The Physics
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Height of a Pop Fly

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Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Cutnell, John, and Kenneth Johnson. Physics: Fourth Edition. NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1998. "The maximum height H is 38 m" 38 m
Friend, Luke, and Don Zminda. The Best Book of Baseball Facts and Stats ever! New York: Carlton Group, 2001. "Also, Williams hit a 172 m high pop fly. The highest ever recorded" 172 m
Israel, Robert. Pop Flies: The Sequel. University of British Columbia, 1998. "The initial velocity turns out to be 39.7 m/s and the maximum height 59.3 m" 59.3 m
Dienhart, Tom. "Beals named Ball State head coach". The Sporting News. July 31,2002: 78. "remembered for his 500 plus foot pop fly." >150 m
Mr. Wonderful. Pop fly problem. "45 meters will be the highest point." 45 m

The pop fly is one of the more common hits in baseball. After the batter connects his bat with the ball, the ball pops up straight into the air, and will most likely result in an out. But isn't it great when the sun gets in the outfielder's eye, and he drops it?

There are a lot of factors that contribute to the height of a pop fly in the sport of baseball. A pop fly is a projectile. The path, in which it follows, is known as a trajectory. It is handled as a vector quantity with perpendicular components: horizontal and vertical. When the ball is hit at an angle, the sine and cosine functions must be used to find the components. The formula…

y = vyt + ½gt2

can be used, with y representing the maximum vertical displacement, or height, vy is the initial vertical velocity, t is the time in flight, and g is the acceleration due to gravity.

Obviously, the talent of the pitcher will affect the height of the pop fly. Some pitchers throw the baseball much faster than others do. Also, there are special pitches, such as the slider or the change-up, which can change the speed of the pitch.

The 172 m pop fly that was hit by Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams in 1941 is the highest height of a pop fly recorded. I'm pretty sure that number might be an estimate because I don't think there is a way to accurately measure a pop fly during a game.

Michael Avigliano -- 2003