'Invention' throws a curve


October 15, 1991|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

Give the folks at "Invention" points for inventiveness.

It's playoff and World Series time, and they came up with a show on baseball inventions. And to make sure that their discussion of a computer system which tracks curveballs wasn't too dry, they got Jim Palmer out on the mound at Memorial Stadium to demonstrate.

"Invention," which airs at 9 tonight on the Discovery cable channel, is a generally delightful series that highlights ingenuity, creativity and American culture. It's produced in association with the Smithsonian Institution.

Tonight's segment on the curveball is a tad overbooked. In addition to Palmer, it features Brooks Robinson, columnist George Will and a physicist from Yale.

Robinson is fine standing at home plate missing Palmer's curveball by about a foot and then complaining about his back. The physicist is perfect telling the kind of joke only a physicist could love and then using wind resistance and Isaac Newton to explain why a curve breaks.

As for Will, well, let's just say he's over the edge a bit as he explains how the curveball was invented in 1863 by a guy throwing clam shells.

But "Invention" is otherwise so thoroughly graceful and unpretentious that it more than compensates, delivering a light-and-bright bit of insight into the physics and metaphysics of a tricky pitch.

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