Swinging telephone poles

I missed this when it ran last week — probably because I don’t get the MLB Network and thus ignored much of the discussion of it out of spite — but King Kaufman had some really interesting observations about the Don Larsen game and hitting in the 1950s:

The biggest difference I noticed was the approach of the batters. They were all over the place in the box before the pitch. Hitters today tend to be very still. They have their wiggles and timing devices, but for the most part, once the ball is coming, the best hitters waste little motion. They shift their weight, rotate their hips and — wham! — whip the bat through the strike zone.

So it was startling for me to watch Yogi Berra literally walk around in the batter’s box as the pitch was on its way. He’d sometimes take a little stutter-step backwards, away from the plate, with each foot as he loaded up his swing. Almost every hitter practically wound up before getting his bat moving forward.

Those bats were enormous pieces of lumber compared to what players swing today. They had to load up.

Watching these Yankees and Dodgers struggle to get those logs through the strike zone, I wondered why it took so long — until the ’80s and ’90s — for the baseball world to figure out that lighter bats are more effective. Didn’t they have physics teachers back then? Couldn’t somebody have convinced someone like Billy Martin that the bat speed he’d gain with a lighter bat would make up for the mass he’d lose?

In this same vein, I wonder why wool in the summer lasted so long.

(link via someone’s comment in this BTF thread on another excellent King Kaufman article)

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  1. The Common Man said...

    Now I have to go back and rewatch that game.  The standardization and science-based approach has made the game somewhat less interesting, I suppose.  But it’s also made guys like Tim Lincecum and Craig Counsell inherently interesting.  I wonder if it made greater economic sense in the 1950s for players to use heavier bats that wouldn’t break as often.


  2. GBS said...

    Sometimes I wonder how a good vintage base ball player from today would do in, say, the NL’s first season, 1876.  Sort of like Darryl Brock’s book, “If I Never Get Back.”

  3. Brandon Isleib said...

    I read Summer of ‘49 over Christmas break, and in it Dom DiMaggio was talking about how it wasn’t considered manly in that time to eat a candy bar in the middle of the game or anything like that (just like it was also thought that you shouldn’t drink water during the game or else you’d get bloated).  You were supposed to finish the game on the same energy you started with.  Looking back 40 years later, Dom thought that was just weird.

    If they weren’t getting basic nutrition down for concepts of manliness, then there’s no hope with the bats.

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