Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


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When air feels thick, it's actually thin, I'm told

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: July 15, 2014 - 2:15 PM

There was a reference made to the negative impact of cool weather on baseballs traveling -- and thus creating an extra obstacle in Monday night's Home Run Derby at spacious Target Field. In the early column written for Tuesday's early print edition (you can find it posted here), there was a mention of Harmon Killebrew's belief that "thick air'' helped carry the baseball the night he became the first player to hit a ball that went bounced over the left-field roof in Tiger Stadium.

Mark Engebertson sent along an e-mail with enlightenment on the subject, and he sounds smart enough for me to believe him. Here goes:

"In your piece on the weather for the Home Run Derby, you are exactly right that the best Derby conditions involve heat and humidity.

"That is because hot air is less dense than cold air, and humid air is less dense than dry air (water molecules weigh less than air molecules).  Home runs go farther in less dense air, like at Coors Field, as they are helped by the reduced drag more than they are hurt by the reduction in the lifting force of the backspin.

"So it was perfect when Harmon said about his Detroit bomb that 'the air was as heavy as it gets,' [but what he meant was that the air was as light as it gets.''

FOOTNOTE: I'm not sure what class in which air density was detailed at Fulda High School many years ago, but what's clear is that I wasn't paying attention.

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