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Interesting Principles of Physics and
Psychology Involved in the 44 Horse-Power
Swing Which Shoots the Ball Skyward
at Six Miles a Minute
How "Babe" Ruth Grasps His Bat?and What Would Happen if a Gigantic Bat Were Swung Against a
Skyscraper With the Thousands
of Horse-Power Which All the
Home Runs Ruth Has Made Last ?.
The Story of One of "Babe" Rutli'o Home Runs Told in Terms of Science
A?The Ball as II Leave* tho Pitcher'* Hand, Rotating on Its Horizontal
Axis and Travelling at an Initial Velocity of 150 Feet a Second or
Nearly Two Miles a Minute.
B?The Centre of Percussion of "Babe" Ruth's Bat, Swung for One-Twen
tieth of a Second with n Force Equivalent to Forty-four Horse-Power,
' Meets the Oncoming Ball, Checks lis Course Toward the Catcher's
1 Waiting llnnds and Sends It Speeding at Greatly Increased Velocity
in mi Entirely Different Direction.
C?"I he Ball Immediately After Its Impact With the Bat, Moving Skyward
at an Angle of Forty-two Degrees and With an Initial
Velocity Estimated at Five Hundred Feet a Second
or Nearly Six Miles a Minute?Faster Than Any Ex
press Train Travels.
i D?Maximum Height Reached by the Ball as a Result
| of Its Collision With the Bat's
< Centre of Percussion, Backed Up
by Mr. Kuth's Forty-eight Horse
power Energy. The Height At
tained Will Be Greater on a Clear
Day Than on Ono When tho Air
Is Full of Moisture.
t,?Slowed Down by the Friction of the Air, the Force of Gravitation Begins to Overcome the Ball'* Initial
Velocity and It Stnrts Falling to Earth. Before the Full Effect of the Gravitational Force It Felt, How
ever, the Bull Mm 1 ravelled Far Beyond the Fielders' Reach and "Babe" Ruth Hat Scored Another Home Run
By Prof. A. L. Hodges,
The Wc!l-Knnivn Phyticitt.
AST Mason "I'.abe" Ruth broke all
baseball records by hitting twenty*
nine homo runs. Ar.<l this season
there is every indication that ho will beat
his 11*10 total by a wide margin.
What is tho se< ret of Ruth's ability to
make home runs with such surprising fre
quency? ">?; it because he Is possessed of
greater strength than his fellow players?
Is it because his vision is keener or his
museles better ca-ordinated?
All these tilings doubtless have some
thing to <lo with it, but the real reason for
thl:- iii.<yionn'nal series of home runs sci
i nee finds to be the way Xvitlx applies to
his work with the bat certain well-known
principles of physics and psychology.
"But." you say. "Iluth Is a ball plavor.
What does ho know of physics or psy
Notheing, perhaps, but whether con
sciou.ly or unconsciously Ruth applies
certain well-known principles of these two
sciences every time ho makes a homo run.
Let us consider some of the many inter
rsting scientific factors involved in bat
t itig a ball.
As < very follower of baseball knows, a
home run is the knocking of the ball out
of the reaoli of opposing players and in
.r.uch a direction and to nuch a distance as
<o make its return impossil'o before th?
runner completes the circuit of the bases.
Viewed as n mechanical proolem. the hit
ting of a home run moans simply hitting
t)i< ball with the bat so as to give it great
speed in the proper direction. The spe^l
and direction which the bat can To made to
give tilt; ball depend on the degree of tin
curve which tlio pitcher has imparted to
the ball, the weight of the ball, the. weight
of the bat, the elasticity of the ball and
bat. and the angle at which tin, ball iir
pinges on the bat.
The speed which a ball t * es on im
mediately after its collision w'th the bat
is a little difficult to compete because
neither the bat nor the ball is perfectly
elastic or perfectly non-elaaMc. To illus
trate tlio difficulty of such a o mputation
let mo explain what happens when per
fectly elastic and perfectly non-elastic
bodies come into collision.
If two inelastic bodies?say two pieces
of lead?of equal weight and going with
equal speed, but in opposite directions
meet squarely "in mid-air, they will both
stop and fall to the ground, all theii
energy of motion having been turned into
heat. If, however, perfectly elastic bodler
of the same weight going with the same
velocity, but in opposite directions, mee?
in mid-air, they will bounce back with
the same velocity they had originally. 11
one of these bodies has twice the velocity
of the other, the latter will bounce back
with twice its original velocity and tho
former will bounce back only half as fast.
All this applies to bodies having tho same
weight. Whenever one of the colliding
bodies is heavier than- the other, the ve
locity given tho latter body upon bouncing
is enormously increased.
The bat which "Rabe" Ruth wields and
the ball which he hits are both fairly clas
tic; therefore, everything else being equal,
the ball will be driven farther the heavier
the bat and the faster the bat is moving
as it hits the ball. Also, as tho weight of
"Halm" Ruth's body prevents his bat from
doing much bouncing back, tho faster the
ball corner, the farther It will go when ho
The weight of tho ball Itself is a very
important factor in hitting a homo run,
viewed us a scientific problem. If thero
k xt V ~ ~v~- ?"~ "f
Diagram Showing How the Difficulty of Following the Ball (B)
crease* aa It Approaches Nearer, and Nearer to the Batter'*
Eyo (A), the Angle at Which It I* Viewed from
Positions 6 and 7 Being Ten Times as
Great as That from 1 to 2.
were no atmosphere, everytliine be
ing equal, the lighter tne Dall happened to
ho the farther it would go. The friction of
the air. however, slows the ball up con
siderably, and this fact has to bo taken
into consideration with several others.
The conclusion which science reaches Is
that the heavier tho ball is, without In
creasing its size or decreasing Its elas
ticity, tho farther it will go after being
struck with tho bat.
The direction taken by a batted ball is
affected to some extent by the rotation of
tho ball as it strikes the bat. Thi3 factor
is of the neatest importance when the
but does not strike tho ball squarely.
It is possible for the hat to hit the ball
in such a way that it actually increases the
latter's rotation. In other words, it is per
fectly possible for the batter to hit tho
ball in such a way that it takes on a de
cided curve. Everybody who plays golf
knows what a common occurrence this is
on the links. A golf hall when struck acci
dentally oft' centre will ofton describe the
weirdest imaginable path through the air,
particularly if it passes through various
A honr n depends to a very large ex
tent up> ? direction given the batted
ball. T ' ortanco of this factor 'may
he estimated a- nine times that of tho
speed given the hat*~d ball. 13y direction
we mean not only the horizontal angle, but
also the vertical angle at which tho ball
leaves the hat. For example, no matter
how hard the ball is hit, it will never re
sult in a home run unit's ."t clears the
upstretched arms of the p1 ?yers in tho
It is plain that the direction given
the butted ball must depend to a largo
extent upon the manner in which the ball
is travelling before it meets tho bat. Pro
vided the ball is given a proper rota
tion on its horizontal axis by the pitcher,
the kind of curve best suited to make it
difficult to hit it at the proper vertical
angle is either tho down shoot or the up
shoot. On account of the many variablo
factors concerned science believes that any
home run made with either of theso curve3
is a lucky chance pure and simple.
After the ball has boon set in motion by
the bat with a certain speed, tho distance
it will go depends upon the vertical angle
at which it starts. The most desirable
angle i3 one of 12 degrees with the ground,
or about half a right angle. Other factors
which determine the distance a batted ball
will travel are the speed of the ball, its
sphericity, the smoothness of its surface
and its lack of rotation. Tho greater tho
speed of the ball tho more perfectly
spherical it is. tho smoother its surface
and the less rotation with which it travels
the farther it will go. Atmospheric con
ditions, of course, enter into tho problem.
A ball will go farther in a clear air that is
free from moisture. Tho wind may carry
it bodily for quite a distance or may retard
If science wore asked to make it difficult
or well-nigh impossible for "Babe" Kutli to
Ltit a home run it would select a day w.ien
tho barometer was high, with the air so
heavy with moisture that it would retard
the progress of tho batted ball. Iho
pitcher selected would be one good on very
alow but curvy downshootfl. If such a
pitcher were not available, one who hid
euch great speed that lie couid put any
kind of a ball over the plato for tho
batter would bo chosen. With this
hind of a pitcher the ball is likely to
be hit behind the plate and unlikely to bo
started on its course at the proper angle.
His hitting of a homo run could then bo
mado stHI more difficult by compelling the
redoubtable "Babe" to use a bat either so
heavy that he could not swing it with much
speed, or so light that it would tend to hit
tho ball at tho wrong horizontal angle.
There is a certain spot on the bat, usu
ally a few inches from tho end. but vary
ing with dlfVerent bats, which science
knows as the centre of percussion. If the
ball hits the bat exactly on this spot tho
greatest effect is produced. All ball play
ers are aware when the ball hits this spot
on the bat, not only through the absence
of jar to the arm, but also through a pecul
iar satisfaction which is hard to define,
but which is no doubt physical as well as
"Babe" Ruth's phenomenal home run rec
ord is largely due to tho fact that, con
sciously or unconsciously, he has found a
way of producing the collision between
his bat and tho ball on this centre of per
cussion more frequently than any other
What is called the centre of percussion
is a principle that enters into the design
not only ot baseball bats, but of all things
designed for men to swing. In the ham
mer, for example, the centre of percussion
should be in the head. If the tool is not
designed so that this centre is properly
located the hammer is unsatisfactory to
use because it jars and tires tho am too
The problem of hitting homo runs with
the surprising frequency that "Babe" Ruth
does is ono more complicated in the mat
ter of powers of Judgment and observa
tion involved than in mechanical prin
ciples. Viewed as a mechanical problem,
tho home run requires a bat just as heavy
as a player can use with comfort, tho bat
to bo given a motion as fast as possible
when hitting the ball, and striking the
ball so that it wilt ho impelled into tho
air at an anglo of approximately 42 de
grees or half a right angle. The ball
should also, of course, be hit at such a
horizontal angle as not to cause a foul.
T^lio weight of the batter has very little
to do with tho matter of home runs, hut his
arm muscles are a controlling factor to
the extent of, say, fifty per cent. Of course,
If his arms are rigid enough to make tho
bat for all practical purposes a part of his
body when he hits the ball, and if his body
is swung forward at just that instant, it
Is possible that a heavy batter, all other
things being equal, would be able to knock
the ball farther than a lighter player.
(C) 1!)','0. Intcntntionnl Feature Service. Inc.
Homo nins append, to a considerable de
gree, on quickness of tlio eyo and a speedy
response of tlio body's muscles to tho
messago which tho eye Hashes to tho brain.
To follow tho ball as it leaves the pitcher's
hand is no easy matter, as tho sphere is
often travelling at the rate of lf>0 feet
a second, or nearly two milos a minuto.
The eye movement necessary to follow it
increases greatly as tho ball draws nearor
and nearer the plato, owing to tho in
crease in the angle of vision which, by the
time the ball is over tho plate, is about
ten times what it was when it left tho
As 1 have said, tho pitcher often hurls
the ball at the rato of 150 feet a second.
But tho ball is travelling much faster
than that when it leaves "Babe" Ruth's bat
after being hit for one of tho home runs
that have made him famous. This is in
accordance with the laws of tho impact of
Great Driluin RiffUts Hcaoiveil.
All otlicr things being
* equal, tho fnstor a ball la
thrown the farther it can
bo batted. You can prove
\ this to your own satisfac
tion by throwing a ball
ngainst n brick wall. Tho
faster it travels, tho hard
, er it hits tho wall and tho
farther it will bounce
Of courso, If it Is raining
when one of "Babe" Ruth's
long hits is made, the
drops of water striking tho
ball will bring it to the
ground long before it
otherwise would fall. Tho
rain also makes the ball
heavier, and as It contains
only so much energy to
k start with, it will bo
\ slowed up in its flight on
account of some of tho
L?rIL.? energy being used to give
tho captured rain drops
their new velocity.
flow much actual energy does "Babe"
Ruth expend in hitting one of his home
fns? Tho activity or horsepower involved
1* very great, but it is in operation only
for tho" fraction of a second.
The ball which "liabe" Ruth hits for a
V e run weighs about tivo ounces. If
n % at gives it a velocity of 500 feet a see
on.., wo find, by applying a well known
formula of physics, that 1,200 foot pounds
of actual energy or work is done. Now,
if it takes Ruth one-twentieth of a second
to impart this energy by a swing of his bat,
this would be at tho rate of 24,000 foot
pounds a second, which is about forty-four
Tho king of homo run makors Is then
working at tho rate of forty-four horse
power evory time ho cracks out one of hla
long hits, but he maintains this rate for
such a brief length of time i.hat not very
much actual work is involved.
Hut if the energy exerted by "Babo'
The Horse-Power Required to Make Fifty of
"Babe" Ruth's Home Runs Would Be Suffi
Ruth In all the homo runs he has made
up to (lato coulil ho collected into a singlo
forco it would he a vory enormous thing.
Twenty-nine such runs last season and
moro than a score thus far this year?
this would he the equivalent of more than
2,000-horsepower?enough if exerted bo
hind a gigantic bat to demolish a building
like Now York's Metropolitan Tower!
Of course, there are many psychological
as well as mechanical factors involved in
the hitting of tho long scries of home runs
which "Babe" Ruth has been making for
two seasons. The batter must bo able to
"sense" in some manner not yet fully un
derstood just about what kind of ball the
pitcher is going to throw. Then he must bo
capable of putting his body in readiness
with lightning swiftness to meet that kind
of ball when it passes over the plate. Tho
player's Judgment about tho bull must bo
made within tho smallest fraction of a sec
ond after it leaves tho pitchpr's hand.
Through some queer sixth sense?tne
kinaesthotic sense, as psychologists call it
?all batters have tho feeling as to whether
the trnll tho pitcher is about to throw is go
ing to pass over the plato or not. In tho
average batter the impressions conveyed
by this sixth sense caunot be more than (50
per cent accurate, but in the case of "Babe"
Ruth, as his batting record shows, they
must be about 90 per cent accurate. As
everybody who plays baseball or ever
watches a game knows, you can't strike out
and make a homo run. and the player can
seldom hit a home run unless the bail ha
strikes is taking a course that would havo
carried it straight across the plate unless
Interrupted by his bat.
This, then, is the secret of "Babe"
Ruth's home runs as viewed from a scien
tist: standpoint. A highly developed kin
aesthetic sense enables him to "sense" the
kind of ball the pitcher is going to throw.
When a ball rotating on Its horizontal
n.\is and curving most favorably for his
purpose comes along he swings his bat at
it with an energy sufficient to chango its
direction and greatly increase its velocity.
The bat Is swung in such a way that the
centre of percussion meets the ball, send
ing it upward at an angle of 42 degrees
and not too far to the right or the left.
When all these things happen the result
should bo a home run, provided that the
pitcher has given the ball proper speed
and that tho wind and other atmospheric
conditions aro favorable.