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    • While at an antique store in Manchester, New Hampshire, I found an amazingly designed and illustrated pitching manual from 1969. The cover reads: Strike Zone by Bob Gibson: Over 60 rapid sequence illustrations examine Bob's curve, fastball, slider, changeup and more

      I don't know much about the series produced by what looks like a company called Grow Ahead Sports, but it looks like they may have made similar publications and sold illustrated posters of popular athletes from the time. If anyone knows any more about this series, I'd love to hear about it!

      Anyway, I'll give you a photo tour of some of the incredible layouts and illustrations from this book. We'll start with the cover which features a stunning illustration of Bob Gibson during his delivery. I really love the exposed brush strokes on the red background.
      (Illustrations are credited to Ron McKee and Ed Vebell)

    • The first thing I noticed when I opened it was the incredible use of color in the layouts. You can see here how they highlight specific parts of the illustration with white on the all yellow background. I really love how effective this is in pointing out specific points of interest within a greater sequence of movements.

      The other thing I noticed was how thorough the illustration presentation was. I love how they actually break down a specific athletic motion as if showing the frames of an animation.

    • I do a lot of animations of athletes like this myself, and in this day and age, I find it not too difficult to break down hi-res footage or find GIFs that do this for me. But back in 1969, I imagine this was much more difficult and tedious to do. Here they outline some of their process, which I find fascinating.

      Just reading this makes me anxious. I can't imagine how expensive it was to plan, photograph, design, and illustrate this booklet!

    • Here is another example of the awesome use of color to illustrate the mechanics of pitching. The caption on the yellow page reads:

      "The fastball snaprolls off the end of your fingers. This imparts reverse rotation (arrow) causing the ball to rise, or sail away from the batter. At release your arm is parallel to the ground."

    • The use of arrows here is amazing. You can almost feel the wrist turning as the ball is thrown.

      "Two important elements to remember on the curve. 1) Wrist turns and breaks on delivery. 2) Ball rolls over the fingers as it leaves the hand. The whipping and rolling actions speed and angle the ball into a good breaking curve."

    • Later in the booklet, when discussing how to throw a slider, there is a similar illustration to the one shared above. It goes even a step further and uses white arrows which really adds some focus to the demonstration.

      "Same basic delivery as the curve with one exception: the slider is released with a stiff wrist and your fingers describe a sort of cutting motion through the ball. Result is a three-quarter spin causing the ball to break right in front of the batter"

    • Sprinkled throughout the book are these incredible two-page illustrations. I really love the style of these with their loose brush work. There are also little sentences somewhere on them that are kind of poetic. Bob Gibson says: "Fastball! I almost fall down every time I throw it." It's almost funny but if you've ever seen the ferocity of his pitching motion, you totally get it.

    • This is one of my favorite layouts in the book. It has great use of white space and really brings your eye across the page with the frame by frame illustration. I like how they divided the layout horizontally with solid blocks of color. Almost looks like a webpage layout from today!

    • Another cool example of how they use the motion of the athlete moving across the page to demonstrate a concept. The concept being, in this case, how to cover first base.

    • Here is Bob Gibson explaining the reduction of the strike zone that year (1969). You can hear a palpable skepticism about the rule change:

      "In an effort to 'speed up' the game, the strike zone has been reduced from top to bottom, and the height of the mound reduced from 15 to 10 inches. In general, pitches will be coming at the batters from what they will consider a better hitting angle. Whether they'll be able to more often is, as this is written, debatable. One thing is certain, though; the pitcher's life won't be easier as a result of these changes. Whether they speed up the game remains to be seen."

    • The opening line of this page is "the great pitchers of the game will never be remembered for their hitting skills" which is a less than convincing way to open a section about hitting, but at least it's honest!

    • This is probably my favorite spread of the whole book even though it's about bunting... in a pitching manual. But I love the use of arrows and the encircled hand signals in the bottom right.

    • Well that's it! Hope you enjoyed this peek into what I found to be a stunning print piece in every way. I really need to get my hands on more of these!

      I'll leave you with this incredible painting from the booklet of Bob Gibson striking someone out in the World Series. The caption reads:

      "The last pitch in the first Series game with Detroit. The score is 1-0 Cardinals, and the pitch was a strike. Walking to the dugout they told me I had struck out 17 batters that day."

    • I dig the actual artist signature for the graphic...and, why not? Every illustration is exceptional. And, from a legacy standpoint...guess what? There are no #hashtags in this book. LOL Also, I am a Antiques Roadshow fan, and, having you introduce this on one of their shows would be fantastic!

    • Very cool. I'm sitting here in a Starbucks waving my arm and wrist around as I try to mimic the pitching drawings.

      Folks are too polite to stare or comment. Who says civility is dead?