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Post 2017 World Series Evaluation – by John F. Paciorek

The 2017 World Series was, in my estimation, the “Greatest” ever. But of course I’d probably say that about any of the previous “Series” that captivated me at almost every moment I was watching. I loved the Astros; and I loved the Dodgers. I wanted “it” to go seven-games, so I rooted for the team that was behind until it got through six. Then, I figured the team that demonstrated the higher “proclivity” for victory would win. I was sorry for the Dodgers, but elated for the Astros, since “it” was their “FIRST”!

There were moments of brilliance for every player at some point during the Series, even for those who didn’t feel they lived up to their own expectations. And there were those who performed at a higher level than anyone would have expected them to perform. Congratulations to both the Winners and those perceived Losers! Both teams gave the fans what they wanted: excitement, glory, amazement, vicarious attachment, and above all gratitude and appreciation for jobs WELL-DONE!

Aside from the obvious misgivings most spectators had about the “Home-Plate-Umpiring” on Balls and Strikes, there was probably a collective appreciation for the dedication of the umpires in attempting to call balls and strike correctly. To be 100% accurate is completely out of their human-mortal hands.

Ted Williams, in his prime, could not be 100% accurate making “calls” from behind the catcher. No person’s eyes are fast enough to counteract the “framing-techniques” of the astute “backstop,” as well the modern pitchers’ uncanny knack for making their pitches dart, slide, drop, curve so abruptly in and around the “corners” of the plate. It’s impossible!

If there was a flaw in the World Series, it had to pertain to gnawing, gut reaction that I felt every time the batter or pitcher had to suffer the mental, and emotional indignity of capitulating to the home-plate umpire’s incorrect “call.” Come-on MLB! You can fix this with the “Electronic-Strike-Zone!

Although the entire Play-Off Series games were very enjoyable, I couldn’t help but feel badly for those batters who only sporadically lived up to their inherent potential. Cody Bellinger, Cory Seager, Bryce Harper, Justin Turner, Aaron Judge, and others can’t seem to figure out why they are so erratic in their levels of batting performance. Altuve, Correa, Springer were not altogether unflawed as well.

If anyone reading the following essay has the ability to contact these individuals, and others who suffer from the same inconsistencies, give them your same opportunity to realize the proper means for becoming a consistent batting – master.

HERO or GOAT – The Difference Is?

The question that is almost never on the minds of sports columnists, analysts, and fans is, “Who’s going to bat .400 this year?” Everyone except the “most imaginative” seeker of a proven “Batting Principle” will agree that it is unlikely (if not impossible) that any batter of the modern era would be capable of changing his “mind-set” in order to determine a new and practical approach to “Batting Excellence.”

What is the difference between a .200 hitter (1 for 5) and a .400 hitter (2 for 5)? The simple and obvious answer, to the “superficial” observer, is 1 hit! Except, of course, if he batted 10 times. Then, it’s 2 hits (2 for 10; 4 for 10)then(3 for 15; 6 for 15).  It’s starts getting  complicated as each batter compiles an additional 5 at-bats. It would seem relatively easy to sustain a “clip” of 1 hit every 5 times at-bat. Does it seem outlandish to imagine the prospect of getting 2 hits in every 5 at-bats?

What does anyone actually know about a .400 hitter? Has anyone actually seen one in our generation? Sporting News MLB Baseball CollectionTed Williams, in 1941, was the last batter to reach that high level of consistent hitting for a whole season. We’ve seen quite a few .200 hitters; they seem to be rather plentiful! Can the .400 hitter be easily distinguishable from the .200 hitter? Again, it’s hard to say. We have little verification that the prospect of another one could really exist. (It’s like “Big-foot”; people who say they’ve seen him give compatible descriptions as to what he could look like!) Some back-woods “bush-leagues” have probably come the closest to producing a legitimate prototype Roy Hobbs 2, but never actually authenticated the “Genuine-Article” for practical use in the Big-Leagues.IMG_1217 (I know that Aaron Pointer batted .401 for the Salisbury Braves in Salisbury, North Carolina in 1961 while playing in the Western Carolina League.)

While devising the basic formula that would produce an ideal hitter, the prospect for a solution to the problem of inefficient bats-man-ship lay in the degree to which the batter is consistently able to apply the proper mechanics to his swing. It has been established over many years of observation, and finally deduced, that one’s high degree of athleticism is not the major factor in producing the best hitting credentials. The ability to devise (detect), interpret, and apply the proper mechanics to the swing is the major determinant in establishing a credible batting prowess.

The main ingredients to establishing the proper mechanics are these: secure stance, visual stability, minimum stride, and quick compact swing.

Barry Bonds 3Mark Mcgwire 4don-mattingly 1A secure stance implies that the batter has postured himself in a most foundationally  advantageous position from which to clearly detect the pitcher’s release of the ball, as well provide a strong, functional mobility with which the body can react quickly to respond effectively and appropriately to the speed, flight pattern and nuances of the pitched ball.

Yaz-3Joe Morgan1TedWilliamsShortSwing2 Visual stability infers that, from a secure stance, the head of the batter will maintain a constant position, from the point that the pitcher releases the ball, through the torque of the swing, and during and after the follow-through, to assure that the eyes retain maximum acuity for proper and consistent focus on the target.

DSC_0125DSC_0126BarryBonds_bat flatBarry Bonds 11Minimum stride refers to the least amount of preliminary movement necessary for the batter to facilitate preparatory body momentum to effect a quick and powerful response to the pitched ball. Remembering that optimal visual acuity is essential to effective hitting, and that ultimate power is activated not by predisposed linear movement, the most efficient use of the stride would logically be to take no stride at all.

Barry Bonds 2Barry Bonds 4Barry Bonds 8Barry Bonds 9A quick compact swing is one in which the minimum of time is elapsed after the front foot has been securely  planted and the batter initiates and completes the turn of the hips and shoulders, with the arms and bat following in rapid succession with the minimum of ostensible drag. A point to always remember is that the lower the center of gravity the quicker and more powerful will be the turn of hips and shoulders.

These four aspects of proper mechanics constitute what would be considered a sound physical approach to applying oneself to the prospective “art” of hitting a baseball. If you have watched professional ballplayers taking batting practice before the game, you might have observed that they all seemed to look the same, as they blasted away at moderately fast moving batting practice pitches.

Their stances seemed secure, knees bent slightly for effective balance. They hit every pitch, so they must have seen the ball clearly. They appeared calm and in control; minimum of extraneous movement—lunging at the ball. And most were demonstrating quick powerful strokes that carried the ball into the bleachers. Batting practice is always an awesome spectacle to behold! After watching such a display you might think that any or every one of those batters could be a .400 hitter. And why can’t they be?

On every Big-League team there is probably to be found at least one .300 hitter and a range of hitters from the high .200s to the low .200s. But no one batting .400 (except during an uncustomary prolific first month, or so). Is there an actual scientific reason for a player to be a .400 or better hitter in batting practice, and a .200 hitter in games? And, is there a scientific rationale for that .400 batting practice hitter to apply to his game-condition, that would allow him to maintain that .400 “stroke” throughout the season?

To answer the first question, no really scientific explanation is necessary. Professional players are good, strong athletes with great hand eye coordination. A batting practice pitcher elicits no fear at all. And the sense of confidence that exudes when fear is not present, plus the one-dimensional component to hitting accurately thrown, moderate fastballs, have a tendency to induce a player to exhibit the fulfillment of highest physical potential. Unfortunately, the mental approach, for many of these physically endowed batting practice participants, is merely a pre-game physical exercise to loosen their bodies for the real-live performance.

At game time, you might notice a formerly relaxed and confident “Bleacher-Blaster” now exhibiting body language that expresses a less than authoritative approach to addressing the preeminent “mounds-man.” As he nervously swaggers his bat to and fro, the batter anxiously tries to regain the comfort-pose he postured, with nonchalance, during B.P. Somehow his confidence has sunk below anticipation level while facing the disdainfully insensitive eyes of a formidable (alien) pitcher. The semi-taut muscles that provided ample support for slightly bent but fluidly mobile knee joints, during Batting Practice, suddenly stiffened inexplicably, to accommodate an immediate need for improved stability.

The first 93 MPH fastball caught his reflexes just a tad “in arrears,” as his bat-speed languished in 85mph range, and sent a poorly calibrated foul-ball to the off-side of the back-stop. A demeanor that implied untold gratitude for even touching the speeding projectile precluded an ominous prediction about the success of his subsequent attempts. Needless to say, a brilliant sequence of masterfully placed pitches sent the batter back to his dugout, after “His Eminence” concluded the series with an off-speed breaking pitch that had the high gliding bats-man lunging out, over his front foot, and whiffing at a ball whose bottom half seemed to disintegrate before his disconcerting, dangling eyeballs.

The preceding experience could have happened. In fact, it has happened, many times. And, it will happen again, because the common baseball player mentality is geared to think and act in accordance to how something Feels, not how intellectually and mechanically correct a proposition is.

Baseball players tend to oblige themselves to the notion that “practice-makes-perfect.” They try to avoid the complete axiom that “perfect practice-makes-perfect,” because, in most cases, to do the intelligently and mechanically correct thing “doesn’t feel good.”

Most professionals will agree that a secure stance, visual stability, minimum stride, and a quick compact swing are essential ingredients to obtaining an optimal range of hitting proficiency. However, many factors influence one’s interpretation of how to apply these components to the individual temperament and physical makeup of every player.

To what extent is a secure stance vindicated by the varying degrees of bent-knees to maintain a low center of gravity? Can optimal visual stability be perfected in a batter who insists on maintaining a high stance and excessive stride, or even a modest stride? Can a player who doesn’t stride generate enough quickness and torque from the mere rotary action of hips and shoulders (initiated by the correct knee action) to elicit formidable power to express his swing to its maximum extent?

Individual physical characteristics of each player obviously have to be taken into consideration before anyone can prescribe the most beneficial interpretation for use of the main physical ingredients to successful “Batting.” A great cook does not put the same amount of salt and pepper into a pot of stew when feeding himself, as he does when he’s catering a banquet! (And here, Yogi might say he’s not going to any banquet where all they’re serving is stew.) A short bow-legged player may not have to crouch as low as a tall, straight-legged player to facilitate an equivalent of speed and torque during the power-turn of hips and shoulders. But a taller player would have to bend his knees more to establish an equivalent strike zone to a shorter player.

Most ballplayers think that a batting average of .400 and above is impossible, so the probability of their reaching that level is negligible, if not impossible. Even if they ascribed to the precept that “thought precedes action,” they would still have to contend with a list of preconceived notions that would stifle any consistent progress they could make along sound intellectual and mechanical lines. The greatest deterrent to ultimate batting progress is the reluctance of any hitter within the .250 to .300 range to change any aspect of his swing that could possibly further reduce his presently respectable average.

A batter’s average throughout the second half of the season is determined by how well the pitcher can keep his pitches within the areas, in and outside the strike-zone, that the particular batters will either swing at errantly or cannot hit easily. If a batter has flaws in his mechanics (as well as in his mental approach to discerning the pitcher’s intent), scouting reports will generally identify the symptoms of such, and good pitchers will attempt to sabotage all vestiges of prior success due to misplaced pitches.

Is there a way to make the “hitting-game” easy to apply, and to genuinely extrapolate from a logical, rational, and orderly set of hypotheses a character whose special mental and physical talents would legitimize a .400 or better hitting phenomenon? The answer to that question is Yes!

The next .400, or better, hitter will be a batter who confidently walks to the plate with the understanding that the pitcher is tenaciously going to attempt to throw the baseball passed him. He realizes that the pitcher will be standing on a mound that is almost a foot above the plane of home plate. He intelligently deduces that the flight of the ball will be descending toward the plate at a speed varying from 70 to 100 MPH. He is conscious of the fact that the ball, after travelling a distance of more than 50 feet, will have to traverse the length of an 18inch wide home plate while maintaining a height range varying with the degree to which the batter’s knees and chest are separated by measure.

And, he does not have to go out and attack the ball. The ball will come to him. With patience, he will let it arrive into his zone, then quickly and efficiently dispose of it—if he prepares himself properly. Barry Bonds HRBarry Bonds 17Albert Pujols 15Ted Williams - swing

While fully apprised of the physical parameters and logistics of pitcher-batter inter-play, in order to counteract all of the menacing tactics of an astute and finely tuned prestidigitator of mounds-man-ship, the .400 hitter will have to demonstrate near impeccable application of sound mechanics. He must also deprive his opponent of any additional advantage, to which the predominant pitcher has been previously accustomed.

To establish maximum stability and optimal viewing, the .400 hitter assumes a stance as low as will accommodate a minimum of discomfort. From this position, he not only will facilitate the most stable foundation from which to elicit the fastest possible reaction time to any assortment of pitched balls, but will also considerably diminish the area to which the umpire can define as a strike for the pitcher. Thus, the pitcher’s workload becomes a bit more excessive. (Score 1 for the .400 hitter).

If the batter’s stance is low, and spread to the extent of what would be the distance of his stride, his stable position better prepares him to view the incoming pitch. The distance between a high or low pitch is now so negligible that the batter will have less difficulty adjusting to the pitcher’s choice of location, presenting the additional conundrum for any team’s pitching staff. Therefore any “strike” is in the batter “wheel-house.” The pitcher no longer has that deceptive leverage-point that he had grown accustomed to with the batter in a high stance. (Score 2 for the .400 hitter).

Everything, to this point, has been for the purpose of more than adequately preparing the batter to effectively encounter what the pitcher has to offer. Now, the moment of application of mechanically precise engineering, which really attests the difference between the .400 and .200 hitters, comes into play. With stance secure, and vision stabilized, the pre- conditioned, natural sequential flow of body parts, choreographed to the rhythm of the whistling ball in flight, begins with a “gathering” of energy, shifting the weight slightly, not backward to disturb balance, but inwardly to secure balance. Sporting News MLB Baseball CollectionBonds -stanceAs the coiled body awaits the incoming pitch, the hands and bat have moved to a position slightly beyond the back shoulder, facilitated by the lowering front shoulder and turning body. At the critical point, where the ball has been identified for its speed and/or specialized nuances, the body responds with the first wave of conscious forward movement, which occurs simultaneously in four distinct areas.

If all functions are intact, and the timing mechanism accurately assessed, the front foot plants firmly as its knee begins to straighten. The three other areas, acting synergistically, are the back bent knee, and the front and back shoulders.

As the front knee is straightening, the front hip is turning outwardly and backward, while the back knee is twisting forward and down, to assist the rapidly forward-turning back hip. The front shoulder begins its assault with an initial “shrug,” the purpose of which is multi-faceted: to stabilize and abruptly lift the shoulder, instigate the initial lowering of back shoulder and elbow, and provide momentum for initiating the complete turn of the upper body through the swing.

After the quick action of the “shrug,” the front shoulder continues on its route until its completion at the back end of the swing.DSC_0036 DSC_0120DSC_0122DSC_0128DSC_0129Mark McGwire 5Ted Williams' follow throughThe beauty of being aware of the four simultaneous steps is that any one of them can be the conscious stimulant to initiate the batter’s swing. It is impossible to think of all four at the same time—too complex an endeavor. But just knowing that they all occur at the same time allows the .400 hitter to focus on any one, which seems most suitable at the time, and receive a successful result.

Since the .400 hitter knows that every pitched ball is travelling in a descending line, or arc, his body mechanics instinctively facilitates the corresponding action of the bat to meet the ball on a line as close to 180 degrees as possible. The action described above (the four steps) allows the bat to begin flattening out automatically as the swing is initiated, and thus avoiding any time lapse that is induced by unnecessary conscious effort.

As the swing progresses, the diametrical shoulder slant assists the front arm’s straightening, and lowered back shoulder and bent elbow to drive the hands and bat to striking area. Once the “belly-button” faces the pitcher, the front elbow snaps its arm to extension while the back elbow starts its subsequent powerful extension, for the bat to contact the ball.

As the bat meets the ball, the shoulders remain the continuing power force that drives the arms and hands to direct the bat through the ball until the follow-through is complete. (If the fingers of the top hand were extended at the “contact” point, one would notice that the palm is facing upward, to assure that the wrists had not rolled over.)

The angle of the swing of the bat of the .400 hitter does not correspond with the parallel level of the playing field, but rather on a parallel line with the flight of the ball. Barry Bonds HRted-williams-science-of-hitting2Ted Williams - fundamentalsTedWilliamsShortSwing2 To swing the bat, on a parallel line with the field level, at a ball that is travelling downward from a height of 5 to 6 feet, would facilitate a hard ground ball in a majority of cases, if solid contact were made.

Because solid contact, 100% of the time, is improbable, you might be able detect, here, one of the flawed characteristics that makes for a .200 hitter. The most detrimental component to any aspiring .400 (or even .300) hitter is the erroneous theory that the batter should swing down on the ball. And the prospective .400 hitter who follows the sequence of body mechanics mentioned above will never swing down on the ball, unless he is ostensibly late with his timing, or if he prematurely rolls his wrists over the ball at contact!

Is there any chance that a batter will again hit .400 or better? There are many current players who are hitting .300 consistently. Anyone of them could be a .400 hitter, if he knew for sure that there was a legitimate way to become that Hero, without the prospect for also being a Goat. He has to be willing to try something different, even though it may not, at first, feel good.

Postscript: Aaron Judge could be the greatest hitter in Baseball history. He does everything correctly, except one thing. Since no one else seems capable and/or willing to advise him as to “what” that is, he will have to peruse my essays and figure it out for himself… or give me a call.

 

“Ultimate,” or Bust: “Electronic Strike-Zone” – By John F. Paciorek

For me, Baseball is the greatest sport to play, and watch. But it will never become the “Ultimate” in Sports entertainment until MLB finally gets rid of the last vestige of the agitating human vulnerability factor that denigrates the solemn integrity of the Game – “Umpire-Mortal-Incompetency. To err is human (and inescapable)! But, with access to technology that would correct human  Vulnerability to Err (especially in critical situations), and intentionally not use it, is simply “Asinine.”

From what I’ve observed in watching Baseball Games, I’m amazed at how well the persons umpiring games do observe and make the “calls” with a high degree of accuracy. Recently MLB has taken the “good-initiative” in installing the “instant-replay” video cameras that in most/all cases clarify a questionable circumstance and the umpire’s call regarding the incident. What a positive enhancement to the betterment of the Game! It surely beats the “human-factor” for “getting it right”!

Every single game I’ve watched during this recent Playoff-competition has had situations where the umpire’s judgment behind home-plate was a definite detriment to either the batter or the pitcher. Since players are being “extra patient and tolerant” to an umpire’s missed-call (for fear of possible ejection from the game), they seem to be expected (unfairly) to make up for “his human-error”(somehow). If it’s a called “third-strike” to a precisely attuned batter with a runner in scoring position, or a “ball-four” on a 3-2 count for the pitcher who can commonly “thread-a-needle,” the players’ credibility as well the team’s win or loss is at the discretion of human disparity.

It appears that most commentators have been advised by administrative authority not to point out any umpire error. But, some can’t help but comment when the umpire’s decision is so blatantly incorrect. And it is also obvious to the casual spectator (not always).

It is difficult for the avid sports fan to tolerate any incompetency occurring on the Baseball field, especially from “non-players” whose decisions can have a direct effect on the outcome of the game in which “they” vicariously want their home-team to win (by any and all fair-means). Even the most ardent fan will be at least appeased by a video-replay that validated an unfavorable outcome for his team. Nothing is more egregious to a fan than to detect that the umpire seems to be “guessing” on some of his calls, or a bit inconsistent in his perception.

You hear some commentators mention that even though “the pitch” was obviously “outside/inside” the strike-zone, at least the umpire has been consistent in calling that pitch. What consolation is that to a batter who has “fine-tuned” his visual-mechanics to respond consistently to the height, width, and depth of the pitched ball, or to a pitcher whose fingers, arm, shoulder, and body sensitivity to the precise fluidity of movement that would place the pitched ball where he intended? Should either of them be expected to change his own “model of excellence” to accommodate the mortal incompetency of flawed human frailty? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

No human-being (not even Ted Williams, with his incredible eyesight during his playing days, up to slightly beyond 40 years of age) would be able to be 100% accurate with calls behind the plate. Can you image the difficulty of persons over the ages of 50/60 in making accurate calls on 100 MPH fastballs, hard-sinking “splitters,” abruptly changing directions of curve and sliders? And in this modern era of catchers deliberately “framing” pitches with uncanny speed and deception, what human is capable of deducing the accuracy of the pitched ball with even approximate credibility?

Therefore, the only intelligent solution to this obvious conundrum is to install an “electronic ball and strike indicator,” and relieve the home-plate umpire of the “un-doable” task of accurately calling Balls and Strikes in a professional Baseball Game – especially during the most highly competitive venues of Playoff and World Series competition.

In every close game in this year’s Play-Offs, the outcome of those games could have been different if the human being making decisive calls on balls and strikes had been supplemented by the accurate accounting of an electronic indicator of strikes and balls. (I hope MLB is counting the times that the umpires’ calls have influenced an “at-bat” of a batter, or the effectiveness of the pitcher’s strategy.)

Just imagine how much less time would be wasted during any game when a batter or pitcher doesn’t have to suffer the “indignity” of justifiably getting upset with a “bad-call,” then subsequently be ejected from a game (then fined) because a “conscientious” human being had inadvertently made an incorrect decision based simply on “mortal-frailty.” The “solution” is readily at hand! MLB… – DO IT!

I want the skill of the players, teams, and managers to determine the outcome of the game I’m watching, not the haphazard “brilliance” or “guess-work” of a sporadically competent official. Until this is accomplished, Major-League Baseball will be elevated no higher than the plateau of merely the “Penultimate” level of entertainment excellence!

I have other suggestions that could be considered for other less important matters, but the above should be immediately endorsed and acted upon. Thank you. J.F. P.

P. S. Let’s see how much the World Series will be affected by “Human Error!” I can just imagine what kind of Strategy the “Vegas-Bookies” are mounting for this upcoming fiasco – Could be a new but subtle twist on events of 1919!?

 

October 15/1988 – Reminder to Dodgers – Kirk Gibson

In honor of Kirk Gibson’s Immortal “stroke of genius,” I wish to applaud once again a feat in Sports History that I don’t think will ever be duplicated, although some renowned sports writers would evaluate it as merely second or third on the list of memorable home runs ever hit.

As Kirk is currently experiencing some physical difficulties in 2017, I would hope the man who performed the miracle at the 1988 World Series could somehow disentangle himself from the “interlaced ambiguities of his being” and realize that it is natural for him only to feel good, to be well, and to experience perfect bodily conditions. 

I am again re-posting (from October 15, 2014) my account of Kirk’s Historic, monumental achievement for your reading pleasure.  ENJOY!

 

When classifying the “Greatest Home-Runs” in Baseball history, the closest that Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series “Bomb” ranks to the top of the analysts’ charts, even by MLB Productions, is 2nd or 3rd, behind Bill Mazeroski’s 1960 “Walk-off,” and/or Bobby Thompson’s 1951 “Shot Heard Round the World,” that gave the Giants the pennant.
Of course the main criteria for evaluating these enduring historical footnotes are still the reminiscence of “that” notorious City-Team rivalry and a purely “Under-Dog” sentimentality (Giants’ 15 games deficit before tying the Dodgers, then winning the pennant; and Pirates’ monstrous negative run-differential with the overwhelmingly favorite Yankees).
Now, if that criterion cannot be upgraded eventually by Time and Logistics, then a new category must be conceived in order to pay proper respect for what Kirk Gibson did in 1988 when single-handedly, but surreptitiously, leading the Dodgers to the World Series Title. (Space in this category would also have to be reserved for NFL Football’s 1972 “Immaculate- Reception,” which would probably rank 2nd as the “penultimate” contributor to those “Amazing” performances.)
In order to hit a single home run, so many aspects of a batter’s swing must be aligned to satisfy the anatomical, physiological, and psychological constituencies composing each player, as afforded haphazardly by the “gods of Baseball.” Most athletes, professional and amateur alike, who have legitimately tasted both the “thrill and agony” of most majors sports activities will usually attest to the validity of Ted Williams’ famous yet arguable statement that, “hitting a baseball is the single-most difficult skill to master in all of Sports.”
In an essay I wrote entitled, “Einstein and the Home-Run Principle,” Einstein supersedes the Williams’ statement when he parenthetically observes, “Hitting a Home-run is the most difficult thing to do in all of Sports.” To hit a home run, a batter has to be almost perfect in his application of the “the laws of physics” with regard to the mechanics of swinging a baseball bat with precision and power. To be a consistent home-run hitter the batter must also have an understanding of all the elements that are included in the dynamics of hitting a baseball effectively.

Theoretically, it is possible to hit a home run every time a batter swings at a baseball. However, Einstein and others have found through Quantum Mechanics, when trying to establish the essence of matter, that “at the fundamental levels, causation is a matter of statistical probabilities, not certainties.” Therefore, with all the elements and combinations of variables with which a batter has to deal, from within and from without himself, the “uncertainty principle” gives compelling testimony that mastering the “rubik’s cube” of hitting a home-run every time is highly improbable. However, the knowledge itself, of such feasibility, enhances the statistical probability of success.
Not even Albert Einstein and all the renowned physicists of his time, and “saber-metricians” of this modern-era, could have approximated the statistical improbability of what Gibson did on October 15, 1988.

The resounding joy that New Yorkers experienced in 1951 and preserved for decades was not altogether incalculable, since Bobby Thompson had not more than 3 days earlier lit up Ralph Branca with a Home Run that presented as an ominous note a precursor of what was to come. And Bill Mazeroski’s feat that ended the 1960 World Series, although dramatic, cannot have been totally unexpected. Pinch hitter, Hal Smith, had earlier hit a 3-run homer to stake the Pirates to a 2-run lead until the Yankees tied the game in the top of the ninth, thus extending the heart-pounding “see-saw” battle.

“Maz” was 1 for 3 as he led off the bottom of the ninth. Yankee pitcher, Ralph Terry, made the huge mistake of getting the pitch up to the short but powerfully built Pirate second base-man, who took advantage and slugged the ball over the brick wall 408 feet from Home Plate. It was truly a magnificent and endearing moment for the Pittsburgh community and all Baseball fans outside of the Bronx – worthy indeed of memorial status.

All that being said, encomiums to those two distinct episodes in Baseball lore should pale in comparison to the near “mythical” grandeur that highlighted the glorified instant of Gibson’s exalted “blast,” as well as propagated the ecstatic drama that preceded his culminating heroics.

Kirk’s advent into professional baseball is as mysterious as that of the legendary “Roy Hobbs,” without the tragic prelude. Upon completing a successful College football career, it was suggested that he not waste his athletic talent in the “off-season,” and play “a little” baseball for his Spartan baseball team at Michigan State University. In that first and only year of College baseball, he played so well (.390 B.A., 16 HRs. and 52 RBI in 48 games) as to warrant being picked in the first round of the 1978 MLB Draft by the Detroit Tigers. He was with the Tigers for 9 years, and was a key figure in attaining a World Series title in 1984.

After being determined as one of the ballplayers being “black-balled” by MLB Franchises in the notorious “Collusion Scandal” of 1987, he left the A.L. Tigers and in January  joined the Hapless Dodgers of the National League, whose dismal ‘87 season needed something of a “Hobbsian” spark to generate new life into a ball-club in disarray.
At Spring Training a few opportunities presented themselves early in Camp to set the stage for an immediate change of direction in Team attitude and focus. This would eventually lead the march to a much improved status and uncontested standing in the National League West to win the Division by 7 games.  Frivolity and practical jokes took a back seat to Kirk’s ultra-professional and business-like mentality, and the team flourished from beginning ‘till the season ended. His season ending stats earned him National League MVP honors while helping the Dodgers win 21 more games than the season before.

But it was his uncommon “personal-leadership” and otherwise intangible, undaunted presence that invoked the “mythical hero” image his teammates and adversaries had learned to admire and would attempt to emulate. In the NLCS, although injured, Kirk still performed heroically in clutch situations, and his timely home runs in the 4th and 5th games clinched the National League Pennant, and advanced the Dodgers into an improbable World Series entitlement.
Kirk purportedly had done all he could to get the Dodgers to that World Series, but “they” were presumably going to have to get to the “Promised Land” without him, for the injuries he incurred along the way were too severe for any “mortal” to overcome and give a last ditch effort. All the world would have accredited the Dodgers with a valiant effort for just making it to the “Final” Series. Everyone knew that even with Gibson, there was slim if any chance for them to beat the powerful  Oakland Athletics, whose superior arsenal of player personnel had amassed an incredible record of 104 wins to 58 losses. And even with Kirk’s Premier status with the “baseball gods,” the “Arrogant- As” knew that “one player does not a team make.”
With Gibson being an “absolute” scratch from the line-up (he wasn’t even at the pre-game introductions ceremony), the first game of the Series began unexpectedly with a first inning 2-run homer by Dodger, Mickey Hatcher. The “As” came back with 4 runs in the top of the 2nd,  and held a 2 run lead until the Dodgers scored again in the 6th. The game remained at 4 to 3, Oakland leading in the bottom of the 9th.
Throughout the game, there were brief TV glimpses of Kirk Gibson hobbling around in the dug-out as he was traversing the distance from the training room and back, trying to massage and loosen his painful joints and hamstrings. Ever-optimistic, Tommy Lasorda seemed to be coaxing his beleaguered star, to see if any type of “miracle” was in the offing. Vince Scully repeatedly commented that there was “absolutely” no chance of Gibson making an official appearance. With T.V. and radio broadcasts coming into the locker room, Gibson heard one of Scully’s commentaries as if providence were beckoning for him to consider an alternative thought. In sudden contemplation of all that was transpiring before him, Kirk realized an inexplicable surge of unwarranted confidence streaming through his consciousness. As in a biblical reference to Jacob wrestling with the “man” inside, Kirk’s vision of Princely accommodation could not be suppressed.

The decision was made; his mind was determined; “the die was cast”; but only the portentous action itself was forestalled. “Will I look like and be a fool? What in hell could I possibly do? I can’t even walk! What or Who do I think I am?” would have been the common queries instigated by mortal fear that must be wrested away from that mind intent on fulfilling a noble purpose.
After Dodger pitching blanked the Athletics in the top of the ninth, the otherwise stalwart performance of Oakland Pitcher, Dave Steward, ended when statistically prudent “As” manager, Tony LaRussa replaced his Starter with the League’s Premier “closer,” Dennis Eckersley.

It looked like a sure win for Oakland, since “Eck” was destined to face the bottom of the Dodger line-up (though somewhat of an ominous sign, in hind-sight). Eckersley got the first two outs in rapid succession, and was about to face a formidable, former teammate who was set to pinch-hit for the 8th batter in the line-up.
Meanwhile, in the Dodger dug-out, Lasorda learned that Gibson had begun a personalized mental and physical rehabilitation process, which immediately spurred Tommy’s ever-percolating mind to envision a preemptive scenario of his own. After appointing Mike Davis to pinch hit for Alfredo Griffin, he surreptitiously placed Dave Anderson in the on-deck circle, to make Eckersley and LaRussa think that they could afford to be a little cautious with Davis (a potential threat) and contemplate the “end” by pitching to the very weak-hitting Anderson.
All potentially constructive Dodger strategy lay in the proposition that Gibson regain a semblance of his former self. Yet, even if he could overcome the acute pain and obvious debility, what could he hope to achieve in this debilitative condition?  Bob Costas would later remark that while he was in the stairwell of the Dodger dug-out, he could hear the groaning, anguishing strokes of a batter  desperately trying to ready himself for one last at-bat, even “one last-swing,” while teammate Orel Hershiser was feeding baseballs onto the tee for Gibson’s convenience.

Although most of his teammates must have sensed the futility of Kirk’s somewhat contrived heroism, they probably also could not have expected anything less from “the man” who had proven himself so many times before. They all must have thought the “good-prospect” all but possible. However, their past experience would at least warrant a “statistically” derived-at chance of success. “YOU’VE GOT TO BELIEVE” would have been the genuine inspirational sentiment pouring into the ears of the players from the mouth and heart of Tommy Lasorda and the Great Dodger in the Sky.

Kirk is now sitting at the end of the dugout bench, fully dressed, and armed with helmet and “hickory,” speculating the purview the situation has presented. “I have inspiration and commitment to do something, but what, and how far can my own determination carry me? Will Davis get on base to set up my ‘grand entrance,’ and what emotion will the fans exude? And will it give me that final burst of adrenaline to be propelled to heights previously unknown?”
Gibson was afforded no additional time to mentally peruse the circumstances of the present situation, for Eckersley just walked Mike Davis. Taking a deep yet unstrained breath, Kirk’s electrifying and confident image popped onto the top step, then out of the dugout to the thunderous roar of the now ecstatic and frenzied crowd.
“That’s what I wanted to hear,” thought Gibson, as he must have restrained the urge to shed at least a tributary tear of ineffable joy he and his patrons could feel in this present moment of triumphal hope.  Lasorda’s unending chants of “new promise” inspired his Team and the Dodger Faithful to loftier heights of exaltation, as Kirk finished his preliminary swings. His slow, deliberate, but majestic walk to the plate must have been a nerve-wrenching ordeal for the Oakland pitcher, even though he exuded a confidence rather than impatience to get the game over.
One could only speculate as to what order of thoughts must have been aligning themselves in Gibson’s mind as his footsteps proceeded into that rarefied cubicle of variable distinction. Before assuming his characteristically “Spartan” batting-stance, his back cleat scratched the hardened dirt for a foothold to secure a base from which his afflicted body might launch its purposeful attack.

He was finally ready, and none too soon for the exasperated Eckersley, who let his arm commence with the business at hand, firing a blazing, side-arm, tailing fastball, for which Gibson must have felt a tad unprepared. All observers couldn’t help but notice the constrained, oblique wrenching, late response Gibson’s off-balanced body and bat conveyed as it almost completely missed the ball. The second pitch gave the same explicit message, and the fans as well as Eckersley himself must have sensed that “the Gibber” was no match for the “Eck.” Kirk was behind 0 and 2 in what seemed like a “heart-beat,” and Dennis was determined to finish him off on the next pitch.
Eckersley’s disdain for Gibson’s futile attempts was obvious as he was about to throw another fast ball, same speed, to the same spot (away). The fact that Kirk looked bad, but progressively better on each swing did not escape Eckersley discerning eye. Gibson knew that his body needed only a short quick turn, but even that was too slow to get his arms activated.

On that third fast-ball, Kirk was prepared to shorten the turn and throw his arms and hands more quickly. The result was a swing with little power, as his arms and hands were too far out in front and his wrists rolled over way too soon. He was grateful that he even made contact for an otherwise worthless dribbler that forced him to run toward first before the ball fortuitously struck the edge of the infield grass and abruptly darted foul, thus extending his at-bat. (That had to hurt!)

After his first pitch to Gibson, it became obvious to Eckersley, as well as the “brain-trusts” in both dugouts, that Kirk was not the optimum threat for which everyone fancifully hoped or cautiously suspected. But he was quickly portending to be a formidable adversary, even in his seemingly “powerless” condition. “Eck” recognized that with all the pitches Gibson was subtly calculating, making superficial contact with every one, it might only be a matter of time before he can put one in play, perhaps to the detriment of Oakland.

Therefore, he can’t let Davis steal second base. Before his second and third pitches he made 3 throws to keep Davis close. With 2 strikes on Gibson, the Dodgers might be desperate. His 4th pitch was a ball outside, going a little farther to see if Kirk would bite beyond the fringe. He didn’t. Since “Eck” didn’t throw over before the 4th pitch, Davis attempted a steal on the 5th. Gibson had his best swing yet, but fouled it back. Eckersley didn’t think Davis would steal on consecutive pitches, and he was correct, but threw “Ball 2” in the process.  Before his 7th pitch, he threw to first base again. But on the pitch to Gibson, the ball was further outside, and Davis successfully stole second base, much to the consternation of LaRussa, Eckersley, and the “As” dugout as the count rose to 3 and 2.

The situation had not developed the way Eckersley intended. Gibson’s impotent yet “frisky” at-bat posed a conundrum whose immediate solution never materialized. So there was only one direction in which to go!

As Dennis Eckersley was truly an adroit “student of the game,” he, like the many who had come before him, usually observed Warren Spawn’s masterful advice when administering to their trade: “It is the batter’s duty to have good timing and rhythm to perform effectively, while it is the pitcher’s duty to off-set that rhythm and timing with variable speeds and placement of pitches.”
As for Gibson the batter, he had neither rhythm nor timing when he first came to the plate. But through the course of his gauntlet-like “trial-by-pitch” he had developed both to a rather insignificant level. Now, it was thought by “Eck,” to end this dilemma. He knew what he had to do. He’d done it before, with great success. And he will do it, NOW!

The Game wasn’t necessarily on the line, if his strategy failed. Gibson would walk, and the Dodgers would still have a runner in scoring position, presenting merely a secondary condition that would quickly be dismissed. But “Eck” was confident, he could not fail. “This is absolutely the ‘last hand’.”

All the “Cards” being dealt, Eckersley landed (in Poker parlance) a 4th Ace, while Kirk had a pair of Jacks and the 7, 8, 9 of Clubs. Kirk could have kept the pair and thrown the other 3 away, but instead threw the Jack of Hearts, keeping its “Brother-in-Clubs.” The statistical probability for Eckersley’s success was astronomical! Kirk Gibson seemed to have been abandoned by the “gods” and his mythological legend was about to become irreparable.  The most he could hope for was simply a mimesis of that “Luis Gonzalez” swing, and flare a base hit that might tie the game. But in Eckersley’s mind, a game-ending out is all Gibson’s “gunna” get!

There’s the tying run on second base. Eckersley is in his “stretch.” The count is 3 and 2. “Eck” is about to deliver the most potent pitch in his repertoire. The Dodger dugout is ecstatic. Now, with the fleet-footed Davis in scoring position, a base-hit would tie the game, and that is all and the best they could expect from their forlorn hero. But Eckersley had other plans! And, what was Gibson himself thinking?

Just before Eckersley was to deliver his “secret” pitch, Kirk abruptly stepped out of the batter’s box, as if to regain his composure under this momentous circumstance. But, in that instant, a higher source seemed to beckon him to recall an otherwise innocuous fact that Kirk had read in a report prepared by an astute and meticulous “scout” before the playoffs began. After pondering the present situation, all statistical possibilities seemed to be aligned in a favorable position. And the curtain was about to fall with a dramatic conclusion on one of these conquering heroes, each with his own weapon of invincibility in hand (Reminiscent of the final poker-hand in the movie, “The Cincinnati Kid”). But which will project the image of “The Man”?

Kirk looked toward the mound, then stepped into the “Box,” knowing he had all the information he needed (his final card was dealt). But is his faith in his belief strong enough; and will his mind’s commitment to act unflinchingly, in spite of his apparent bodily condition, enable his warrior-heart? 55,000 spectators are about to find out as well.
Neither antagonist is smiling but each exudes an indefinable confidence, even while knowing well that “one will die today.”

Eckersley takes his stretch and prepares his “Load” for delivery. Gibson makes a final but ominous mental query designating his unquestioning tact as “the die is cast” once more, “Sure as I’m standing here, partner,  you’re going to throw me that “back-door” slider, aren’t you?”

As the pitch leaves his hand, Eckersley recognizes the ball’s trajectory to be perfect, right where he wanted it. With all the pitches he had thrown, he knew Gibson would see the ball moving directly toward the outside. He also thought Gibson’s quick sense would assume that, since his side-armed fast ball “tails,” the pitch’s destination would obviously move farther outside for a ball. He was expecting Kirk to momentarily relax, and not have enough time to respond to the pitch’s abrupt deviation of speed and direction, until it was too late – The “Aces” were “face-up”!

“Sure enough,” realized Kirk, upon first glance! His “absolute faith,” and patience allowed him to wait. He’d not yet lifted his front foot as he did previously while expecting Eckersley’s fast ball. An extra nanosecond of Time was in his favor. “Now, all I have to do is get my timing right, to be able to explode at the precise moment!” In his extremely “closed-stance,” as he discerned the ball’s outside trajectory, he waited until he could detect its subtle and abrupt turn toward him. Then his front foot exaggerated its deliberate stride toward third base, as his body was “gathering” its forces to uncoil as his foot would plant into the ground.

Eckersley couldn’t help but notice that Gibson’s physical demeanor was uncommonly composed as he unobtrusively glided in the direction from which the ball was finally descending (as if he knew what was coming). “Eck” saw Kirk’s foot plant, his body uncoil, his arms extend, and in a final explosive lunge of shoulders, hands, and wrists, observed the bat contact the ball with an uncanny perfect synergy that launched the round projectile with improbable force in the direction from which it came.

With all spectators and both dugouts watching in apparent disbelief, the ball kept rising and carrying farther and farther in its ellipticity until it finally disappeared over the right-field wall, as Kirk’s final card resoundingly struck the table as a 10 of Clubs – and a “Straight Flush.”

Throughout the day not a hint of joy was expressive of the face of Kirk Gibson, only a stoic facade hiding pain, disappointment, resentment, and disdain for his helpless and impotent condition. As the abrupt follow-through of his celestial swing of bat was completed, and he cautiously embarked on an unrehearsed, and as yet undefined, trek, an observer could detect a gradual change in facial disposition. The remorseful look of indifference was suddenly transformed into a heavily distinguishable canvas of ecstatic jubilation.

And in a moment of triumphant glory he pumped his bent right arm in successive punches along the side of his beleaguered body after the subjugated leather-bound projectile did indeed traverse the height of the outfield fence for an uncontested, historic “masterstroke” (Tour De Force) of amazing ramifications, the conclusion of which would be directly revealed.

The instant of evidentiary proof of Gibson’s success immediately transformed the hopeful yet solemnly-cautious dispositions of Dodger fans and Teammates (who hadn’t really believed in “Santa Clause”) into genuinely faith-filled followers who, at that “holy instant,” probably could have moved a mountain or two. The dug-out Dodgers were streaming out onto the field, arms flaying and voices shouting “Hallelujah” (from the roof-tops) to their “resurrected “messiah” as he buoyantly circumnavigated the bases in all but reconstructed, glorified form.

His amazing feat did provide a Home Run of incomparable distinction. And it did win that First Game of the “Series,” in abrupt and miraculous fashion. But the intangible essence of that single act of unfathomable “Heroism” also unlocked a momentarily imprisoned spirit of Team unity that suddenly “empowered” the Dodgers to claim the 1988 World Series Title, even without Kirk playing another moment of any of the remaining 4 games. Kirk Gibson’s Home Run was truly the “single-most amazing performance piece in Sports history.”

Postscript:
As unlikely as Kirk Gibson’s conquest was, at that momentous October event, what more climactic expression of exaltation could be spontaneously delivered than that spoken by Baseball’s “immortal bard,” Vin Scully, when he exclaimed, as Kirk was rounding the bases, “In a year that has been so ‘improbable,’ the ‘Impossible’ has occurred.” Truer words were never spoken. No one in the world could have expected Gibson’s humble yet triumphal salute, “I came; I saw; I conquered!” And for the last 29 years, legions of followers have echoed the words of another prominent and renowned sportscaster (Joe Buck) as he commented repeatedly, in breathless exuberance, “I DON’T BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAW! I DON’T BELIEVE… WHAT I JUST SAW”! Nothing in Sports History can equate to Kirk Gibson’s “improbable” and “impossible” act of courage and accomplishment. The only historical event that would have shared in equipollence would have been “The Battle of Thermopylae,” if this Spartan warrior had been there to defeat the Persians.

“Penultimate” Expression of Baseball Perfection – Part 2

 PART 1 was written on June 21, 2015
Let me quickly tell you why 6 thru 10 came into my thought. 1 through 5 were obvious to me, and needed to be considered in order to “perfect” the Game. But as I may have mentioned before, not a day goes by when I don’t see some new dimension to an aspect of the Game that can be viewed in a “new light”. When I first started writing about batting and throwing, I thought I covered everything of substance. Then I would see it from another angle, and I would write from that standpoint, etc. etc. 6 thru 10 came about that way as well.
     6. 2nd & 3rd Basemen tap the “front” side of base to determine a “tag-out” (for fielder protection).
      7. Establishment of a D. R. (Designated Runner).
       8. Batters should get 2 strikes and 4 balls.
        9. No “intentional walk”. If at least 1 strike is not thrown to a batter, after four pitches he goes to 2nd. Base.
         10. A “D. R.” (Designated Runner) can also Pinch-Hit in the same game.
6. When I saw Andrelton Simmons slide so recklessly into 3rd. Base one game, and then at Home in another, I realized that he just doesn’t know how to slide safely (for himself and the fielder). Of course he suffered a “double-consequence” by not only hurting himself, but incurring the wrath of the other team’s pitcher “nailing” him with a fastball after both mishaps. When he slid into 3rd., the baseman was waiting with the ball (for a sure out). He slid so late, he drove his foot through the glove and hand of the defensive player so ferociously (unintentionally- I think) that he could have seriously damaged not only the other player but himself as well. I’ve seen similar plays at 2nd Base (and even at home), and I feel that, if nothing else, the fielder should be protected in the case of an “automatic” out. Similar “unwritten” rules apply on double – plays at Second-Base, and at First base, to try to protect the fielder. The “Tap-out” to which I’m referring would allow the fielder to get out of the way before the runner actually gets there. It’s an “automatic” out, so give the fielder the protection he deserves, especially from incompetent base-runners.
7. I listened one day to the MLB analysts discuss ways to enhance Offensive competency (allow for more “run-production”), and one of them casually mentioned the possibility of a “designated-runner” ( for a National League Pitcher, or even for any slow runner, late in the game). I thought that it was not a “bad idea”. But I knew that there would eventually be a D.H. in the N.L. But it could still be used for an “elder-statesman” D.H. type player. Anything to pick up the pace!
8. I absolutely hate to see a batter (especially a good hitter like Trout) take a first pitch fast-ball right down the middle, then eventually strike out on two “splitters” in the dirt. IF the batter only got 2 strikes, he’d be more apt to swing at the first strike. (talk about speeding up the game!) Any way, it wouldn’t hurt the batter, since 99.9999 % of the time he will foul off at least one pitch. 4 balls would stay the same, since no one likes to see a base-on-balls anyway.
9. I argued against the “Intentional walk” since Pitchers did it so many times to Barry Bonds. I would have been incensed if I paid $30 to $50 bucks to see Barry, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams bat, and all the pitchers would do is walk them intentionally. Bonds may have hit 100 Home Runs if the Pitchers were forced to pitch to him or he goes to 2nd base. 
10. In the Elementary School league in whicht I have coached, the administrators didn’t like to see “fringe” players “riding the pine” for most to the game, so rules have been established for such players to have more active responsibilities (like alternate innings in the field while batting in a line-up of 1 thru 12). Once the D.R. is established in MLB, I don’t see anything outrageous about such a player being allowed to “pinch-hit” in a manner found appropriate to league standards. Am I too far ahead of my Time on this one? Maybe Not!
What does your “heartfelt”, but creative instinct tell you about these (6 thru 10)? I always appreciate an astute, professional or non professional observation. Thanks. John P
 

 

Am I a Prophet, or was It Just Bound to Happen?

The Best! That They can Be? Mike Trout (smile)

Walk-Off H.R. 7/17/15 Unbelievable!

How could there be a greater looking Baseball Player than Mike Trout? Mike T.1

Not only does his face and body “talk-the-talk”, but already his ability and demeanor Mike T. (1)Mike T.7have proven, to even the most “cynical” of critics, that he is quite capable of ‘Walking-the- Walk”.  Mike Trout 5 There isn’t any thing on the baseball field, or any “playing field”B. URLACH1, that he isn’t capable of doing to the highest level of performance. The only aspect of his game that I (personally) wish that he would change is his penchant for sliding “head-first” into bases.Mike T.3 I say this for the “selfish” reason of my being deprived of seeing him play when he is on the “disabled list” with jammed or broken fingers, hands, arms, neck, or some other upper body injury that is sure to occur at some time or other.Mike T.13 I know he can slide feet first Mike T.10, so why not and lessen the Rays vs. Angelsinjury potential.

I wrote the preceding excerpt almost two years ago. Now…Mike Trout (smile)

My favorite player growing up was Mickey Mantle. The closest player to providing me with the same vicarious sense of camaraderie, as well as a desire to emulate his skills and demeanor is (I hope not “was”) Mike Trout.

I always thought that the Yankees would eventually acquire Trout because of the similar “charismatic” qualities they both emoted, as well as the unique skill-set that each possessed. I wonder if the aspirations for such an acquisition has suddenly subsided since Mike’s fateful and depressing mishap.

Did Mike somehow think that he alone was invulnerable to the grave dangers attached to the precarious, and ignorant penchant for sliding “face-first” into any of the four bases to which he undoubtedly had every right to abscond. I wish that I would have had access to his phone number and/or email so I could have intelligently, but forcefully convinced him of the total and complete “imbecility” of such a stupidly impractical, career threatening device for asserting an aggressive means of functionally participating in America’s greatest game.

On April 4th, 2014, I posted an essay entitled, The Most Inexcusable Act of Irresponsibility for Perpetuating Nothing of Substance. Here is an excerpt from that Post:

Baseball’s Biggest Star, Mike Trout, laced a low-liner passed the Mets short-stop into left-center field. Trout’s hustling attitude gave every indication that he was going for two bases. Running full speed, after rounding first, he sprinted to second and, as his custom was, he slid furiously into the base, “Head-First.” He was safe, for the outfielder’s frantic throw was far off the mark, but when Mike stood up he began shaking his right hand and wrist. As the instant replay showed, he slid so hard that he jammed his right wrist and hand into the bag as the momentum of his powerful body was carrying him over it. Needless to say, the Angels can ill-afford to lose their Star player, and Baseball would surely regret his brief or permanent absent from the Game.Rays vs. Angels

I don’t consider myself a prophet, but anyone could have predicted the inevitability of such a catastrophe in the making. Now we have to wait and see if he can regain his former status as Baseball’s “All-American” Baseball Idol.

New Book by John F. Paciorek – If I Knew Then What I Know Now!

Good Day!

I haven’t had time to post any new articles on my website since last February (2016)because I’ve been too busy writing a New Book entitled, If I knew Then What I know Now. It would have to be considered as an “Auto-Biographical Fiction.”

Until the Book is published, I’m providing my readers with excerpts that hint at the Book’s content. I hope that by reading the excerpts, your minds will be stimulated to a desire to read the Book in its entirety.

I think most people will thoroughly enjoy it, while others will enjoy various portions, and yet others might find it difficult to grasp various metaphysical aspects of it. I hope only a few fit into that last category.

From John Paciorek:

“The Future is the only perpetuation of Time; but NOW is the constantly new exemption from Time’s past!

It might seem unfortunate that it had to take more than 50 years to accrue Life’s valuable lessons; and then presume little time remaining to take advantage of the wisdom that would certainly be found to give beneficial service to the days of youth.

… it now seems that a personally satisfying account, not only of what could have been, but of what can be, is a new prospect only to be explored presently in the mind’s incredible realm of imagination.

I now sense that I always had an inherent right to experience my Life-Story in the way that I wanted it to be. I realize that I could have lived with an uncommon understanding that I do create my own reality.

The joy of first-time Big-League experience is the fulfillment of countless childhood dreams, imagining glorified moments of grandeur.

Baseball is an endearing and enduring embodiment of the fabric of Life’s Journey, with a perpetually New Beginning. The indigenous character and homespun heritage of our country’s National Pastime foster the innovative and evolutionary qualities of America.

Baseball’s enduring attributes, to all levels of civilized society, are those which foster relevance to equal opportunity for the individual, and a sense of genuine contribution to a collective effort.

What other Sport besides Baseball provides an individual with the opportunity to almost immediately restore himself to his full grandeur by simply getting a good-night’s-sleep, and trying again the next day to make good on a previous day’s logistical misalignment?

The game of Baseball will eventually receive a ‘facelift’ that inevitably will introduce a new paradigm into the minds and hearts of modern baseball enthusiasts. A new story of America’s beloved pastime is at the point of superseding the original model. The beauty and grandeur of a glorious past will soon reinvent itself in a form more suitable to days immemorial.

… a mastery of hitting a baseball had components for which my purely natural tendencies were not compatible. It eventually became obvious that the challenges in facing the professional mounds-man went beyond a batter’s physical stature, or how good he looked in his uniform.

As any individual can make himself a ‘naturally’ good ‘player of the game’ through repetitive practice, he cannot be the ‘best hitter he could be’ unless he somehow attains the scientific understanding of the intricate details supporting the mechanism of swinging the bat properly.

Contemporary Baseball thinking would define the ‘good hitter’ as a batter who waits patiently for a pitcher to make a mistake. Then, he capitalizes on it, and effectively hits the ball with authority at least 2.72 times out of Ten at-bats. To me, there are many ways to be a ‘good’ hitter, but only one way to be a ‘Great’ hitter. The good hitter will wait and hopefully hit the pitcher’s mistake. The great hitter will be able to hit the pitcher’s best pitch.

With all the elements and combinations of variables with which a batter deals, from within and from without himself, the ‘uncertainty principle’ gives compelling testimony that mastering the ‘Rubik’s cube’ of hitting a home run every time is highly improbable. However, the knowledge itself, of such feasibility, enhances the statistical probability of success.

For a player to hit the ball hard every time he swung his bat would certainly be a high accomplishment, but what I did today went beyond what I, or anyone, could have expected of a Baseball player.

Greatness is a humanly exaggerated or a spiritually magnified sense of being. To be extolled with greatness, one must step up above his peers, beyond the casualness of conformity, into the altitude of ‘Uniqueness,’ wherein the atmosphere of Soul the inspiration of life a lesser man cannot inhale.

A leader is always appreciated as one who shines above the rest, with certain magnanimous qualities. But, the atmosphere of godliness wears thin when his human vulnerability displays such unsavory characteristics as ‘hubris’ and other forms of incivility. Lack of collective commitment, to serve only personal aggrandizement, usually renders the highest universal achievement unaffordable. A complete success would have to entail the fruition of the whole.

One who would be a true leader of a team is he whose exemplary physical and mental composition complies with the exact nature of ‘team spirit.’ He would have to be the embodiment of those qualities that would inspire others to appreciate the intrinsic need for compatibility and cooperation, to achieve a collective goal. 

Some will reap immediately where others have already suffered or sown! AND: as it may appear that one’s finest hour might precipitate, at least, a temporary sense of darkness, so also, the darkest hour simply and inevitably precedes the New-Dawn.

Before fully awakening into the realm of present reality, I remembered the conclusion of that Transcending Day, as it highlighted a victorious new beginning for a Team with which my fondest desire would have conspired to be an integral part – Colt 45s 6, Reds 3.

If you are hanging-on from the lowest rung of a suspended ladder, where else would you go but up? But, more than out of shear necessity, you can climb with joy the ‘heights of mind,’ and rest your volatile emotions, or mutable human circumstances, in the tranquil state of a consistently inspired Dream.

In this, my 73rd year, I look back to 1964. If I knew then what I know now, what might have been?”

IF you would like to read the Book in its entirety, you’ll have to wait for it in its completed, Published form.

Baseball: A Perpetually New Story

 

Baseball: A Perpetually New Story

 

Major-League Baseball will once more be upon us. Spring Training will begin soon, and again will bring with it New Hopes and the resurgence of enthusiasm that stimulates life on the American and International Canvas. The most ardent of baseball fans are looking forward to fulfilling their great expectations with relish, and of course Hot Dogs, Peanuts, Popcorn, and Crackerjacks.Baseball fans 1baseball fans 2baseball fans 3baseball fans 4baseball fans 5

Baseball is truly America’s national pastime. It not only epitomizes the “new-wave” national standard for universal “equality for all”, but characterizes the highest sentiment for democratic reform throughout the world. The indigenous character and homespun heritage of our country’s National Pastime foster the innovative and endearing qualities of America that can transform a competitive world into a peaceful arena willing to incorporate the essence of those qualities into an enduring fabric conducive to all spiritual, mental and physical environments.coaching 8

As we have seen displayed on the Inter-National playing-field, jubilant participants have contributed to a universal camaraderie where the peace of goodness has been applied and appreciated. The Game of Baseball is the ultimate in sports activity! To all participants, players, fans, and officials its unique simplicity conveys a human drama, and then reveals and resolves the complexities that would elicit trauma from mortal life’s uncertain circumstances.  “Could mere human contrivance order such preciseness, from the tri-hedral dimensions of the field of play, to the definitive specifications and range of intricate function for the designated participants?” – Socrates (from Plato and Socrates: Baseball’s Wisest Fans – by John F. Paciorek)

As the world has fast become a theatrical stage for public sentiment to display both outrageous and benevolent characterizations of humanity, a universal demand for the highest possible standard of excellence can be embodied by those who would be model-heroes for aspiring youth. “Conceptions of mortal erring thought must give way to the ideal of all that is perfect and eternal.”coaching 4Coaching 1

As a professional Baseball Player myself, and subsequently a perennial fan and teacher of the “fundamentals”, my thought(s) about the “Game” gradually has been transformed from that of vigorously active participation to vicariously passive appreciation. My life’s purpose is no longer striving to be the greatest athlete, or baseball player, nor is it to fulfill my physical potential. I have simply come to recognize that my sole purpose is to experience “Goodness” and “outrageous Joy”.

So, starting my day from a spiritual basis, I begin looking for and anticipating those human experiences that afford me the opportunity for “Maximum of Good”. Good is God! God is not only good; He is All the Good that is and the Source for all that I can receive and appreciate. The Psalmist states in at least four verses, “Oh, that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” Jesus himself was not only the excellent example of God’s Goodness, his “Gospel” message promoted the “Good News” of Our Source’s ever presence. The ancient Greeks inter-changed the terms excellence and “virtue” to mean the same. And again the Bible describes the “Virtuous Woman” as finding “goodness” in everything she did from morning ‘til night.

Every man’s search for Goodness must begin with himself in God, and vice-versa. In every venue of human life experience can be found opportunities to witness a glory emanating, even gradually, from the prospect of goodness. On the amateur level, parents and other adults support the nurturing cause of developing educational and recreational activities for prospective leaders and rising stars, while appreciating every good or enhanced step along his/her way.Baseball - Jesus

And, we find excellence displayed to the utmost in every venue of the Professional realm. The “maximum of good” is what people pay money in order to vicariously experience the ultimate satisfaction in Sports, Movies, Theatre, Opera, and all other forms of genuine Escapism.

When I go to a Major-League Baseball game, I am expecting to have the experience of witnessing the “maximum of good” that the highest level of the Sport can deliver to my full appreciation. It is a “Spiritual Experience”, at which, and for which I am never disappointed, no matter which team wins. When I go to a Little-League game, I don’t have the same “high-expectation” of “excellent” performance, but I do look for every slight indication of Good’s presence in the intentions, enthusiasm, sportsmanship, and mechanical application of skill of all the participants.pony_baseball_04

Baseball will always be America’s endearing National Pastime to me, for whom the season never ends, even though it is again just beginning.

 

Coming Soon: A New Story Everyday – Baseball’s endearing and enduring Legacy!

 

Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series

Another Reminder of Kirk Gibson’s World Series Heroics – Oct. 15, 1988

When classifying the “Greatest Home-Runs” in Baseball history, the closest that Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series “Bomb” ranks to the top of the analysts’ charts, even by MLB Productions, is 2nd or 3rd, behind Bill Mazeroski’s 1960 “Walk-off”, and/or Bobby Thompson’s 1951 “Shot Heard Round the World,” that gave the Giants the pennant.

Of course the main criteria for evaluating these enduring historical footnotes are still the reminiscence of “that” notorious City-Team rivalry and a purely “Under-Dog” sentimentality (Giants’ 15 games deficit before tying the Dodgers, then winning the pennant; and Pirates’ monstrous negative run differential with the overwhelmingly favorite Yankees).

Now, if that criterion cannot be upgraded eventually by Time and Logistics, then a new category must be conceived in order to pay proper respect for what Kirk Gibson did in 1988 when single-handedly, but surreptitiously, leading the Dodgers to the World Series Title. (Space in this category would also have to be reserved for NFL Football’s 1972 “Immaculate- Reception”, which would probably rank 2nd as the “penultimate” contributor to those “Amazing” performances.)

In order to hit a single home run, so many aspects of a batter’s swing must be aligned to satisfy the anatomical, physiological, and psychological constituencies composing each player, as afforded haphazardly by the “gods of Baseball.” Most athletes, professional and amateur alike, who have legitimately tasted both the “thrill and agony” of most majors sports activities will usually attest to the validity of Ted Williams’ famous yet arguable statement that, “hitting a baseball is the single-most difficult skill to master in all of Sports”.

In an essay I wrote entitled, “Einstein and the Home-Run Principle,” Einstein supersedes the Williams’ statement when he parenthetically observes, “Hitting a Home-run is the most difficult thing to do in all of Sports.” To hit a home run, a batter has to be almost perfect in his application of the “the laws of physics” with regard to the mechanics of swinging a baseball bat with precision and power. To be a consistent home-run hitter the batter must also have an understanding of all the elements that are included in the dynamics of hitting a baseball effectively. Theoretically, it is possible to hit a home run every time a batter swings at a baseball. However, Einstein and others have found through Quantum Mechanics, when trying to establish the essence of matter, that “at the fundamental levels, causation is a matter of statistical probabilities, not certainties.”Therefore, with all the elements and combinations of variables with which a batter has to deal, from within and from without himself, the “uncertainty principle” gives compelling testimony that mastering the “rubik’s cube” of hitting a home-run every time is highly improbable. However, the knowledge itself, of such feasibility, enhances the statistical probability of success.

Not even Albert Einstein and all the renowned physicists of his time, and “saber-metricians” of this modern-era, could have approximated the statistical improbability of what Gibson did on October 15, 1988. The resounding joy that New Yorkers experienced in 1951 and preserved for decades was not altogether incalculable, since Bobby Thompson had not more than 3 days earlier lit up Ralph Branca with a Home Run that presented as an ominous note a precursor of what was to come. And Bill Mazeroski’s feat that ended the 1960 World Series, although dramatic, cannot have been totally unexpected. Pinch hitter, Hal Smith, had earlier hit a 3-run homer to stake the Pirates to a 2-run lead until the Yankees tied the game in the top of the ninth, thus extending the heart-pounding “see-saw” battle. “Maz” was 1 for 3 as he led off the bottom of the ninth. Yankee pitcher, Ralph Terry, made the huge mistake of getting the pitch up to the short but powerfully built Pirate second base-man, who took advantage and slugged the ball over the brick wall 408 feet from Home Plate. It was truly a magnificent and endearing moment for the Pittsburgh community and all Baseball fans outside of the Bronx – worthy indeed of memorial status.

All that being said, encomiums to those two distinct episodes in Baseball lore should pale in comparison to the near “mythical” grandeur that highlighted the glorified instant of Gibson’s exalted “blast”, as well as propagated the ecstatic drama that preceded his culminating heroics. Kirk’s advent into professional baseball is as mysterious as that of the legendary “Roy Hobbs”, without the tragic prelude. Upon completing a successful College football career, it was suggested that he not waste his athletic talent in the “off-season” and play “a little” baseball for his Spartan baseball team at Michigan State University. In that first and only year of College baseball, he played so well (.390 B.A., 16 HRs. 52 RBIs. in 48 games) as to warrant being picked in the first round of the 1978 MLB Draft by the Detroit Tigers. He was with the Tigers for 9 years, and was a key figure in attaining a World Series title in 1984. After being determined as one of the ballplayers being “black-balled” by MLB Franchises in the notorious “Collusion Scandal” of 1987, he left the A.L. Tigers and in January  joined the Hapless Dodgers of the National League, whose dismal ‘87 season needed something of a “Hobbsian” spark to generate new life into a ball-club in disarray.

At Spring Training a few opportunities presented themselves early in Camp to set the stage for an immediate change of direction in Team attitude and focus that would eventually lead the march to a much improved status and uncontested standing in the National League West to win the Division by 7 games.  Frivolity and practical jokes took a back seat to Kirk’s ultra-professional and business-like mentality, and the team flourished from beginning ‘till the season ended. His season ending stats earned him National League MVP honors while helping the Dodgers win 21 more games than the season before. But it was his uncommon “personal-leadership” and otherwise intangible, undaunted presence that invoked the “mythical hero” image his teammates and adversaries had learned to admire and would attempt to emulate. In the NLCS, although injured, Kirk still performed heroically in clutch situations, and his timely home runs in the 4th and 5th games clinched the National League Pennant, and advanced the Dodgers into an improbable World Series entitlement.

Kirk purportedly had done all he could to get the Dodgers to that World Series, but “they” were presumably going to have to get to the “Promised Land” without him, for the injuries he incurred along the way were too severe for any “mortal” to overcome and give a last ditch effort. All the world would have accredited the Dodgers with a valiant effort for just making it to the “Final” Series because everyone knew that even with Gibson, there was slim if any chance for them to beat the powerful  Oakland Athletics, whose superior arsenal of player personnel had amassed an incredible record of 104 wins to 58 losses. And even with Kirk’s Premier status with the “baseball gods,” the “Arrogant- As” knew that “one player does not a team make”.

With Gibson being an “absolute” scratch from the line-up (he wasn’t even at the pre-game introductions ceremony), the first game of the Series began unexpectedly with a first inning 2-run homer by Dodger, Mickey Hatcher. The “As” came back with 4 runs in the top of the 2nd,  and held a 2 run lead until the Dodgers scored again in the 6th. The game remained at 4 to 3, Oakland leading in the bottom of the 9th.

Throughout the game, there were brief TV glimpses of Kirk Gibson hobbling around in the dug-out as he was traversing the distance from the training room and back, trying to massage and loosen his painful joints and hamstrings. Ever-optimistic, Tommy Lasorda seemed to be coaxing his beleaguered star, to see if any type of “miracle” was in the offing. Vince Scully repeatedly commented that there was “absolutely” no chance of Gibson making an official appearance. With T.V. and radio broadcasts coming into the locker room, Gibson heard one of Scully’s commentaries as if providence were beckoning for him to consider an alternative thought. In sudden contemplation of all that was transpiring before him, Kirk realized an inexplicable surge of unwarranted confidence streaming through his consciousness. As in a biblical reference to Jacob wrestling with the “man” inside, Kirk’s vision of Princely accommodation could not be suppressed. The decision was made; his mind was determined; “the die was cast”; but only the portentous action itself was forestalled. “Will I look like and be a fool? What in hell could I possibly do? I can’t even walk! What or Who do I think I am?” would have been the common queries instigated by mortal fear that must be wrested away from that mind intent on fulfilling a noble purpose.

After Dodger pitching blanked the Athletics in the top of the ninth, the otherwise stalwart performance of Oakland Pitcher, Dave Steward, ended when statistically prudent “As” manager, Tony LaRussa replaced his Starter with the League’s Premier “closer,” Dennis Eckersley. It looked like a sure win for Oakland, since “Eck” was destined to face the bottom of the Dodger line-up (though somewhat of an ominous sign, in hind-sight). Eckersley got the first two outs in rapid succession, and was about to face a formidable, former teammate who was set to pinch-hit for the 8th batter in the line-up.

Meanwhile, in the Dodger dug-out, Lasorda learned that Gibson had begun a personalized mental and physical rehabilitation process, which immediately spurred Tommy’s ever-percolating mind to envision a preemptive scenario of his own. After appointing Mike Davis to pinch hit for Alfredo Griffin, he surreptitiously placed Dave Anderson in the on-deck circle, to make Eckersley and LaRussa think that they could afford to be a little cautious with Davis (a potential threat) and contemplate the “end” by pitching to the very weak-hitting Anderson.

All potentially constructive Dodger strategy lay in the proposition that Gibson regain a semblance of his former self. Yet, even if he could overcome the acute pain and obvious debility, what could he hope to achieve in this debilitative condition?  Bob Costas would later remark that while he was in the stairwell of the Dodger dug-out, he could hear the groaning, anguishing strokes of a batter  desperately trying to ready himself for one last at-bat, even “one last-swing”, while teammate Orel Hershiser was feeding baseballs onto the tee for Gibson’s convenience. Although most of his teammates must have sensed the futility of Kirk’s somewhat contrived heroism, they probably also could not have expected anything less from “the man” who had proven himself so many times before. They all must have thought the “good-prospect” all but possible, however their past experience would at least warrant a “statistically” derived- at chance of success. “YOU’VE GOT TO BELIEVE” would have been the genuine inspirational sentiment pouring into the ears of the players from the mouth and heart of Tommy Lasorda and the Great Dodger in the Sky.

Kirk is now sitting at the end of the dugout bench, fully dressed, and armed with helmet and “hickory,” speculating the purview the situation has presented. “I have inspiration and commitment to do something, but what, and how far can my own determination carry me? Will Davis get on base to set up my ‘grand entrance,’ and what emotion will the fans exude? And will it give me that final burst of adrenaline to be propelled to heights previously unknown?”

Gibson was afforded no additional time to mentally peruse the circumstances of the present situation, for Eckersley just walked Mike Davis. Taking a deep yet unstrained breath, Kirk’s electrifying and confident image popped onto the top step, then out of the dugout to the thunderous roar of the now ecstatic and frenzied crowd.

“That’s what I wanted to hear,” thought Gibson, as he must have restrained the urge to shed at least a tributary tear of ineffable joy he and his patrons could feel in this present moment of triumphal hope.  Lasorda’s unending chants of “new promise” inspired his Team and the Dodger Faithful to loftier heights of exaltation, as Kirk finished his preliminary swings. His slow, deliberate, but majestic walk to the plate must have been a nerve-wrenching ordeal for the Oakland pitcher, even though he exuded a confidence rather than impatience to get the game over.

One could only speculate as to what order of thoughts must have been aligning themselves in Gibson’s mind as his footsteps proceeded into that rarefied cubicle of variable distinction. Before assuming his characteristically “Spartan” batting-stance, his back cleat scratched the hardened dirt for a foothold to secure a base from which his afflicted body might launch its purposeful attack. He was finally ready, and none too soon for the exasperated Eckersley, who let his arm commence with the business at hand, firing a blazing, side-arm, tailing fastball, for which Gibson must have felt a tad unprepared. All observers couldn’t help but notice the constrained, oblique wrenching, late response Gibson’s off-balanced body and bat conveyed as it almost completely missed the ball. The second pitch gave the same explicit message, and the fans as well as Eckersley himself must have sensed that “the Gibber” was no match for the “Eck.” Kirk was behind 0 and 2 in what seemed like a “heart-beat,” and Dennis was determined to finish him off on the next pitch.

Eckersley’s disdain for Gibson’s futile attempts was obvious as he was about to throw another fast ball, same speed, to the same spot (away). The fact that Kirk looked bad, but progressively better on each swing did not escape Eckersley discerning eye. Gibson knew that his body needed only a short quick turn, but even that was too slow to get his arms activated. On that third fast-ball, Kirk was prepared to shorten the turn and throw his arms and hands more quickly. The result was a swing with little power, as his arms and hands were too far out in front and his wrists rolled over way too soon. He was grateful that he even made contact for an otherwise worthless dribbler that forced him to run toward first before the ball fortuitously struck the edge of the infield grass and abruptly darted foul, thus extending his at-bat. (That had to hurt!)

After his first pitch to Gibson, it became obvious to Eckersley, as well as the “brain-trusts” in both dugouts, that Kirk was not the optimum threat for which everyone fancifully hoped or cautiously suspected. But he was quickly portending to be a formidable adversary, even in his seemingly “powerless” condition. “Eck” recognized that with all the pitches Gibson was subtly calculating, making superficial contact with every one, it might only be a matter of time before he can put one in play, perhaps to the detriment of Oakland. Therefore, he can’t let Davis steal second base. Before his second and third pitches he made 3 throws to keep Davis close. With 2 strikes on Gibson, the Dodgers might be desperate. His 4th pitch was a ball outside, going a little farther to see if Kirk would bite beyond the fringe. He didn’t. Since “Eck” didn’t throw over before the 4th pitch, Davis attempted a steal on the 5th. Gibson had his best swing yet, but fouled it back. Eckersley didn’t think Davis would steal on consecutive pitches, and he was correct, but threw “Ball 2” in the process.  Before his 7th pitch, he threw to first base again. But on the pitch to Gibson, the ball was further outside, and Davis successfully stole second base, much to the consternation of LaRussa, Eckersley, and the “As” dugout as the count rose to 3 and 2.

The situation had not developed the way Eckersley intended. Gibson’s impotent yet “frisky” at-bat posed a conundrum whose immediate solution never materialized. So there was only one direction in which to go! As Dennis Eckersley was truly an adroit “student of the game,” he, like the many who had come before him, usually observed Masterful Warren Spawn’s advice when administering to their trade: “It is the batter’s duty to have good timing and rhythm to perform effectively, while it is the pitcher’s duty to off-set that rhythm and timing with variable speeds and placement of pitches.”

As for Gibson the batter, he had neither rhythm nor timing when he came to the plate. But through the course of his gauntlet-like “trial-by-pitch” he had developed both to a rather insignificant level. Now, it was thought by “Eck,” to end this dilemma. He knew what he had to do. He’d done it before, with great success. And he will do it, NOW! The Game wasn’t necessarily on the line, if his strategy failed. Gibson would walk, and the Dodgers would still have a runner in scoring position, presenting merely a secondary condition that would quickly be dismissed. But “Eck” was confident, he could not fail. “This is absolutely the ‘last hand’.

All the “Cards” being dealt, Eckersley landed (in Poker parlance) a 4th Ace, while Kirk had a pair of Jacks and the 7, 8, 9 of Clubs. Kirk could have kept the pair and thrown the other 3 away, but instead threw the Jack of Hearts. The statistical probability for Eckersley’s success was astronomical! Kirk Gibson seemed to have been abandoned by the “gods” and his mythological legend was about to become irreparable.  The most he could hope for was simply a mimesis of that “Luis Gonzalez” swing, and flare a base hit that might tie the game. But in Eckersley’s mind, a game-ending out is all Gibson’s “gunna” get!

There’s the tying run on second base. Eckersley is in his “stretch.” The count is 3 and 2. “Eck” is about to deliver the most potent pitch in his repertoire. The Dodger dugout is ecstatic. Now, with the fleet-footed Davis in scoring position, a base-hit would tie the game, and that is all and the best they could expect from their forlorn hero. But Eckersley had other plans! And, what was Gibson himself thinking?

Just before Eckersley was to deliver his “secret” pitch, Kirk abruptly stepped out of the batter’s box, as if to regain his composure in this momentous circumstance. But, in that instant, a higher source seemed to beckon him to recall an otherwise innocuous fact that Kirk had read on a report prepared by an astute and meticulous “scout” before the playoffs began. After pondering the present situation, all statistical possibilities seemed to be aligned in a favorable position. And the curtain was about to fall with a dramatic conclusion on one of these conquering heroes, each with his own weapon of invincibility in hand (Reminiscent of the final poker-hand in the movie, “The Cincinnati Kid”). But which will project the image of “The Man”?

Kirk looked toward the mound, then stepped into the “Box,” knowing he had all the information he needed (his final card was dealt). But is his faith in his belief strong enough; and will his mind’s commitment to act unflinchingly, in spite of his apparent bodily condition, enable his warrior-heart? 55,000 spectators are about to find out as well.

Neither antagonist is smiling but each exudes an indefinable confidence, even while knowing well that “one will die today.” Eckersley takes his stretch and prepares his “Load” for delivery. Gibson makes a final but ominous mental query designating his unquestioning tact as “the die is cast” once more, “Sure as I’m standing here, partner,  you’re going to throw me that “back-door” slider, aren’t you?”

As the pitch leaves his hand, Eckersley recognizes the ball’s trajectory to be perfect, right where he wanted it. With all the pitches he had thrown, he knew Gibson would see the ball moving directly toward the outside. He also thought Gibson’s quick sense would assume that since his side-armed fast ball “tails,” the pitch’s destination would obviously move farther outside for a ball. He was expecting Kirk to momentarily relax, and not have enough time to respond to the pitch’s abrupt deviation of speed and direction, until it was too late – The “Aces” were “face-up”!

“Sure enough,” realized Kirk, upon first glance! His “absolute faith,” and patience allow him to wait. He’s not yet lifted his front foot as he did previously while expecting Eckersley’s fast ball. An extra nanosecond of Time is in his favor. “Now, all I have to do is get my timing right, to be able to explode at the precise moment!” In his extremely “closed-stance,” as he discerned the ball’s outside trajectory, he waited until he could detect its subtle and abrupt turn toward him. Then his front foot exaggerated its deliberate stride toward third base, as his body was “gathering” its forces to uncoil as his foot would plant into the ground.

Eckersley couldn’t help but notice that Gibson’s physical demeanor was uncommonly composed as he unobtrusively glided in the direction from which the ball was finally descending (as if he knew what was coming). “Eck” saw Kirk’s foot plant, his body uncoil, his arms extend, and in a final explosive lunge of shoulders, hands, and wrists, observed the bat contact the ball with an uncanny perfect synergy that launched the round projectile with improbable force in the opposite direction from which it came.

dennis&Kirk

With all spectators and both dugouts watching in apparent disbelief, the ball kept rising and carrying farther and farther in its ellipticity until it finally disappeared over the right-field wall, as Kirk’s final card resoundingly struck the table as a 10 of Clubs – and a “Straight Flush.” Throughout the day not a hint of joy was expressive of the face of Kirk Gibson, only a stoic facade hiding pain, disappointment, resentment, and disdain for his helpless and impotent condition. As the follow-through of his celestial swing of bat was complete, and he cautiously embarked on an unrehearsed, and as yet undefined, trek, an observer could detect a gradual change in facial disposition. The remorseful look of indifference was suddenly transforming into a heavily distinguishable canvas of ecstatic jubilation. And in a moment of triumphant glory he pumped his bent right arm in kirk gibson3successive punches along the side of his beleaguered body after the subjugated leather-bound projectile did indeed traverse the height of the outfield fence for an uncontested, historic “masterstroke” (Tour De Force) of amazing ramifications, the conclusion of which would be directly revealed.

The instant of evidentiary proof of Gibson’s success immediately transformed the hopeful yet solemnly-cautious dispositions of Dodger fans and Teammates (who hadn’t really believed in “Santa Clause”) into genuinely faith-filled followers who, at that “holy instant,” probably could have moved a mountain or two. The dug-out Dodgers were streaming out onto the field, arms flaying and voices shouting “Hallelujah” (from the roof-tops) to their “resurrected “messiah” as he buoyantly circumnavigated the bases in all but reconstructed, glorified form.

Gibson2

His amazing feat did provide a Home Run of incomparable distinction. And it did win that First Game of the “Series,” in abrupt and miraculous fashion. But the intangible essence of that single act of unfathomable “Heroism” also unlocked a momentarily imprisoned spirit of Team unity that suddenly “empowered” the Dodgers to claim the 1988 World Series Title, even without Kirk playing another moment of any of the remaining 4 games. Kirk Gibson’s Home Run was truly the “single-most amazing performance piece in Sports history.”

 

Postscript:

As unlikely as Kirk Gibson’s conquest was, at that momentous October event, what more climactic expression of exaltation could be spontaneously delivered than that spoken by Baseball’s “immortal bard,” Vin Scully, when he exclaimed, as Kirk was rounding the bases, “In a year that has been so ‘improbable,’ the ‘Impossible’ has occurred.” Truer words were never spoken. No one in the world could have expected Gibson’s humble yet triumphal salute, “I came; I saw; I conquered!” And for the last 29 years, legions of followers have echoed the words of another prominent and renowned sportscaster (Joe Buck) as he commented repeatedly, in breathless exuberance, “I DON’T BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAW! I DON’T BELIEVE… WHAT I JUST SAW”! Nothing in Sports History can equate to Kirk Gibson’s “improbable” and “impossible” act of courage and accomplishment. The only historical event that would have shared in equipollence would have been “The Battle of Thermopylae,” if this Spartan warrior had been there to defeat the Persians.

Titanic Misunderstanding!

Quick Hands did not Sink the Titanic!TedWilliamsShortSwing3

The underlying power of some obvious force is not always evident from the perception of the physical senses. Casual or ignorant observers of sports activities such as boxing, and baseball describe the best of those athletes as having incredibly “quick hands.” These same observers would attest to the greatness of a Nolan Ryan fastball by saying that he had a great arm. The truth to these matters is the same as the scientific fact that the visible portion of the iceberg could not have supplied the power that devastated the ill-informed/prepared luxury-liner, Titanic.Titanic6Titanic3

The power behind the 1/10th of visible iceberg Titanic2was the enormous 9/10ths mass that lay below the water’s surface.Titanic4

The power behind Mike Tyson’s fist while dispensing a quick “right cross,” emanates from the tidal wave of force that is supplied by his body. mike-tyson-2The arm that elicited the force of a Nolan Ryan fastball had only a fraction of the power that the coordinated action of the rest of his body supplied. NolanRyan 16NolanRyan 13nolan-ryan 15And the ultimate strength and speed of a batter’s swing is determined by more than the quickness of his hands or wrists.TedWilliamsShortSwing2Barry&Ted

If you are riding on a motor-cycle that is travelling at 100 MPH, and you are merely holding a baseball in your hand, then you simply drop the baseball from your hand, at what speed  does the ball travel as it leaves your hand? If you say 100 MPH, you are beginning to understand from where the ultimate power comes when a ball is batted or thrown by a player.

The two major components for demonstrating the prowess of a Professional Baseball player are batting and throwing. Does the power of the batting swing come from the isolated movement and personal strength of the players’ hands? Or does it come from the rapid and controlled rotary transfer of weight that occurs after the front foot plants and the front knee begins straightening diagonally to help force the front hip backwards, to allow the back hip to move quickly forward, with a turning bent back leg?Barry&Ted

These actions lead the upper body into an orderly series of movements that precipitate a power surge directing the bat into the ball. The front knee straightens diagonally, and the back bent-knee rotates forward and downward on a pivoting back foot (specifically the outside of Big Toe).

The front shoulder shrugs upward and back, and accentuates the downward and forward action of the back shoulder. The lowered back shoulder facilitates a natural flattening of the bat as it begins its approach to the striking area.

Before the body-weight transfer begins, as the ball is leaving the pitcher’s hand, the body starts to “gather”(brace itself). The front shoulder turns inward (just under the side of the chin), the knees stabilize, and the hands move slightly beyond the breadth of the back shoulder.

The entire body anxiously awaits the precise instant to attack the ball as it enters the “Zone.” The “gathering” occurs at a slow steady pace to facilitate momentum for the quickest possible response at the moment of “weight-transfer.”

At that moment, when the shoulder shrugs, the hands and bat are slanting, in order to quickly level the bat to the plane of the ball and provide substantial range for making contact. The turning body provides a centrifugal force to allow the front arm momentum to easily snap to extension as the bent back arm is starting its drive to fully extend itself and its “palmated” hand (palm up) through the contact-point.

At the “snap” of the front elbow, the medial side of its upper arm is flush against its corresponding breast as contact is made with the ball. This assures that the power transfer from bat to ball is occurring within the confines of the main power source, the body. If the contact is made with front arm separated from the body, the power will be diffused. It should be obvious that the arm(s), acting independently from the body, has a diminished capacity for supplying power.

It is common to evaluate a player’s throwing ability by saying, “…he/she has a strong or weak arm.” It is incorrect, though, to assume that the power of the throw is determined by the strength of the arm. The main power source for throwing is the “Body.”

The arm provides only a fraction of the power. From the coordinated precision of the movement from the feet to legs, to hips, to torso, to shoulders, to arm(s), wrist, hand, and fingers is the ultimate power registered in the “perfect throw.” Obviously, the player with the stronger body and arm, who applies the perfect mechanics, will be more effective than would be a weaker player.

Also, not generally observed is the fact that in throwing “anything” effectively, a principle law of physics always comes into play, namely, “…every action has an opposite and equal reaction.” If a player is right-handed, to be totally effective, he must use the left side of his body with the same intensity as he does the right while performing the throw. Tanaka 4Tananka 10This application is analogous to that which a Karate Master invokes to maximize the power of a “strike” or “punch.” The force exerted backward by the front side of the body not only accentuates the forward movement of the back side but magnifies it, adding considerable power to the throw.

The stronger the body, the greater the possibility for a strong throw, as long as the application of the proper mechanics for movement of shoulder(s) and arm come into playKimbrel 4kimbrel 3Kimbrel 2Kimbrel 1Randy J.3. Unfortunately, the stronger the body the greater the opportunity for injury to the shoulder and arm, if the application of proper mechanics is not enforcedd.dreifort 7d.dreifort 8. If the power generated by the body is complete, the torque action of the twisting hips and torso could be too great for a shoulder and arm ill-prepared to deliver the final dimension of the throw. If the shoulder is not locked into a position of stability to launch the (bent) arm, and that (5-ounce) ball forward at the precise time, the strain of having transported the spherical object from the point of origin to destination could have a deleterious effect on the accompanying extremities.

The weight of a 5-ounce object doesn’t seem like it should have any major affect on the throwing apparatus of a strong, well-conditioned athlete. But if you think about the strain one feels in his shoulders while extending his arms outwardly, away from the body, and sustaining that position for a period of time, you could see how any additional weight would accentuate the strain.

Even more stress would be added if you realize the extra force exerted on “those joints” by the weight of the moving arm and ball. “The farther away the ball moves from the body as the arm is preparing to throw, the heavier the weight will be to the strain of the shoulder (and elbow).” Roy_Halladay1Roy_Halladay2As the ball is being prepared for its launch from the thrower’s hand, it should remain as close as possible to the “Body-Proper” while the arm is “whipping” itself to the forward thrusting position.Tanaka 12Tanaka 2Randy J 15

It has been accurately stated that the best of throwers has an arm delivery of the ball that resembles the action of a fast moving whip. To acquire the “correct” type of “whip-action” arm movement, the thrower must proceed with the following arm sequence after the ball is taken out of the glove (presuming the arm is in a bent position as the hand and ball come out of the glove).

The back of the shoulder (posterior deltoid muscle, specifically) brings the hand and ball from the glove, prominently displaying the bent elbow with the hand and ball apparently hanging below, next to the back hip. (Incidentally, the thrower’s position at this point looks similar to that of a person holding a bucket of water by the handle and has just lifted it upward along the side of his body.)

As the thrower’s body moves sideways toward the “target,” and the front foot plants (toes pointed to-ward the target), the hips and torso begin to turn with the backward thrust of the straightening front leg.  The backside (hip and torso) gains momentum from the pull of the back knee, while the back foot is pivoting, off the outside of the big toe (same as in hitting).

The throwing shoulder quickly rotates outwardly to force its bent arm to bring the hand and ball upward, slightly above the shoulder. At this point the muscles of the outwardly rotated shoulder contract forwardly (without hesitation) along with those of the entire upper body. As the shoulder thrust is completing its full range of motion, the arm quickly extends forwardly and the wrist snaps the fingers through the center of the ball (fingers straight, perpendicular to the ground) at the point just before release.

The coordinated action of the entire body (right and left sides) provides the power for the correct arm movements to occur rapidly (and safely), and thus sustain a whip-like action to move through the “throw” like a wave of tremendous force.

Mark McGwire 3Mark McGwire 2 The same is true in Batting!

Inertia: Power from the Back of the Bus

force

(This article and the one following will elaborate on my previous 5 Posts)

Most elementary Science teachers will begin their instruction on the study of inertia with the application of its principle along with a frame of reference relative to the Newtonian laws of motion. Simply stated, inertia is the tendency of a body at rest, or in motion, to remain in that state unless acted upon by an external force. The common imagery used by teachers is that of a bus colliding head-on with an immovable object. If the bus is travelling at a speed of 100 MPH, and the object hit is truly immoveable, then the entire contents (unless securely fastened) at the back of the bus will explode forward at the speed of 100 MPH. Newton’s third law of motion helps to enhance the imagery by understanding that, “every action has an opposite and equal reaction”.

The principles governing the aforementioned laws have their applications in various aspects of our National Pastime. A casual observer would be hard pressed to notice the specific application of Physics in correlation to the areas of fielding and running, although we all know they are there. But with regard to batting and throwing, everyone has at least an inkling of an understanding that proper mechanical application of the subtle laws of physics has afforded certain individuals uncommon advantage over their less astute peers.
Raw strength is usually a great advantage one has over a player with noticeably less power. When both are equally adept in mechanical technique, then the stronger will always have the upper-hand. But if the less strong player has better mechanics, he is usually the more proficient batsman, even with regard to hitting for distance. Look at Joe Morgan, Ted Williams and Stan Musial compared to larger, more muscular players.Joe Morgan 2williams.batWeight-training1
There are many facets to consider when establishing the proper mechanics for batting and throwing, but this essay will consider only how the “inertial principle” is applied, relative to the size and strength of individuals throwing and hitting a baseball. The forward movements of the bus and the body are not identical, but their accommodation to the Physics principle is similar enough to be of practical import. To be remembered is the additional fact that if the object struck by the bus is not totally immoveable, the degree to which the impact is defused will determine the actual speed of the objects thrown forward inside the bus ( if not securely fastened).
Newton’s equation, F=ma, is described as, the Force unleashed is equal to the mass (size, weight, and strength) times the speed of acceleration of the moving object. Therefore a bus and a motor-cycle hitting an immoveable object will not have the same force of impact. However, a rider on a motor-cycle and a rider on top of a bus, each travelling at a speed of 100 MPH, and each having a baseball in hand, toss the balls forward at 5 MPH. Both balls would travel at a speed 105 MPH.
So, how does a human-body generate the amount of force that is equal to the body’s mass times acceleration (F=ma) to throw and hit a baseball with maximum power?
In Baseball it is not uncommon to see a “little-guy” throw and hit a baseball as hard as does the “big-guy”. Although the “big-guy” might have more size and weight, he might not generate the same speed of acceleration as the “little-guy”. But in cases where the “big-guy” generates the same, or greater speed, the Force becomes uncontestable, and incomparable (Bo Jackson and Mark McQwire).Ossie Smith 1Bo Jackson 2Albert Pujols 15Cincinnati Reds v Houston Astros
Although the speed of a thrown ball is important at all positions on the field, we will place maximum attention on the pitcher. Except for situations when a runner is on base, the pitcher can take his time and build increasing momentum before coming to the point where his front foot will plant firmly into the ground to form “the immoveable” foundation, from which the entire back-side of his body will be catapulted forward with tremendous force. The extent to which that foot secures the ground while the strength and speed with which the quadriceps muscle of its upper thigh contracts to straighten the entire leg and brace the hip-joint around which the back-side rotates to a frontal position before catapulting forward, determines the initial surge of force from the lower body.NolanRyan 13nolan-ryan 5Tanaka 22Billy_wagner 9Billy W.13
The instant before the front leg is completely straightened, the upper body is arched back and squared to the target while the throwing shoulder and arm are prepared to launch the ball. At that point, the front foot and leg exert their final burst of power, sending the backward arched torso into an explosive forward tumbling action which in turn catapults the outwardly rotated shoulder and corresponding bent arm to deliver the pitched ball with maximum force. If the entire throwing apparatus is precise, and throwing “mechanics” are applied correctly, but the front foot plant is not presented as “immoveable”, but gives way, then the amount of Force to be generated is compromised and cannot attain “maximum” utility.
With regard to Hitting with power, the same principle is involved, the front-foot plant. But the big difference is in the manner in which the second surge of power is administered. During the first stage, the front foot secures the ground (foot pointed 120 degrees to the pitcher-to reduce ankle or knee sprain), with knee slightly bent. The back bent-leg and the front leg work synergistically at this point to induce a rapid turnstile hip-action that concludes with the front leg straightening forcefully as the back bent-knee provides the forward momentum of its backside by the contractual pulling of the groin and “butt” muscles.BarryBonds_bat flatBarry Bonds 42001-10-05-bonds homerun-follow throughC.Davis 6Chris Davis 2
While the front leg is in the process of straightening, the second phase of power has begun with the twisting-torque action of the “Oblique” core-group of muscles as well the entire lower torso. As the shoulders and upper torso are concluding the swing and the bat is ready to contact the ball, the front leg has completely straightened, providing that “immoveable” barrier from which the entire back-side has provided maximum force with which the bat can make contact with the ball.
 The front foot secures the ground with such force from the straightening front leg that the front hip is being forced open as the back hip is driven forward with equipollence by the aid of a forward driving back bent-knee. If performed properly, the vertical axis of spine and upper body remains constant while the hips are rotating along a consistent horizontal plane. The angle formed, by a diagonal front leg and an upper body and head, as the swing is commencing and concluding is usually not less than 180 degrees.
The “turnstile” action of the batter’s swing allows the vertical axis of the body to remain intact, which facilitates the least amount of head movement. The less head movement, the better the batter can detect the nuances of the speeding ball!
Mark McGwire 6Mark McGwire 5
A 450-foot drive, off a well-attuned swing from Mark McGwire, or any good power-hitter, gives reason to applaud a magnificent stroke. But, how is it that they sometimes hit a prodigious “shot” of 500 feet or more? When you really live up to that favorite expression of batters, “I got it all”, your bat made contact with the ball while the body was turning through the swing with the vertical axis intact!  The centripetal force provided by the stable position of the vertical axis produces the powerful centrifugal force, which magnifies the power elicited by the turning hips and shoulders. All of this is predicated on the “front-foot plant” that provides the “immoveable wall” from which all the power is transferred from the “back of the Bus”.
Anecdotal Notes:
1.      The Best, and most consistent, means for applying the “front foot plant” is for the batter to refrain from taking a stride. Simply, but forcefully, apply quick and powerful pressure to the front foot and leg to initiate the swing – Least margin for error.
2.      Those batters who incorrectly assume that they need a stride, or high knee kick to initiate their swings will unwittingly compromise the proficiency of their foot plants when good pitchers easily offset their timing with off-speed pitches – greater  margin for  error.
Coming Soon: Quick Hands did not Sink the Titanic!