Monday, October 22, 2012

Peculiar Batting Stances

As a kid playing recreational baseball in the backyards of Schenectady, New York, I would often imitate the various hitting styles of major league players. Batting stances are like fingerprints in that no two are exactly alike. Some are designed to intimidate or distract pitchers it seems while others arise from various mechanical weaknesses at the plate. Whatever the case, as a child of the '70's, I have seen some memorable batting stances in 40 years of following baseball. Here are some that come to mind:

MICKEY RIVERS: Nicknamed "Mick the Quick," Rivers had blazing speed at the top of the order yet hobbled around as if nursing sore hamstrings when he wasn't running the bases or tracking flies in center field. Best known for his time with the pennant-winning Yankee clubs of the late-'70's, he hit from a crouched position, wiggling the bat and shuffling his feet restlessly. His signature move was the twirling of his bat like a baton after he had swung through a pitch or fouled one off, a maneuver convincingly imitated by Yankee catcher Jim Leyritz years later.

JOEMORGAN: The Hall of Fame second baseman was known for flapping his left arm at the plate as if he were performing a modified version of the Chicken Dance. He won two MVP awards and helped guide the Reds to numerous World Series appearances during his long, productive career. He once said of his famous batting quirk: "It became a habit where I wasn't even aware I was doing it."

DWIGHT EVANS: Evans was dubbed "the Man of a Thousand Stances" because he was always tinkering with his mechanics. Hit by a pitch early in his career, he suffered from vertigo afterward and called upon Red Sox hitting coach Walt Hirniak to help him get comfortable at the plate. Before the windup, Evans would assume a knock-kneed position with the bat resting on his back and his hands on his right shoulder. Before the pitch was released, he would lean back and stretch outward, extending the bat above his head. This ungainly practice aided him in the collection of nearly 2,500 career hits.

JOHN WOCKENFUSS: His batting style was as weird as his name. The long-time Detroit backup catcher stood pigeon-toed at the plate with his back to the pitcher and fingers wiggling nervously on the bat as if it were a musical instrument. In his finest offensive campaign, (1980) he hit 16 homers and drove in 65 runs.

JEFF BAGWELL: Astros' hitting instructor Tom McCraw once said of Bagwell's cock-eyed stance: "It's something I've never seen in 40 years of baseball." Bagwell's exaggerated crouch with splayed legs and bent knees gave one the impression that he was riding an invisible horse at the plate. He made this awkward pose work for fifteen years, becoming one of few players with 1,500 runs scored and 1,500 RBI's.

That is just a small sampling. I could go on and on. If anyone out there has any favorites of their own, I would love to hear from you.


No comments:

Post a Comment