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Eric Shackle Writes: The World's Best Ball Throwers

In another fact-filled fascinating column Eric Shackle reveals the names of those who have thrown a cricket ball and a baseball the furthest. For good measure, Eric then chucks in half a brick.

"Turn'' the pages of Eric's fabulous e-book:


What's the furthest anyone has thrown a ball? It's difficult to find the answer on the internet, where there are different records for baseball (North America) and cricket (Britain and its former colonies).

On August 1, 1947, a Canadian, Glen Gorbous, hurled a baseball an almost incredible 445 feet 10 inches (135.89 metres). Since then, no one seems to have broken that world record. It has been estimated that Glen's "muzzle" velocity would have been around 120 mph (193 kph), with a running start.

The Gorbous drill, a special training technique developed for baseball throwing, was named after him. It involves throwing the ball straight up in the air as a way of developing the muscles used in distance throwing.

World-famous athlete Mildred "Babe" Didrikson threw a baseball 296 ft. (90.22 metres) on July 25, 1931, and that probably is still the furthest a woman has ever managed to throw a ball.

You might think that a cricket ball, being slightly heavier and smaller than a baseball, would fly further, but that's not borne out by past statistics. Spectators at The Oval (London) in 1878 wildly applauded cricket icon, Dr. William Gilbert Grace, when he threw a ball more than 116 yards (106.07 metres) three times with the wind, and more than 100 yards (91.44 metres) in the opposite direction.

In a profile of the great doctor, Duncan Hewett, who lives in Bristol (Dr. Grace's home town) says: "W.G. Grace was a legend in England in his lifetime. The nation admired him. He perhaps could have been an even better player if is wasn't for food. In his later years he became a bearded 'giant'. He enjoyed his lunch at matches too. A number of times he got out shortly after a big meal.

A whisky often accompanied his food. He was once compared to Henry VIII."[He] scored 54,896 runs at an average of 39.55. He is still the 5th highest scoring player of all time. He wasn't just a batsman though. He took 2876 wickets at an average of 17.92 - the 6th highest wicket taker of all time.

On two occasions (1873, 1876) he scored 2000 runs and took 100 wickets in one season. He also make 887 catches, which is still the second highest number of catches taken by anyone in their career. All of this was done in 43 years between 1865 and 1908 when he eventually retired, aged 59."

By throwing a cricket ball more than 116 yards (106.07 metres), Grace narrowly beat what may have been the record, set by a famous bare-knuckle fighter, William Abednego Thompson (1811-1880), better known as Bendigo. Naturally lefthanded, Bendigo fought as a southpaw, but used his right hand to throw a cricket ball 115 yards (105.16 metres). On another memorable occasion, using his left hand, he hurled half a brick across the River Trent - a distance of 70 yards (64.01 metres).

Bendigo, the youngest of 21 children, was one of triplets named Shadrach, Mesach and Abednego, after the young men in the Old Testament who emerged unharmed from the fiery furnace of Babylon.

A biographer wrote "He excelled at all outdoor sports - running,
somersaulting, cricket and stone throwing, and like many others indulged in badger-baiting and cock-fighting at local pubs... His angling gained him a few prizes and he was also known to swim a bit, pulling three drowning folks out of the River Trent during his lifetime."

Bendigo became so famous that an Australian goldmining town adopted his name (with a population of 84,000, Bendigo is now Victoria's third largest city). Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a ballad entitled Bendigo's Sermon which can be found on the internet.

It's time some athlete had a shot at setting a new world record for
ball-throwing. What about someone promoting such an event? Choose your own projectile - baseball or cricket ball.

As a final thought, how far can anyone chuck a golf ball? We've seen a few disgusted golfers come pretty close to a record distance.


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