Author Topic: The self-made, self-immolating Babe  (Read 532 times)

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Offline EasyAce

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The self-made, self-immolating Babe
« on: February 21, 2019, 09:34:04 PM »
Jane Leavy hits a grand slam with her definitive biography of Babe Ruth.
By Yours Truly
https://throneberryfields.com/2019/02/21/the-self-made-self-immolating-babe/



Reading of it in any kind of depth, Babe Ruth’s childhood was six parts David Copperfield and half a dozen parts Dead End Kid and not entirely of his own making. It turned him both larger than life and not quite as large as his legend, one of the unmistakable faces of the Roaring Twenties and one of the most deceptive American myths.

Cast into his home state’s child welfare system by parents about whom cruel would be a perverse compliment, Ruth’s latest and perhaps greatest biographer, Jane Leavy, writes that he couldn’t bear to question the kind of parents who gave up one of their only two surviving children out of several offspring.

Some such children often grow up in spite of their root and sorrow to become self-made successes as adults; others grow up to become self-immolating. The greatest baseball player of the game’s pre-World War II/pre-integration/pre-night ball era, left at seven years old to a group home for Catholic boys who called themselves its inmates, grew up to become both.

[H]e never shared his first impressions of St. Mary’s [Industrial School, to which his parents exiled the boy] with his family. He never spoke about what it was like to go from being one of two surviving children in a family defined by loss to being one of the many, what it was to go to bed that night wondering when or if he’d see that family again. He never said what it was like to sleep in ordered rows and dress in matching clothes, to share sinks and stalls in a communal washroom, to surrender to a system predicated on uniformity and routine.

As Leavy paints in detail rich, stark, and almost cinematic at once, in The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created (New York: HarperCollins; 620 pages, $32.50), Ruth might have been far more self-immolating had it not been for his manager/syndicator Christy Walsh forging him into outsized marketability while actively and mostly successfully keeping his client’s least engaging sides from exposure and condemnation.

“If the twenties roared,” Leavy writes, “it was in large part because of new means of amplification: bylined sports columns, screaming tabloid headlines, and radio frequencies that broadcast voices with unforeseen clarity from sea to shining sea, and beyond. Fame got bigger, louder, more personal.”

Concurrently, she quotes an October 1927 column by the New York Daily News‘s Paul Gallico: “Ruth without temptations might be a pretty ordinary fellow. Part of his charm lies in the manner with which he succumbs to every temptation that comes his way . . . Ruth is either planning to come loose, is cutting loose, or is repenting the last time he cut loose. He is a news story on legs going about looking for a place to happen.”

The Babe was wholly unprecedented for marrying athletic achievement to metastatic mythology, the first man or woman in professional sports to be seen as an entertainer and a product, who “always envisioned for himself a bigger kind of stardom than baseball afforded,” as if being baseball’s first truly unquestioned king of swing in terms of power hitting was simply part time sufficiency.

A classic aphorism Leavy cites is E.B. White’s about the 1920s being a monument to modern man’s creative capacity for mischief, adding that Ruth was his time’s rule breaker in chief.

He never embodied the traditional public virtues that defined ancient celebrity, and he didn’t have to. Instead, he gave the public glimpses of a bad boy having the time of his life. Hadn’t they told him he was a bad boy? He did his adult best to fulfill the mandate: punching out umps, chasing after boobirds in the grandstand . . . sleeping with other men’s wives but ignoring his own. Everybody loved, forgave, and maybe envied the Babe for being himself.

If Hans Gumbrecht (whom Leavy cites deftly) was right when he wrote, in In 1926: Living at the Edge of Time, that Ruth “was an internationally innovative figure in the new twentieth-century stardom precisely because he was never qualified to fulfill the expectation of virtue,” then it must be that such stardom has aged poorly enough that no athlete, entertainer, or other public celebrity can get away now with everything for which Ruth got a pass and often still does. Those few who called it as it actually was about the Babe—as did The New Yorker in dismissing him as unfit “in any way to have a public”—would be ignored.

But even the hagiopgraphers Ruth and Walsh cultivated had limits, as at the end of August 1925, when the Daily News that was once described as being Ruth’s personal back page revealed Ruth’s comely full-time mistress (and second wife-to-be) and exploded the family man portion of the Ruthian myth, including the revelation that the mistress called on Ruth while he was hospitalised for (ahem) the world’s then-most famous stomach ailment while the then-Mrs. Ruth was also a patient there.

Yet there were such editorials as Frank Wallace’s in the New York Post, pleading that, well, this was Babe Ruth and he kinda sorta was entitled to a more nuanced perspective. There are few such apologies more jarring than Leavy extracts from Wallace’s essay: “His is a big soul made bigger by our applause. And a big soul needs room to roam. Smaller souls might well close their eyes at times like these and let these big souls roam; else they stifle and die and lose the thing that makes them big.”

Leavy’s graces include that she writes soberly and lyrically without wearing a judge’s robe, but it’s tempting to invite you to ponder today’s athletic greats shown behaving with similar depravity while flouting professional protocols and being made not into rakish, quintessentially American big souls but vermin weeks past the dates on which they should have been run out of town if not country.

Ruth lived large and unaccountable but now, Leavy writes, the Daily News and the tornado-in-a-can it opened “put him on notice: he had to behave, or at least learn how to fake it.” Until his body threatened to go AWOL by 1935, he did just that at and away from the ballpark, somehow. He even allowed Walsh to put all his outside income in trust while limiting him to living and playing on his baseball salaries alone. (His second wife would see and raise, sort of: she limited him to $50 a week in his pockets.)

Leavy weaves the book around a barnstorming tour featuring Ruth and his Hall of Fame teammate Lou Gehrig leading teams of all stars against each other for fun and profit, Ruth cheerfully thumbing his nose at commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis and at times the Yankees themselves for undertaking such tours. Barnstorming for Ruth was income and, in its way, social advancement: he thought nothing of pitting his all stars against teams of Negro Leagues all stars and other black talent. He knew it wasn’t his fault such talent couldn’t yet play “organised baseball” and wouldn’t so long as Landis was alive.

The further bad news is that all those years of behaving as a law unto himself may have cost Ruth a real chance at the one thing wanted most in baseball after his playing days ended. At the end of the 1934 season, his last as a Yankee, Tigers owner Frank Navin wanted to hire him as player-manager, figuring Ruth’s role as a player would end first. Ruth said he’d call Navin back only after finishing a tour of Hawaiian exhibition games. Navin hired Mickey Cochrane instead. The Babe let his faithful man Friday Walsh talk him out of accepting a job managing the Yankees’ Newark farm to gain experience enough that he might take over the parent club in due course.

Ruth fell for it hook, line, and stinker when the Braves, then in Boston, signed him as a part time player for 1935 to goose their weak gate and also gave him the title of assistant manager, without a single intention of letting him be such or of becoming the woebegone team’s manager at any time. We feel sympathy for Ruth having been treated so shabbily, but we temper it remembering that the very thing for which some editorialists believed he deserved his leeway may also have been the very thing that turned the game’s less capricious overlords against entrusting him with team management.

Leavy’s account of Ruth’s final decade plus of life is as sober as it is touching and revelatory, and you’ll wish only that she’d seen fit to include the whole of the Babe’s rasping farewell speech at Yankee Stadium, delivered from his cancer-eroded throat, with incumbent Yankees (including Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, who posed nervously as a rookie for a photograph with Ruth a year earlier) up one foul line and Yankees past up the other, revealing the big kid humbled as a man at last:

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. You know how bad my voice sounds. Well, it feels just as bad. You know, this baseball game of ours comes up from the youth. That means the boys. And after you’re a boy and grow up to know how to play ball, then you come to the boys you see representing themselves today, in your national pastime.

The only real game, I think, in the world—baseball.

As a rule, some people think if you give them a football, or a baseball, or something like that, naturally they’re athletes right away. But you can’t do that in baseball. You’ve got to start from way down the bottom, when you’re six or seven years of age. You can’t wait until you’re fifteen or sixteen. You’ve got to let it grow up with you. And if you’re successful, and you try hard enough, you’re bound to come out on top, just like these boys have come to the top now.

There’ve been so many lovely things said about me, and I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to thank everybody. Thank you.

When Leavy asked Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum director emeritus Mike Gibbons which book about Ruth he considered definitive, he answered, “It hasn’t been written yet.” If we mean which book about Ruth the abandoned boy and Ruth the self-made/self-immolating man behind the mythology, and not purely the baseball player, it’s been written now.


Even when he smiled, Babe Ruth seemed to show
what one writer called “a certain pathos in his
eyes . . . a child not quite sure that a rebuff is not
waiting somewhere.”



The Babe gives a handshake to a nervous rookie
named Yogi Berra in 1947.

------------------------
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« Last Edit: February 22, 2019, 12:58:31 AM by EasyAce »

Online goatprairie

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Re: The self-made, self-immolating Babe
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2019, 10:46:13 PM »
I hope this book does what most "definitive" sports books do not do when covering the lives of famous athletes.
The typical sports bio does a very poor job of explaining exactly why the sports idol was so good.
I've read a number of books about Ruth, DiMaggio, Hornsby, and many other sports idols from different sports, and there isn't one that does a decent job of explaining exactly why they were so great.
You have to sift through many accounts of an athlete's exploits to discover why what they did made them so great.
In Ruth's case, in the bios I've read about him, I've yet to read accounts by pitchers who had to face him about how they threw to him. Surely, there must be accounts/records of the many pitchers who faced Ruth about how they threw to him.
Maybe I just haven't searched hard enough, but I combed through a number of Ruth bios in vain looking for stories of pitchers who threw to Ruth.
DiMaggio's bio "A Hero's Life" was the same.  Most of the book concentrated on DiMaggio's off the field activities. A typical chapter would talk mostly about what DiMaggio did that day off the field and then add a short, casual reference  about what he did at the ballpark that day. No accounts by the pitchers who faced DiMaggio about what it was like to pitch to him.
No stories about how DiMaggio tried to adjust to hitting in Yankee Stadium, a stadium notorious for being unfair to right-handed power hitters like DiMaggio.
Very unsatisfactory.
So, I'm tempted to buy Ruth's new book, but if it's like all the previous bios that went into detail about his non-baseball activities and gave short shrift to his on field exploits, I'll be sorely disappointed.

Offline EasyAce

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Re: The self-made, self-immolating Babe
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2019, 11:24:54 PM »
@goatprairie
I think a study focusing preponderantly on Babe Ruth the cultural phenomenon is very much worth it because, until Ruth, no professional athletic star, however big a star he or she had been, was that big and that incessant a media/marketing phenomenon---because the apparatus through which it could happen simply wasn't in place until Ruth entered the 1920s in New York and proved so extremely willing to use and exploit it that way. He was sports' first mass celebrity, and I would have thought it a fascinating story to tell because it was so unprecedented and, considering Ruth's very nasty childhood, almost unlikely. There's a ton of published material examining and explaining Ruth the baseball player. There isn't a lot that goes this much into depth about Ruth the cultural phenomenon and the era in which it could have happened as it did. And of what little there's been, this book's the best of the lot.

Offline Sanguine

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Re: The self-made, self-immolating Babe
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2019, 10:10:47 AM »
Fascinating.  Thanks, @EasyAce.
Cui bono?

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Offline Dexter

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Re: The self-made, self-immolating Babe
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2019, 10:19:11 AM »
I hope this book does what most "definitive" sports books do not do when covering the lives of famous athletes.

The typical sports bio does a very poor job of explaining exactly why the sports idol was so good.
I've read a number of books about Ruth, DiMaggio, Hornsby, and many other sports idols from different sports, and there isn't one that does a decent job of explaining exactly why they were so great.

You have to sift through many accounts of an athlete's exploits to discover why what they did made them so great.
In Ruth's case, in the bios I've read about him, I've yet to read accounts by pitchers who had to face him about how they threw to him. Surely, there must be accounts/records of the many pitchers who faced Ruth about how they threw to him.
Maybe I just haven't searched hard enough, but I combed through a number of Ruth bios in vain looking for stories of pitchers who threw to Ruth.
DiMaggio's bio "A Hero's Life" was the same.  Most of the book concentrated on DiMaggio's off the field activities. A typical chapter would talk mostly about what DiMaggio did that day off the field and then add a short, casual reference  about what he did at the ballpark that day. No accounts by the pitchers who faced DiMaggio about what it was like to pitch to him.
No stories about how DiMaggio tried to adjust to hitting in Yankee Stadium, a stadium notorious for being unfair to right-handed power hitters like DiMaggio.
Very unsatisfactory.
So, I'm tempted to buy Ruth's new book, but if it's like all the previous bios that went into detail about his non-baseball activities and gave short shrift to his on field exploits, I'll be sorely disappointed.


https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/why-was-babe-ruth-so-good-hitting-home-runs-180961998/

There’s a saying in baseball: watch out for the heavy batter. They never have to run.  That saying may as well have started with Babe Ruth.

Born on this day in 1895, George Herman Ruth first made his name as a left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. But what made him really famous was his work for the New York Yankees as a batter. His career there has become one of Major League Baseball’s founding legends, and his nicknames—the Great Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, the Caliph of Clout, the Big Fellow, etc.—reflect that status.

Ruth was widely acknowledged to be an excellent baseball player, both in terms of his pitching and his hitting. His massive popularity helped to cement his legacy as a baseball legend, writes Cliff Corcoran for Sports Illustrated, but it helped that he was genuinely an excellent player. Some of the records that he set continue to stand even today.

Ruth’s signature move was the home run. Before he came along, home runs were relatively unusual in baseball. But Ruth’s career, which stretched for 22 seasons between 1914 and 1935, was the beginning of the home run era.

His skill combined with his popularity as a cultural figure meant that people asked what his secret was. Baseball was always a sport attractive to scientists: Baseball had stats as early as the 1880s, and the rules of the game are fairly simple. So it's not surprising that the search for Ruth's secret sauce involved a lot of science.

In 1921, for example, a Popular Science journalist went to find out. Hugh S. Fullerton took Ruth, after a game, to Columbia University’s “physiological department,” where two researchers awaited him.  “They led Babe Ruth into the great laboratory of the university,” Fullerton wrote, “figuratively took him apart, watched the wheels go round.” After a surely exhaustive study, he wrote:

Quote
The secret of Babe Ruth’s batting, reduced to non-scientific terms, is that his eyes and ears function more rapidly than those of other players; that his brain records sensations more quickly and transmits its orders to the muscles much faster than does that of the average man.


In other words, these researchers found, Babe Ruth was basically a hitting superman. And research since has borne out the idea that he was actually really good.

This wasn’t the only time in the 1920s that people attempted to figure out Ruth’s home runs. A physicist named A.L. Hodges was the very first, writes Bill Felber in his book on a 1920 American League competition. “In the search for an explanation of Ruth’s power was born one of the first occasions for the application of scientific principles to baseball,” he writes. The Chicago Herald and Examiner commissioned him to explain Ruth’s prowess to the baseball-following public—many of whom probably hadn’t finished high school, Felber notes.

Hodges, like Fullerton’s Columbia scientists, did arrive at an explanation, which wasn’t really all that dissimiliar from the one the Columbians came to. The figure that gave him a deceptive “baby” appearance actually helped him hit harder, Hodges wrote, because it gave him more stopping power and kept the bat from bouncing backwards when it hit the ball.
And it wasn’t just the Babe Ruth legend that made him seem great. A 2011 study used statistical physics to “detrend,” or remove mitigating factors, from the stats of historical baseball players, effectively making it as if they were all playing under the same conditions at the same time in baseball history.
While modern players hit far more homers than Ruth, he was better than others of his era by a larger margin, the study said. That placed him, once again, at number one.

----

Basically he started hitting the ball harder and more frequently than anybody ever had before. Compared to today's legends he wouldn't stack up, but the training and even the gear is so much different today it's hard to compare. Compared to others of his era he was unquestionably a God of the sport.
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Online goatprairie

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Re: The self-made, self-immolating Babe
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2019, 12:00:13 PM »
Ruth was like an alien from outer space for his times.  One teammate said it was like he was dropped out of a tree he was so different.
Maybe you've read Bill Jenkinson's "The Year Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs."  It the book Jenkinson details many of Ruth's longest clouts in the year 1921 when he actually hit 59 homers.  The Yankees played at the Polo Grounds with a center field fence 490 feet from home plate and 475 to the power alleys.
Since pitchers disdained throwing Ruth pitches in his sweet spot, he was forced to swing at numerous outside pitches in frustration.  That resulted in many 450+ foot outs.
Jenkinson calculated that if Ruth had played in modern ball parks he would have hit 104 homers instead of 59.
Ruth was simply a different type of athlete for his time...a power hitter who could hit for average.
The banning in 1920 of spitters and other doctored balls and the removal of discolored or bruised balls helped launch (no pun intended) the era of the power hitter in the majors.
After Ruth started hitting homers in large amounts, other power hitters emerged. Even line drive hitters like Rogers Hornsby started hitting numerous homers.
But Ruth set the trend. He broke the old record by hitting 29 homers his last year in Boston.
Jenkinson makes the astounding claim that nobody since Ruth has hit homers as far. He even analyzed Mickey Mantle's famous blast where he hit the facade in Yankee Stadium as descending when it hit and not going nearly as far as Ruth's longest clouts.
Today Ruth would not hit for as high of an average and he would strike out more. But because pitchers throw the ball about five miles an hour faster than Ruth's time, he might hit more homers.
He was simply a fantastic athlete for any age....a power hitter who could hit for average while swinging with an uppercut.

Offline EasyAce

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Re: The self-made, self-immolating Babe
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2019, 12:47:01 PM »
Basically he started hitting the ball harder and more frequently than anybody ever had before. Compared to today's legends he wouldn't stack up, but the training and even the gear is so much different today it's hard to compare. Compared to others of his era he was unquestionably a God of the sport.
Babe Ruth would have been a Hall of Famer no matter what era he played in, but his overall batting statistics wouldn't have been as gaudy-looking as they are if he'd played a) in the integrated game (and from every indication including Jane Leavy's book, he would have loved the chance); b) night baseball; and, c) against the caliber and styles of pitching baseball's seen since after World War II. Looking at the pitchers he faced with at least 100 lifetime plate appearances, Ruth faced only three Hall of Famers among them: Lefty Grove, Ted Lyons, and Red Faber. He did reasonably well against them (and that's what Hall of Famers do). If you spread it to pitchers Ruth faced with at least 80 lifetime plate appearances, you get the same result. But let's look at some post-integration Hall of Famers who also had reasonably long careers and see what they were up against in a minimum 80 lifetime plate appearances:

Yogi Berra---three Hall of Famers. (Early Wynn, Bob Lemon, Bob Feller)
Henry Aaron (he broke Ruth's career home run record, of course)---nine Hall of Famers. (In descending order of plate appearances: Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Roberts, Sandy Koufax, Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton, Tom Seaver, and Steve Carlton)
Willie Mays (he would have broken Ruth's career home run record if he hadn't lost two years to the Army)---six Hall of Famers. (Spahn, Drysdale, Roberts, Koufax, Gibson, and Jim Bunning)
Ernie Banks---six Hall of Famers. (Drysdale, Koufax, Roberts, Spahn, Gibson, and Marichal)
Frank Robinson---five Hall of Famers. (Spahn, Koufax, Catfish Hunter, Gibson, and Drysdale)
Willie McCovey---seven Hall of Famers. (Drysdale, Gibson, Sutton, Phil Niekro, Bunning, Seaver, and Carlton)
Joe Morgan---eight Hall of Famers, including his four most plate appearances against any pitcher. (Niekro, Sutton, Seaver, Carlton, Perry, Marichal, Ferguson Jenkins, and Gibson)
Lou Brock---eight Hall of Famers. (Seaver, Marichal, Sutton, Perry, Niekro, Jenkins, Drysdale, Bunning)
Mike Schmidt---three Hall of Famers. (Niekro, Seaver, and Nolan Ryan)

If you throw in postseason appearances, you can add Whitey Ford to the lists of Hall of Fame pitchers Aaron, Mays, Robinson, and McCovey faced, though not 80 plate appearances worth. You can add Early Wynn and Bob Lemon to Mays's list, since he faced them in the 1954 World Series. Likewise you can add Jim Palmer and Catfish Hunter to Morgan's resume from postseason appearances. Mantle had the pleasure of squaring off against Warren Spahn, Marichal, Drysdale, Koufax, and Gibson in a few World Series. (During the 1963 Series, asked if he didn't wish there was another Jewish High Holy Day falling during the Series, Mantle cracked, "You mean Yom Koufax?") Yogi was at the end of his line when he had the pleasure of facing Marichal and Koufax in back-to-back World Series.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2019, 12:52:30 PM by EasyAce »

Offline EasyAce

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Re: The self-made, self-immolating Babe
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2019, 12:56:49 PM »
He was simply a fantastic athlete for any age....a power hitter who could hit for average while swinging with an uppercut.
In today's game, Ruth would be prime among the players being criticised for worrying more about their "launch angles" than about just getting the bat on the ball---and dead meat for the pitchers who've been figuring out the ways to avoid throwing into the launch anglers' wheelhouses. Such players tend to forget that, if they're power hitters already, they're going to get their bombs regardless of whether they're worrying about their launch angles. Though it's possible that in Ruth's case it might sting because Ruth himself so favoured the parabolic blast it might not have snuck into his software that a home run's a home run whether it's hit on a Ruthian parabola or a Henry Aaron-like high liner.

Online goatprairie

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Re: The self-made, self-immolating Babe
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2019, 02:38:00 PM »
In today's game, Ruth would be prime among the players being criticised for worrying more about their "launch angles" than about just getting the bat on the ball---and dead meat for the pitchers who've been figuring out the ways to avoid throwing into the launch anglers' wheelhouses. Such players tend to forget that, if they're power hitters already, they're going to get their bombs regardless of whether they're worrying about their launch angles. Though it's possible that in Ruth's case it might sting because Ruth himself so favoured the parabolic blast it might not have snuck into his software that a home run's a home run whether it's hit on a Ruthian parabola or a Henry Aaron-like high liner.
I've recently read where last season Bryce Harper started hitting for average again after he quit worrying about launch angles and just decided to hit the ball hard.  He still hit home runs.
If I was that good (which I never was by a huge degree) to the point where I could hit 40+ homers a year and still hit over .300, I would choose to simply hit the ball as hard as I could without trying for homers. I think Rogers Hornsby at the same theory.  He still hit a  lot of home runs.
I have no idea if he batted today that Ruth would be concerned about launch angles. My point is that Ruth was an outlier for his time. He was like a fantastic talent dropped into a time that had never seen anything like him.  I also think that players like Ty Cobb and Walter Johnson would be stars today without attaining the great stats they did in their time.  I think it is simply ridiculous to believe that all great athletes were born inside the last one hundred years.
A personal story:
When I last hit in a competitive fast pitch baseball league, that was almost six decades ago when I was playing in city rec league ball before I started high school.
Where as in previous seasons in rec league where I was a good fielder but average hitter, my last year I hit the stuffings off the ball.  I hit (I kept my own records) about .460 but I also hit home runs despite looking like a human weed. (Unfortunately, I no longer resemble  a weed.) I was also first team all star.
Moral of story: just hitting the ball hard with a good swing will reap more rewards than trying for home runs....which I hit despite not really trying to hit them.
 My most memorable at bat was one game when a friend of mine who was pitching against my team managed to get two strikes on me vocally announcing each strike. When he got ready to throw the third strike he loudly shouted out "here comes strike three."
I then swung and hit the ball over the automatic home run line (no outfield fences).  As I rounded the bases one of the rec league assistant coaches derisively hollered at my friend "if that's a strikeout, I wonder what a home run looks like."  One of the few indelible moments of athletic glory in my usually quite ignominious  athletic career.

Offline EasyAce

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Re: The self-made, self-immolating Babe
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2019, 05:32:28 PM »
I've recently read where last season Bryce Harper started hitting for average again after he quit worrying about launch angles and just decided to hit the ball hard.  He still hit home runs.
If I was that good (which I never was by a huge degree) to the point where I could hit 40+ homers a year and still hit over .300, I would choose to simply hit the ball as hard as I could without trying for homers. I think Rogers Hornsby at the same theory.  He still hit a  lot of home runs.
Bryce Harper got two a-has last year right before the All-Star break: 1) He stopped worrying about his launch angles (he came out of spring training thinking more about them than at any previous time in his career); and, 2) he stopped letting overshifts interfere with his thinking at the plate. You can beat the shifts in two ways: hit the other way and use that yummy open prairie they're giving you on the other side of the field; and, hit to the outfield gaps. Harper did. He hit exactly .300 for the entire second half of the season while still being run productive and run creative. (Run creation involves the value of everything you do on offense: your hits, your walks, your intentional walks, reaching base being hit by a pitch, how many extra bases you take on followup hits.) As a matter of fact, Harper all season long created the same number of runs per game (7.4) as his career average per 162 games, and he used nine fewer outs to do it than his career average while totaling only two fewer runs created than his career average but still the third-highest in any season of his career. That was even more important to his team than his batting average after he corrected himself just before the All-Star break.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2019, 05:34:16 PM by EasyAce »


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