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Fast-Talking Feller Pitches a New Line

While many jaws dropped when the Pro Player Stadium radar gun registered 102 mph on a Robb Nen fastball in the ninth inning of Game 1 Saturday night, former Cleveland Indian pitching great Bob Feller merely yawned.

“That was my changeup,” Feller said before Game 2 Sunday night.

Feller, a Hall of Famer who went 266-162 with 2,581 strikeouts for the Indians between 1936-56, was one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in the history of the game.

In a 1946 promotion before a sold-out Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C., a Feller fastball was clocked at 107.9 mph by a military contraption known as an Electric Cell Device.

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Feller said he has never seen anyone throw harder than Hall of Famer Walter Johnson. “He was the fastest pitcher in history, and the best pitcher in history,” Feller said.

What about today’s pitchers? Who’s the best?

“There are no Sandy Koufax’s around,” Feller said. “You want a dart thrower? You’ve got Greg Maddux. You want a guy who throws hard? You have Randy Johnson. But he tries to throw it by guys and gets beat.

“In the middle of games, I used to try to get guys out on the first pitch so I could save myself for the later innings or the guys who hit me well. I wanted to have my best stuff in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.’

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There was some argument over how accurate the Marlins’ radar-gun readings are. Florida pitcher Al Leiter, when asked if he believed Nen hit 102 mph, said:

“Absolutely. If you look at [Saturday] night, Livan Hernandez was throwing 89 to 92 on the same gun. Orel Hershiser was 86 to 88. A few other guys, including Eric Plunk, hit 94. You saw five or six major league arms, and they didn’t hit 100. I don’t care if it’s a slow gun or fast gun, 102 is fast.”

Cleveland Manager Mike Hargrove, though, was more skeptical.

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“I don’t think I’ve seen anyone throw harder than Nolan Ryan, and I don’t think he threw more than 100 mph,” Hargrove said. “I know Robb Nen throws hard, but I don’t know about 102 mph.”

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Seamhead statistic of the day: When Hershiser gave up a three-run home run to Moises Alou in Game 1, it was only the second time in 922 career 0-2 pitches that the Indian right-hander had given up a home run. Detroit’s Tony Clark homered on an 0-2 pitch off Hershiser in May. . . . Through Game 1 Saturday night, Indian center fielder Marquis Grissom had hit safely in all 13 of his career World Series games, matching the third-longest streak in series history. Hank Bauer of the New York Yankees holds the record with a 17-game hitting streak from 1956-58.


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