Throwing like a girl

The most fun I have had (so far) researching a magazine article was 11 years ago, for an Atlantic piece called "Throwing Like a Girl."

It was fun because, as the piece explains: I got to interview the actor John Goodman about how he learned to throw left-handed (to play Babe Ruth in the movie The Babe). I got to watch super slo-mo tapes of Major League pitchers with the sports-science whiz Vic Braden, at whose tennis camp I had previously had my own sporting form slo-mo analyzed (to great dismay). And I got to ask the press secretary to Hillary Clinton, then America's First Lady, where Mrs. Clinton had developed her throwing arm -- and why, ahem, she had unfortunately thrown out an Opening Day pitch at Wrigley Field "like a girl."

In the interests of science I also got to do something that I now recommend to every American male: play catch with your spouse, girlfriend, mother, or other female acquaintance who does not think of herself as having a good arm, using your "off" hand to throw. I explain in the article why this is a good thing to do.

This article has now been excavated from the Atlantic's for-pay archives and is available on a non-firewalled "Pursuits" page here. (Still -- subscribe! Right after you have that left-handed-if-you're-a-righty game of catch.)

Bonus: what are the three crucial elements of throwing "like a girl" -- or "like a poor male athlete," in the words of the female coach of a college softball team whom I quote in the story?

1) Body directed straight-on toward the target, rather than turned 90 degrees away;

2) Elbow lower than shoulder as your arm comes forward;

3) Wrist inside elbow (closer to your head) as you release the ball and/or palm facing up, giving a pushing rather than hurling motion. Now you know.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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