Velocity and Vulnerability: Baseball Pitchers and the Limits of Human Performance

April 1, 2015 - July 31, 2015

In 1974, Nolan Ryan became the first baseball pitcher reliably measured to break the 100 miles-per-hour barrier, and it remains a difficult plateau for professional players to reach. At these speeds the stress on the musculoskeletal system becomes intense, and forces elite athletes to train endlessly in hopes of avoiding devastating injuries, like those that require Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction (popularly known as Tommy John surgery, after the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who first underwent it). New research in biomechanics and surgical techniques raises the question of whether pitchers will ever throw a fastball 120 miles-per-hour—or have we reached the upper limits of human performance? Do these advancements add undo stress and pressure to younger players seeking to play at the national level? Through items from the USC Libraries and loans from private collections, Velocity and Vulnerability examines the evolution of the dangerous art of pitching and the complex science behind the fastball, curveball, slider, and more. In conjunction with the exhibition, the USC Libraries and USC Athletics present a panel discussion on the subject at USC's storied Dedeaux Field, featuring World Series Champion Robb Nen, baseball pitching legend Tom House, USC Professor of Biomechanics Jill McNitt-Gray, and USC Keck surgeon Seth Gamradt.

Exhibition Type