Can anybody here guess what the Guinness Book of World Records says is the fastest baseball pitch thrown by a woman?
The answer: a mere 69 miles per hour, a feat accomplished by one Lauren Boden in 2013.
How does a 69 mile-per-hour fastball compare to major league pitching? Well, the talented-but-troubled Aroldis Chapman, now the closer for the Chicago Cubs, set the major league record with a 106-mile-per-hour heater in a game in 2011; if a major-league hurler can’t run his fastball up to at least 92-93 MPH the scouts don’t consider him to have much power in his arm.
But you don’t have to live on a fastball to survive on the mound. You can feed batters a diet of breaking pitches. A typical major-league slider will head to the plate at somewhere around 84 MPH, while the more traditional ordinary curveball checks in at around 77 MPH. Occasionally, a pitcher will hang around the big leagues feeding hitters a diet of knuckleballs; those can travel exceedingly slowly, usually right around the 69 MPH at which the women’s fastball record sits.
A 69 MPH fastball is pretty typical of 13-14 year old pitchers. Think high school junior varsity.
Are there women who can throw a baseball faster than 69 miles per hour? Apparently, yes. We will get to that shortly.
With that knowledge, we give you what is likely to be the most insufferable leftist fantasy of the fall, a new TV drama on the Fox Network called Pitch. It stars Kylie Bunbury as a woman named Ginny Baker who somehow finds herself on the roster of the San Diego Padres as a pitcher, and its show-runners are promising a never-ending cavalcade of social commentary emanating from this exercise in Hollywood realism.
“We’re making The West Wing in baseball here,” showrunner and former sportswriter Kevin Falls told The Hollywood Reporter. “We’re making a show that shows you how it works but makes it personal… It won’t be if she wins or loses — there’s more to baseball.”
Falls should know about The West Wing, as serving as that show’s co-executive producer has been so far the highlight of his career in show business. The preachy, self-congratulating leftism of that Aaron Sorkin vehicle still makes it a staple for Democrat political junkies, but it’s hard to be too offended by political messages in a show about politics.
In a show about baseball? Set in a parallel universe where a woman gets batters out with the velocity of a junior-varsity high-school pitcher?
Comes show creator Dan Fogelman to tell us that we don’t have to suspend our disbelief too much for this series…
“It’s a true story on the cusp of happening,” Fogelman said. “I think it’s going to happen in my lifetime,” he said of whether a woman will break MLB’s gender barrier. “The human anatomy makes it a challenge — and that’s addressed in the pilot — but if the right woman comes along, I think it’s going to happen sooner rather than later. If and when it happens, that young woman will become the biggest story in the country overnight. The amount of eyeballs on her… that’s interesting drama for us. And it could happen in multiple sports.”
There are no women pitchers in the minor leagues. There were two women who played this season for the Sonoma Stompers, a semi-pro team in the fledgling Pacific Association of Professional Baseball, an independent league in California consisting of four teams. Both pitched; Stacy Piagno appeared in eight games, starting three, and in 12 innings of work she gave up 25 hits and five walks, striking out two batters and posting a 9.00 earned run average with a record of 0-2.
Kelsie Whitmore fared worse, appearing in only one game, which she started and lost. In two innings, Whitmore gave up five hits, walked three batters, failed to record a strikeout and posted a 27.00 ERA. Whitmore also played seven games as an outfielder — in 13 at bats she had one hit, and struck out eight times.
Piagno’s fastball reportedly sits at or slightly under 80 MPH, which would give her the women’s speed record were it documented with a radar gun. That’s about the speed of what major league hitters see in batting practice.
While the stints of Piagno and Whitmore with Sonoma may have been a cool story, and both are members of the USA Women’s Baseball team that took gold in the Pan Am Games last year, it’s pretty clear that Fogelman is totally wrong — a woman pitcher in the major leagues is not on the cusp of happening.
It’s one thing for an indie-league team for whom attracting a few hundred rear ends in the seats is a major accomplishment to bring a woman player or two onto the roster as a promotional gimmick. It’s another thing entirely to imagine a major league team doing so.
The reason Jackie Robinson was a trailblazer in baseball was that he was a terrific player. No offense to Piagno, whose no-hitter in the Pan Am games was the first in Team USA history, but there are no terrific female players in baseball at the major league level, or even minor league or semi-pro levels, and there is no indication any are coming.
In fact, a far more transformative issue with respect to women athletes isn’t the prospect of women invading male sports but the opposite; now that the Left has injected a modicum of respectability into the transgender movement, there are now men having sex changes, or even not having them, and then demanding, successfully, to be allowed to compete as women. This is an atrocity deserving of examination in another column, but suffice it to say the fact it’s happening is an indication of the absurdity of Pitch’s premise.
But absurdity mixed with social-justice posturing and lecturing is what we get from the cultural Left. We see it in real-life sports, where the stupidity of the Colin Kaepernick protests (and the concomitant decline in NFL viewership) is matched by the NCAA’s boycott of the state of North Carolina over its intolerance in demanding that biological males refrain from using women’s bathrooms.
Jim Geraghty, at National Review two weeks ago, issued the plea millions of sports fans are echoing amid this encroachment of politics into the sanctuary of sports: I just want to enjoy watching the game.
Would that Geraghty’s plea found receptive ears. It’s clear the Fox Network, and the rest of Hollywood and even the sports world as a whole, isn’t listening. If you can’t watch the game without left-wing politics photo-bombing the action, you certainly won’t get to watch a TV show about the game without it.