can only happen between downs. If the ball becomes unfit for play during the course of the down, I see no (NCAA, I don’t have an NFL book) rule to cover the situation. If this happened in one of my games, I’d probably blow the play dead, then proceed under the inadvertent whistle rule (where there is an option to completely replay the down, or take the result of the play – This would seem equitable to everyone).

On Preview: NCAA 4-1-3-m States
[A ball becomes dead when:]
m. When the ball becomes illegal while in play (inadvertent-whistle provisions

NFL rule should be substantially similar.

#1 could happen with any major league pitcher depending on the condition of the mitt. Ryan only threw 5-10 mph faster than the average speedballer.

#2 might have happened in the very early days of football. These days, footballs are replaced very frequently.

#3 - No human in history could hit a baseball high enough to do this on this planet.

What the heck, it’s almost quitting time, let’s bust out the calculator:

Quick Google sez that the fastest time to run the bases was 13.3 seconds (Evar Swanson, 1932). That means our baseball has 6.65 seconds to go up and 6.65 seconds to come back down again (ignoring atmosphere, etc).

d = 0.5at^2
= 0.5 * 10m/s^s * 6.65s ^2
= 221 meters or more than 750 feet

So if The Babe could run the bases that fast AND he could knock one 750 feet straight up in the air then he’d be all set.

FWIW, same Google search shows the longest hit on record was 634 feet by Mickey Mantle.

Closest I can think of anyone coming to this was the MLB game where someone hit a shot that went up, punctured the roof of the dome and rolled around…it never came back down again at all, IIRC they called it a “ground-rule double”.

I guess I’ll have to go re-rent the movie to make sure I have it right.

As for the Nolan Ryan thing;

I’ve heard of glove webbing breaking too, but as was previously mentioned the ball broke the webbing and then sailed all the way back to the backstop. That to me seems like an insanely hard pitch.

Then again, I’ve also heard catchers claim Nolan threw 110mph + back in his prime, but it cannot be proven due to the radar gun not being invented yet.

I’ve seen a soccer match where the ball deflated while in play. It was a very, very cold night and they were using an orange ball to increase visibility in the snow.

When the ball deflated, the referee blew the play dead and play was restarted with a drop.

I played on a softball team with a guy who had once been a major league pitching prospect in the Mets farms system (he got injured and concluded that baseball wasn’t the optimum career choice). He had easily the best arm I’ve ever encountered - it was quite frightning to have one of his “A” throws pass anywhere near your head.

It was slow-pitch softball, so we put him in left field where his arm and general athletic ability could be of best use. I played catcher, though with a normal fielder’s glove (but one of high quality). His throws to the plate were something to see - three times I took a throw from him that broke the webbing in my glove.