“Welcome to Radar Nation, where the ideal velocities resemble temperatures in Phoenix in July.” In the April 4th edition of Sports Illustrated, writer Tom Verducci wrote a great article titled Radar Love; he included an overall history of how and where radar technology came about in the baseball industry. In 1946, at the Griffith Stadium in Washington, the Army tested a photo-electric cell to measure the speed of a fastball thrown by one of baseball’s greatest fastball pitchers Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians as it entered the unit which was placed on home plate; unlike today’s radar that clocks the ball at peak velocity, right after it has left the hand of the pitcher. Richard Goldstein of the New York Times wrote that Feller threw 30 pitches that day with an average of about 98.6 miles an hour. Prior to this, Feller measured his pitch speed against a speeding motorcycle cop, according to Carl Note from the San Francisco Chronicle. Feller would throw a pitch in a parking lot and as he threw, a motorcycle cop would race alongside the pitch to measure its speed.
It wasn’t until 1973, when “Michigan State coach Danny Litwhiler, a former major league outfielder,” used a car cigarette lighter outlet powered radar gun from the campus police cars to clock pitchers. He soon discovered that after recalibrating the gun to read small objects and asking the company to make a version that was battery powered, the device became a very useful management tool for coaches.
In 1975 the Orioles and the Dodgers became the first adopters of the radar gun as a training tool. In 1978, nine major league teams were using radar guns and by 1980 radar guns were being used by all major league scouts.
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