"I WANT TO throw like a girl" read the posters in Williamsport, Pa., when Mo'ne Davis, the 5'4" righthander from South Philly, fastball'ed her way into America's heart during the Little League World Series. Even after her team, the Taney Dragons, lost in the U.S. semifinals, Davis's performance left a question standing on the mound: Could the first girl to pitch a shutout in the LLWS become the first woman to pitch in the majors?
"I wouldn't say it's impossible," says former SI senior writer David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance. But Davis is already behind in the count. Starting in the womb, Epstein explains, boys develop with a genetic advantage specific to pitching: their forearms grow longer in proportion to the rest of their arms, creating a more forceful throwing whip. With the onset of the "natural steroid cycle" of puberty, as Epstein calls it, that trait is only exaggerated. Plus boys generally grow taller than girls, and at the top level the size of an athlete's pitching stride correlates closely to pitch velocity. Besides the science, there is the reality that there are plenty of boys who can throw a 70-mph fastball like Mo'ne but never get near the majors, let alone the minors.
But don't count her out, Epstein says. Davis is doing at least one thing right. Along with baseball, she participates in soccer and basketball, and says her dream is to play college hoops for UConn. Counter to the prevailing notion that early specialization is key to a pro career, studies show that future elites actually practice less on average in their eventual sports than near-elites and that most U.S.-born big leaguers play multiple sports through high school. "Mo'ne looks like she's shaping up along the path that elites typically take," Epstein says. "She's going about it perfectly."
THEY SAID IT
"I didn't know that you could get a DUI for being high."
Steelers running back after police found marijuana in the car he was driving on Aug. 20. He and fellow Pittsburgh back LaGarrette Blount were charged with misdemeanor possession; Bell was also charged with DUI.
September 1, 2014
Read an excerpt of The Opening Kickoff at SI.com/college-football
Four football books in 140 characters or less
The Storm and the Tide
Former SI writer's poignant tale of destruction and redemption in Alabama, culminating in a national championship.
Why Football Matters
Reconsiders the game's old saws—character building, courage, etc.—in the new light of the concussion age.
The Opening Kickoff
Fascinating, well-researched college history shows how money, eligibility, powerful coaches and bad actors corrupt.
Season of Saturdays
Beautifully written mix of memoir and reportage that tracks college ball through 14 key games, giving depth and meaning to all.