The New Yorker’s Michael Rosenwald profiles illustrator Michael Witte, a self-styled analyst of pitching mechanics currently serving as a consultant to the St. Louis Cardinals. (thanks to Sam Frank for the link)
Witte, who is sixty-one years old, with wispy graying hair, grew up near St. Louis, rooting for his home-town team. As it happened, some boyhood friends of his bought a stake in the Cardinals in the mid-nineties. Witte began attending spring-training games with one of them, Andrew Baur, occasionally dropping hints that he had made a revolutionary discovery. At first, he was a timid Galileo. One afternoon, Baur invited him on the field to watch Rick Ankiel (above) warm up. œIs that beautiful or what? Baur said. Witte kept quiet. œI didn™t want to be a nasty guest, he said. œBut internally I said, ˜Or what.™ I just knew he was never going to fulfill his promise. A few years post hoc, Ankiel lost the ability to throw a baseball within the same county as home plate. He is now an outfielder.
Gradually, Witte grew more confident about his theories, to the dismay of his wife, a psychologist, and his three sons. œMy dad will happily teach anyone how to throw a round ball with optimal efficiency, said his son Spencer, who played second base for Temple. œIf you sound interested, you basically just volunteered for an hour lesson. Unbidden, Witte began faxing elaborate diagrams of pitching mechanics to his pals in St. Louis. Either they were just being polite or they saw something potentially valuable, but they arranged for Witte to give a presentation on the mechanics of the Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson to an audience that happened to include Bob Gibson. Witte recently learned that the night before the presentation Gibson told Baur, œIf this guy is full of shit, I™m walking out. Gibson stayed. (Witte has not ventured to ask if this constituted an endorsement.) Witte said, œI was able to show him why he had been a great pitcher, which he never understood before then.