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Eric Shackle Writes: How Far Can A Ball Be Thrown?

Jounralist Eric Shackle poses a question, then goes delving to uncover some fascinating answers.

Irish-born James Patrick Garvan (1843-1896), who migrated to Sydney, once threw a cricket ball a record distance of 121 yards 1 foot (98.75 metres). Does that record still stand?

Apart from his ball-throwing prowess, Patrick Garvan was a remarkable man indeed. He was a competitive sculler and amateur heavyweight boxer. He was an insurance entrepreneur who founded today's MLC insurance company, and a politician who was Minister of Justice, Attorney General and Colonial Treasurer of New South Wales in the late 1880s.

His daughter later donated 100,000 pounds towards the cost of establishing The Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

But we digress. We tried to find how far a cricket ball or baseball (they're much the same size) - or even a golf ball - has ever been thrown.

Scouring the internet, we found that British Olympic javelin-thrower Roald Bradstock holds the world record for throwing an iPod (154 yards), an egg (118 yards) and a goldfish (56 yards). And he has thrown a golf ball 150 yards (137.16 metres).

Back in 1884, another Englishman, Robert Percival, threw a cricket ball 422 feet (128.6 metres) at Durham Sands racecourse.

On August 1, 1947, a Canadian, Glen Gorbous, hurled a baseball 445 feet 10 inches (135.89 metres). 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. He enjoyed his lunch at matches too. A number of times he got out shortly after a big meal.

"A whiskey often accompanied his food. He was once compared to Henry VIII.

"Grace scored 54,896 runs at an average of 39.55. He is still the fifth highest scoring player of all time. He wasn't just a batsman though. He took 2876 wickets at an average of 17.92 - the sixth 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 92,000, Bendigo is now Victoria's fourth largest city).

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a ballad entitled Bendigo's Sermon which can be found on the internet at Wikisource.


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