For the Mets in 1985, Sidd Finch threw 168 mph. We'll never know because there were no precise radar recordings available until around 50 years ago, but it's probably about 5 MPH slower than they do now. In any case, this was a very rare feat, as most pitchers of that era weren't even close to throwing as fast as half their current speed.
In addition to being incredibly fast, modern-day pitchers can also throw very hard. In fact, two or three pitchers have been known to reach 100 mph on the gunner machine. While statistics from before 1947 are difficult to find, we do know that several pitchers who worked for major league teams in that year reached at least 90 mph. One such pitcher was Hal Newhouser of the Louisville Colonels. In five seasons with the team, Newhouser averaged over seven innings per start and received multiple votes for the MVP award. In his final season, he led the Colonels to the Southern Division title with a record of 57-75. He was then drafted by the Detroit Tigers (who had just won the World Series) into their farm system but refused to report, instead joining the Brooklyn Dodgers' roster as a free agent. The next season, Newhouser went 11-10 with a 3.12 ERA in 29 games (all starts).
Overall, Nolan Ryan holds the record, according to Doppler Radar. His pitch speed was 108.1 miles per hour. Aroldis Chapman holds the record using today's equipment, clocking in at 105.1 mph. Using yesterday's equipment, Ryan would have been tied for first with Bob Feller (107.4 mph).
Ryan threw the knuckleball from 1973 to 1986. In 1987, he started throwing the curveball more often than not. He ended his career with 2,192 strikeouts and a.249 batting average against him.
Nolan Ryan led the league in strikeouts seven times. He also finished second six other times. In addition, he finished third three times.
During his eight-year retirement, Ryan worked as a baseball analyst for NBC Sports and as a consultant for the Texas Rangers. He has also appeared in several television commercials, most notably for Old Milwaukee beer.
In 1989, Nolan Ryan returned to the mound with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He made two starts that season and one start in 1990 before finishing his comeback attempt with the Houston Astros. Overall, Ryan went 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in three games back from surgery on his right shoulder. The Dodgers released him after one season because of concerns about his age (38) and injury history.
A "radar gun" is used to measure the speed of a baseball. Pitchers could throw above 100 miles per hour (160 km/h or 45 m/s) in the late 1990s. Matt Anderson threw the fastest baseball ever, measuring 103 miles per hour (166 km/h or 46.0 m/s). During the 1999 baseball season, this moment was recorded.
An average major league fastball travels around 100 miles per hour (160 km/h or 45 m/s), but some pitchers have exceeded that number. In 1998, Mike Morgan of the San Diego Padres broke the record by throwing a ball 102.1 miles per hour (164.7 km/h or 44.6 m/s). This speed was measured using a radar gun and a high-speed camera. The next year, Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees broke this record again with a ball that traveled at 103.3 miles per hour (167.4 km/h or 45.5 m/s).
In addition to these two pitchers, there have been others who have thrown fastballs over 100 miles per hour. Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals and Jose Lima of the Los Angeles Dodgers both reached this mark twice. Both men were able to throw the pitch faster than any other pitcher before or since. In 1987, McGwire set the record when he threw his fastball at 101.4 miles per hour (162.8 km/h or 43.9 m/s). In 1998, Lima matched this speed while playing for the Dodgers.
105.1 miles per hour Aroldis Chapman threw the fastest recorded pitch in big league history on August 24, 2010. His 105.1 mph fastball breached the 105 mph mark for the first time. It wasn't exactly Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier, but it was a remarkable achievement. However, Major League Baseball officially considers that pitch to be a 105.8 mph fastball. So even though it was recorded at 100 yards, it was actually 0.2 mph faster than what is considered to be legal ball speed.
The current world record holder is Randy Johnson with 104.0 mph. The speed increased when Judge Greg Davis, a member of the media relations staff for the Chicago White Sox, sent us photos of a handwritten note and a pitched ball that Johnson had given him in 2002. The letter and ball were received by our media relations office in Washington, D.C., which has the task of receiving and distributing information about all major league players. We verified that the letter and ball were indeed from Johnson and that he did in fact set the world record in 2000. Thus making this document worthy enough for display in our museum.
There are two ways to improve on this record: increase the distance you throw it or increase the speed of the bat. Current world-class pitchers such as Mark Buehrle, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Josh Beckett, and Jake Peavy can reach back and toss a pitch 100 mph. But they only do it 20 times out of 30, because pitching at high speeds makes your arm tired fast.
The top speed is 90 miles per hour. The average fastball speed for all 75 or so starting pitchers from, say, 1927 would be approximately 80-86 mph. In the mid-1930s (when Dizzy Dean and Mel Harder were pitching), that number increased to about 88-92 mph.
Today's pitchers can reach up to 95 mph on their fastest pitches! Back then, no one could touch 100 mph. Even Lee Meadows, who pitched for the Chicago White Sox from 1939 to 1942, never reached 100 mph on a regular basis. The highest any pitcher has ever recorded reaching 100 mph is Matt Harvey with 104.8 mph (2009).
As for other hard numbers for those days: two hours and 15 minutes was considered an ordinary game back then. Today's games often last three or four hours! Back then, there were three distinct periods during which a runner could score a run: when ahead by two or more scores, when behind by two or more scores, and if the game was not yet finished after five innings.
In addition, teams had only 40 fouls to play per game back then. Now they have 60 due to expanded ballparks and/or alternate site games being played away from home.
Aroldis Chapman, a former Cincinnati Reds pitcher, set the Guinness World Record for fastest pitch ever on September 24, 2010, when he threw a 105.1-mph fastball against the San Diego Padres. The record has since been broken several times.
Chapman's speed came in only one game during his career. He retired after that one start, but he still holds the record as the fastest pitcher in MLB history.
Other fast pitchers have included Carl Hubbell, Jack Quinn, and Roy Halladay. They each pitched at least one inning at 100 mph or faster.
In addition to Chapman, three other pitchers have thrown a perfect game: Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, and Jim Bunning. All four of these pitchers were fastballs primarily located in the upper 90s.
Chapman is also one of only two pitchers (the other being Randy Johnson) to throw two no-hit games in their careers.
He first broke into the major leagues with the Reds in 2011 and was immediately given the title of "Fastest Pitcher in History". That same season, Chapman also became just the second 20-year-old to win the MVP Award. He won it over Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants.