Monthly Archives: October 2013

Teamwork: Who wants it – Who needs it?

In my Book, Plato and Socrates: Baseball’s Wisest Fans, the two enigmatic ancient Greek philosophers ponder the many elements that make Baseball their favorite Pastime, but also thoughtfully point out ways in which it could be even better. The following is the final chapter of the Book.

Socrates and Plato


Chapter 12

The Deed is Done!

“Socrates, what is your perspective on the prospect of resolving the apparent conflicts which seem to have prevailed since Baseball’s inception? Beneath the evolution of its undisturbed periphery, deep questions of impropriety have gone virtually undetected, or unacknowledged, by a complacent ‘unexamined’ mentality!”

Socrates pauses to consider Plato’s question and exclamation, then remarks, “There does not seem to be an adequate sense of ‘teamwork,’ the very essence marking the intricate design of the ‘Activity’ itself, between all parties involved in the network of organizational integration.” To which, Plato responds with lamentable refrain, “If mankind could get by without ‘teamwork,’ very few would concede an actual desire to depend upon others for any part of their livelihood or existence. Independence and individuality seem inherently at odds with the concepts of mutual acceptance of and tolerance for one another’s human pre-dispositions.”

Socrates tempers Plato’s lamentation with, “However, the climb of civilization out of the miry depths of chaos into its current state of universal integration was predicated on man’s ability to function as co-inhabitants and world-wide ‘team players’.”

“Certainly those individuals who participate in team sports are considered prime prospects for espousing the concept of working together for a common good,” affirms Plato. “Teamwork in sports can be construed as a strategy by which team members try to unify their individual efforts to promote a higher and collective goal of winning a particular prize that all players must share,” he confirms.

Socrates adds that, “The real essence of teamwork is a factor of compatibility from which an apparent challenging situation may gain a solution through cooperative endeavor. Compatibility is a substantive alliance between two or more distinct entities to promote harmony. Cooperation is the only feasible means to procure and establish an effective sense of Teamwork! Uncooperative participants are incompatible with the high goal of achieving a unified sense of teamwork. Inability to cooperate with high moral and ethical standards and practices would jeopardize the foundational structure of the ‘Team’.”

“It seems you’ve remembered one of the main tenets of my major written works,” Plato accepts as flattery. “As certainly as universal harmony would be an aspiring goal of world-wide teamwork, so it could be instigated by the examples set at any of the simple and modest levels of current athletic competition by the participants whose minds are set for such an ambitious endeavor,” he eloquently completed.

So, the newly formed co-op for ‘conflict resolution’ begins another search, a tangent to the other but destined eventually to coincide with the original. “Let us be creative and think about what it would take to establish a team of such remarkably cooperative individuals that the spirit of love, camaraderie, and success, would no doubt permeate the entire environment and eliminate any hostile element of personal or communal dissent,” encourages Socrates.

Plato responds, as would any enthusiastic student, to an intriguing enterprise, “Let’s see! What would it take to begin such a revolutionary entrepreneurial venture? Would it not first take the philanthropic concern of an enterprising executive(s) (owners) whose love of the game supersedes the traditional ‘bottom-line’ mentality of most ‘Entertainment Czars’?”

Socrates mentally recalls the recent acquisition of a prominent Team in Los Angeles with just those very promising credentials, as he interjects, “This unusual breed of ‘Benevolent Benefactor’ (reflective of your own Philosopher King, or statesmen), would he not have to be a multi-billionaire whose livelihood didn’t depend upon receipts garnered at the turnstiles?” “Or, he’d have to be a person of enormous faith in the other-worldly, intangible concept of ‘… what blesses one, blesses all, and vice-versa,’ as posited by our beloved metaphysical colleague, M.B.E.,” proposed Plato, without an iota of cynicism!

“His investment would be based completely on the sound and unwavering belief that ‘Good’ is the source and emanation of an honorable and worthwhile endeavor– the ‘seed within itself’,” as Plato recalled of a scripture. “His intent would have to embody the thinking of our nineteenth century visionary whose every project enlisted the contemplation of her original textbook words, ‘… right motives give pinions to thought and strength and freedom to speech and action’,” insisted Socrates.

“So these prospective ‘Men-of-Vision’ might first want to set their sights on providing to ‘the community’ a team of ballplayers that works its ‘Magic’ with exemplary character and athletic abilities that would instill pride and comfort, on and off the ball field, into the hearts and minds of its adoring fans,” Plato envisioned aloud.

“Secondly, the General Managerial position, Field Manager, Farm-Director, and other administrative assistants would have to incorporate the astute personnel-profiling tools that would enlist only those individuals whose aims and goals were compatible with those of the administrative web (not hierarchy), and whose athletic talents warranted their being part of the big-league ‘Team’,” Socrates continued after hopeful reverie.

“Thirdly,” promoted Plato, “since selfishness, greed, and flagrant unseemly behavior on and off the field are counter-productive to meritorious service and community well being, ball-players should be drafted, chosen, or solicited first on the basis of their character, then on athletic ability.” “Would not this standard almost seem too radical for contemporary agencies for scouting talent,” queries Socrates? “However, character-building credentials could easily translate to skill development, if the instructional aspect of the Organization is under the supervision of an administrator with impeccable understanding of the mechanical principles applicable to the ‘game,’ like our JFP, or another of such qualifications”, reminds Plato. “Is there anyone else with such a credential,” asks Socrates, incredulously?

“So! Since optimal physical skills would not be essential at first, and strong moral and ethical character would be a ‘must,’ the rationale for this revolutionary presumption is that, since (righteous) thought precedes (controlled) action, technique for superlative functioning is easier taught to one with a sound and principled work ethic,” Plato paraphrases JFP.

“It would seem that Team Unity in a professional sports Organization must incorporate a mutually caring and considerate relationship between the players and the assistant-administrative personnel, and the executive administrators, not unlike the supportive sentiments in the Republic, and Laws, as proposed by a renowned contemporary of my own,” quips Socrates admiringly at his flushing protégé!

Plato, graciously accepting his patron’s acclamations, submits, “Each entity has at least an indirect influence on the success and well-being of the others. However the executive branch of the Organization wishes to handle the varying accommodations, acknowledgment of this subtle fact must always be under consideration, namely, ‘You are only as strong as your weakest link’.”

Socrates then makes a casual biblical reference to a man named Paul whose certain epistles confirm that not a single part of the body should be taken for granted, abused, or in anyway not cared for as the rest, even those commonly considered inferior or less honorable. One verse, states, “…if the foot shall say, because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? The head cannot say of the feet, I have no need of thee.” “The man is well acclaimed and note-worthy in all his discourses,’ assures Plato!

Plato continues, “The Web of organizational tactics, discipline, and dissimulation should start from the center where the executive offices feed outwardly in concentric order to those who carry out essential duties according to their respective positions within the network. The ball-players hold the most enviable position at the peripheral end of the web, where most attention is paid by outside observers. The glamour aspect of professional sports is augmented by the high-profile notoriety of prominent personalities and the extreme celebrity status of ‘star’ performers.”

Socrates quickly asserts, “Although an individual’s monetary worth should be commensurate to the actual relative value he provides to the team, no one should be paid such an exorbitant amount so as to create an unnecessary dissention among personnel of slightly inferior ability. One player does not a team make.” To which Plato postfixes, “And, with regard to the wisdom elicited by the rhetoric of JFP, I conclude, ‘once it is established that the secret of success (even in Baseball) is not predicated on the predisposed, abundant abilities of the so-called ‘natural-ballplayer,’ but in learned and assimilated techniques taught to those receptive and humble minds willing to expand current horizons, public scrutiny will no longer have to cater to the egotistical whims of selfish non-compliant players, and ego-centric lives of arrogant ‘glory-hounds’.”

And in summation, Socrates dispenses an anecdotal resolution to this depiction of a great ideal gone awry. “Begin again, at the beginning! But, this time, start the entire venture by following an absolute Principle, and derive the blessed benevolence, spoken of with profound succinctness, by our distinguished metaphysician, when she reflected this divinely inspired thought, ‘to begin rightly, is to end rightly’.”

The End

Post Script: Ecclesiastes: 9: 14 – 16

Matt Kemp: Soon to Resurrect?

“A good hitter is not merely one who makes solid contact with the ball. But rather, he is a batter whose body mechanics facilitate the action of the swinging bat to contact and continue through the ball at an angle that provides for a straight (non-hooking or slicing) and ascending line-drive. The ‘Art’ of hitting a baseball could certainly be defined in the context of describing the ideal hitter—‘He is one whose bat most consistently contacts and drives through the ball in a manner that facilitates a straight and ascending ‘line-drive.’(To hit the ball in any other manner would be to miss-hit it.)”Matt Kemp 14

The preceding paragraph is an excerpt from my Book, The Principle of Baseball, and All There is to Know about Hitting. I have written many essays on the “Art” and “Science” of hitting a baseball, many of which are included in my book, previously mentioned. The following is an excerpt from my essay, “The Scientific-Artistry of Hitting a Baseball:

“Is the act of hitting a baseball efficiently an “Art’ or a ‘Science’, neither, or both? Those who demonstrate a high degree of talent in any of the various art forms could easily be described as ‘artists’. There is adequate evidence to indicate that many or most good artists (of which Batters are included) have a ‘natural’ propensity toward the artisanship in which they are engaged. But their optimal level of proficiency is most often derived from the degree to which they accumulate enhanced understanding by means of scientific examination of all aspects of their chosen profession. Therefore, hitting a baseball most effectively would have to be construed as both an ‘Art and a Science’.

In professional Baseball, to be the best hitter you can be, you must apply science to your natural artistry or you will never achieve mastery over the elements that have superimposed a phenomenal limitation upon your highest expectations. Those outstanding physical athletes who make it to the ‘Show’, but eventually find themselves languishing  in mediocrity, are typically the very prospects who could become stellar bats-men if they would engage a scientific-examination conducive to complementing their artistic predisposition. And they, who are performing at the prevailing ‘high’ standard of Major-League batting proficiency, could be setting new and higher criteria, if a more pronounced attentiveness to scientific inquiry were investigated for their optimal development.”

Matt Kemp has reached a point in his semi-illustrious career where intelligent pitchers have seen him enough to know his “margins for error” and can successfully circumvent his “natural-artistic” strong-points to wreak havoc on his phenomenal exhibition. Although he is still physically and mentally capable of demonstrating his sporadic prowess, he must now make certain adaptations of which neither he nor his “instructional-gurus” seem to be aware or willing to apply. Matt Kemp 3Matt Kemp 16Matt Kemp 2

Matt Kemp 1

Prior to  his 2011 “banner-year” his somewhat high stance, and off-balance approach to the pitched ball (due largely to his tall stance and exaggerated “high-hands and bat”)garnered for him no high merits except that of enormous potential for his occasional display of power, and speed of foot. Then, for some inexplicable reason, he lowered his stance to a surer foundation and refrained from taking a noticeable stride. The results of this simple change is what afforded him better balance, and a much better perspective and visual acuity for hitting the ball more consistently, and especially for refraining himself from swinging at the low, outside sliders that customarily struck him out. His only critical “margin for error” remained to be his high hands and bat, as well as the position of the front plant foot (especially now, since he just had surgery on it).

Kemp Stance 7Kemp Front Ankle

When a batter, who has found success for moderate amount of time, and then suffers the effects of an unfathomable “slump”, he is most often at a loss for a rational explanation for that which he is now experiencing. The most common reason is that the pitcher(s) has discerned in the batter’s technical mechanism a flaw that somehow precludes highest mechanical proficiency. Because he is not hitting as well as he did, and as well as he thinks he should, such batter will consciously or unconsciously make subtle changes that may end up merely exaccerbating his current situation while doing nothing to regain his former high status.

Matt Kemp has the good fortune of being under the tutelege of both Mark McGwire and Don Mattingly, and it may be for that reason that he has made somewhat of a come-back this past year, and would have made greater strides had it not been for his untimely stints on the Disabled List. Although he has lowered his stance, and tries to keep from striding, the two most debilitating aspects of his stance and approach to the pitched ball are his high hands and bat and his closed front foot.

don-mattingly 1Mark McGwire 3

Both Mattingly and McGwire maintained a low, powerful, well-balanced stance, but with their hands and bat just below the shoulders. In such a position there is hardly ever the temptation to swing at a pitch above the strike-zone, while being in perfect line to hit the high strike effectively. In Kemp’s “high-bat” position, he is instinctively ready to pull down  to get to the strike zone, and will almost always miss the high strike by going under it. And lately he has developed the uncommon tendency of swinging in a “Horse-Shoe” fashion (down-under-up). Even when he makes good contact with the ball, his bat has the tendency to roll onto the ball, producing a hard bouncing ball, or (even when he hits a home-run) a looping line-drive. Most often he either strikes out or sends a towering fly-ball to the deepest part of the outfield. All this is due to his “high-hands and bat”.

Other ball-players (even on his team) who have a high bat and are hitting somewhat effectively do so because they bring the bat to the “proper” hitting position as or before they stride.

Hanley Ramirez 7Hanley+Ramirez 4Hanley Ramirez105

Although Hanley Ramirez has a few “margins for error” in his stance and stride, at least his approach to the ball gets the bat ready to make better direct contact. But, of course, with his high leg-kick, he is vulnerable to varying circumstances.

Now that Matt Kemp has established a low, well-balanced, and powerful-looking stance, and seems to have the intention of not striding, he needs only make 3 minor adjustments:

1. Lower his hands and bat to a legitimate starting position.  Matt Kemp 9

2. Point his front foot 45 degrees to the pitcher (Joe D’joe-dimaggio-s-legs-in-batting-stance-at-home-plateand Ted Williams)Ted Williams (feet in stance) and be balanced from beginning to end of swing, and without fear of dislocating knee and ankle.Ted Williams - swing

3. Just press down onto the front foot (without any stride or foot readjustment) as he is driving his back knee and hips forward (like Barry Bonds).

Barry Bonds 2

Upon being “born again” in 2011, I noticed that Matt refrained from striding, or moving his front foot. It was a far cry from his previous year. In 2011 he seemed to have rid himself of his penchant for swinging recklessly at low, outside sliders. In his new stable stance, he was able to see the ball most clearly because his head and eyes didn’t move with a stride. His approach to the ball was of MVP quality. Then, his only foible was his high-hands and bat, but because he had everything else working for him, he didn’t suffer greatly. Now, I have noticed that although he maintains a low, stable stance, he has the tendency to “pull” his front foot slightly to the left. It is probably an unconscious effort to accommodate the “bad” position of the front foot pointing at home-plate, to allow him to open up faster to the inside pitch (but making him vulnerable to the outside pitch). Whether he realizes it or not, every batter (Ryan Howard, Harold Baines, etc.) who points his foot toward home-plate (or farther), and tries to apply pressure-power to the front leg, will inadvertently feel extreme strain to the ligaments and tendons of the ankle and knee joints. Most batters who make a practice of pointing the front foot to home-plate usually abruptly displace the front cleat from the ground as they  power through their swings. In that ultra-closed position, it is impossible to maximize the hip-action without almost certainly dislocating the ankle or knee. The solution is simply to do what Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and other great hitters have done, and are doing — point the front foot 45 degrees toward the pitcher. Matt might want to think seriously about that, just having had surgery on his left ankle.

I feel another COME-BACK on its way. I hope Matt and all Dodger fans will see it together.

Matt Kemp batting stanceMatt Kemp 13Matt kemp 7




Albert Pujols: The Rise. – The Fall! – The Resurgence?

Albert Pujols: The Rise. – The Fall! – The Resurgence?

Albert Pujols 1Albert Pujos 11Albert Pujols 14

Tony LaRussa, one of Baseball greatest managers, had the good fortune of being the “skipper” of the St. Louis Cardinals at times when the team included two of the Game’s outstanding hitters. And it is fair to say that these players, Mark McGwire and Albert Pujols, had the good fortune of being managed by LaRussa.

McGwire was just finishing a long and illustrious career accredited with being known as one of History’s most prodigious sluggers. His legendary “tape-measure” home-runs” were initially lauded, but eventually disdained because of the implication that “steroid” use was a contributing factor in his uncommon and mythical feats of strength. Mostly gone unnoticed, after the “steroid-era” had been contested and virtually diminished from Baseball vernacular, was the fact that, from his inception into the Major Leagues, his tall, lean, and trim body, which bore no trace of the insidious trappings that Steroids ultimately produced, Mark was reputed as a power hitting “student-of-the-game”. It was his “Mechanical advantage” and his natural strength and ability that produced an abundance of home-runs in his formative “big-league” career. (He hit 49 Home Runs in his Rookie Year.)Mark Mcgwire 4

At the beginning, as well as at the end of his career, McGwire’s hallmark of stability and power lay in the position he took when he addressed the pitcher while in the batters’ box. He was a big and powerful man, but found no encumbrance while assuming a low, crouching stance.  In fact it was this “stance” which afforded him the maximum of stability and strength which were the most contributable factors in his powerful swing, before and after steroid-accusations. It had been purported that his vision was less than the normal “20/20”, so to his credit, he eliminated that particular margin of error with his stance. Poor vision and at least a “minimum” stride were his two main foibles, which ultimately contributed to any batting dysfunction. His body’s altered structure seems to indicate steroid use; but if true, it’s too bad. He didn’t need it! His strength was at the top of the charts already.Mark McGwire 1

Albert Pujols had the good fortune and pleasure to play with Mark McGwire and for Tony LaRussa – he must have learned from both. Pujols is one of the strongest men in baseball, albert-pujols- 13so he must realize that he doesn’t need any extra strength to be a consistent home-run hitter, or a .300 hitter. Whether he copied McGwire’s low stance, or found it himself is a credit to his good judgment. The other aspect of good-judgment on his part is his determination not-to- stride. For the first ten years of his Major-League career, these two characteristics of his batting regimen established him as arguably the best hitter in baseball. But it simply demonstrates how essential these two aspects are to uncommon batting proficiency.Albert Pujols 1

Two characteristics of Pujols’ batting style have become detrimental to his ultimate proficiency as a hitter that will forever place him below Barry Bonds as the “greatest-hitter” in baseball history. The fact that he holds his hands and bat high, while his arms are inordinately stretched out away from his body produce two distinguishable margins for error that will only exacerbate any slight ineffectiveness he may have previously experienced in his past-younger days.Albert Pujos 11Albert_Pujols_spring_tr_2009Albert Pujols 5

He apparently hasn’t recognized why he is a perennial leader in hitting into double-plays, even though he has consistently demonstrated magnificent hand-bat-eye coordination. In 2012, with the Angels, no one seemed to be able to help him understand why he was hitting so many bouncing balls for easy outs, to establish a batting average of sub-.200 in more than 100 at-bats. But it was in the 2011 season that started to show those detrimental effects and their imposing “doom”.

“Poor-Albert” was the best hitter in the “post-Bonds” era, and can regain that status, but not if he continues his present batting regimen, even if his patronizing commentators continue to predict that he will find his old self. The pitchers had been keeping the ball low, and with his bat high, had forced him to chop down and hit mostly ground balls, or bouncing balls, or pop-ups when the bat slices the front part of the ball. His first 2012 home-run was not that of a powerful Pujols swing, but rather a testament to his natural strength, barely making it over the left-field fence, on a pitcher’s breaking-ball mistake.

In his low stance Pujols should be able to hit the low pitch easily (as Barry Bonds did). Barry did not swing down on a low pitch, with the hope that his bat would strike it just right so as to slice the front end exactly right and get the required back-spin to carry the ball the distance for a home-run. He, as well as hitters like Ted Williams, realized that the bat had to come from behind and slightly below the pitched ball that was always descending into the strike-zone in order to hit it with maximum effectiveness at an angle close to 180 degrees.

Pujols’ slump is not due to some things that he is doing new and differently, but rather what he has been doing all along, but not thought of as detrimental to his over-all technique. The things being mentioned at this time are simply considered as margins of error that, if eliminated, will diminish or eliminate current mechanical flaws that impede proficiency.

  1. The low stance is requisite, but the slight bouncing of the body by the movement of knees moves the head and eyes and creates degrees of visual dysfunction.
  2. The “no-stride” is required to keep head and eyes at maximum stillness and secure ultimate visual acuity. But avoid locking the front foot into a position where the toes are almost pointing backward (Like Ryan Howard and Harold Baines). This is not necessary to keep the front side from “opening up” early. The negative effect occurs when the swing begins and the front leg is supposed to straighten as the backside is turning forward. The front knee cannot hold that position and the imminent sense of knee and ankle displacement abruptly jerks the body out of its smooth rhythm. (Harold Baines can attribute his knee problems to this uncompromising technique. And perhaps Ryan Howard, at times of batting deficiency.) All that is needed is for the front foot to plant itself firmly into the ground (at a 45 degree angle to the pitcher) to begin the swing. It doesn’t need to twist and plant.
  3. The problem with Albert holding his hands and bat high while having his arms extended away from his body is basically 2-fold:
    1. Even with Albert’s powerful shoulders, any extra weight extended away from the body will slow down the functionality of the body’s power source during the swing. Even more weight is added with the way he holds his bat in a horizontal position parallel to the ground.
    2. The hands and bat, if kept at that ultra-high position as the body begins turning into the swing, will have no choice but to swing downward at downward moving ball, even low in the strike-zone. The effect after contact is usually a ground or bouncing ball.
    3. It has not been noticed by this observer that Albert has been hitting the ball effectively to the opposite field, especially on pitches away. Perhaps balance is a problem. His stance may need to be widened slightly.


It is difficult for this observer to understand how a superb hitter, as Albert is, cannot detect what his problem is, and its remedy. He may very well feel that “no matter what, I’m going with what got me here, even if it kills me”. Well, I hope he has “9” lives, and the Angels have “Infinite Patience”. But there is an easier way — “adjust and adapt” with the help of an Absolute Principle.

Note: Before Albert started slumping, he held his bat more perpendicular to the ground while addressing the pitcher in his stance, rather than now, as the bat is completely parallel to the ground.Albert Pujols 14Albert Pujols 8

Can Albert regain his former batting prowess by  himself, or will he need some help?

Yasiel Puig: Physical Perfection, yet Batter – Imperfect!

Yasiel Puig: Physical Perfection, Yet Batter – Imperfect!

Dodger rookie outfield sensation, Yasiel Puig, is Baseball’s newest physical “Phenom”. But will he be the next legitimate “Super-Star”? Not unless he gains an understanding of the Principle of Hitting that underlies maximum success in a professional ball-player’s quest to be a “Master-Batsman”. Puig possesses all the physical attributes that afford him the greatest accolades from scouts and fans alike. He’s big and strong! He has the highest rated throwing arm, and runs as fast as the fastest in the game. And plays defense as good as the best in professional baseball. He has a good swing, and to the untrained eye looks as if he could be one of the best hitters in baseball. What is it about his batting approach that prevents him from becoming one of the best hitters in baseball, even though he has the “potential” of being the best?

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Of the three most illustrious young players in the Major Leagues who are predicted to be Baseball’s next “Super-Stars” (Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and Yasiel Puig), only Mike Trout’s batting consistency has proven itself  worthy of that superlative ranking, so far. Although all 3 embody the physical attributes that warrant the prophetic gesture of Stardom, it is hard to tell “at the moment” who will eventually hold the highest ranking. Trout seems to hold the edge in batting, with a more consistent application of proper mechanics. Both Puig and Harper have better throwing arms than Trout. And Puig and Trout are faster runners than Harper. They all have the statuesque bodies that indicate an innate desire to strive to be the best they can be. But the question to be considered more than any other is, who will best display the mental attitude to foster a determination to reach beyond the merely physical dimension of artistic talent and incorporate the metaphysically scientific dimension that establishes the complete ball-player’s batting prowess?

Most astute baseball observers recognize that “batting a baseball” proficiently can be esteemed as an artistic display of uncommon physical prowess. Those who demonstrate a high degree of talent in any of the various art forms could easily be described as “artists”. There is adequate evidence to indicate that many or most good artists (of which Baseball’s Bats-men are included) have a “natural” propensity toward the artisanship in which they are engaged. But their optimal level of proficiency is most often derived from the degree to which they accumulate enhanced understanding by means of scientific examination of all aspects of their chosen profession. Therefore, hitting a baseball most effectively would have to elicit from the batter’s technique a scientific component to complement his otherwise unfulfilled artistic yet phenomenal talent.

Yasiel Puig falls into that spectacular category of player designated as a “Phenom”. Within that Phenomena Dimension is the manifestation of what appears to be a natural propensity of a physical entity to perform to his/her highest degree of physical competency without the use of supplemental mental facilitation, and indicative of a most primitive, single dimensional, fastball-hitting mentality. “Power versus Power,” exhibits in a batter a need to gain a forward momentum in order to counteract the otherwise debilitating effect of a pitcher’s blazing fastball.  Adapting to “off-speed” pitches entails a dimension of thought that includes a scientific component. A batter, incapable of adapting to any such circumstance, becomes easy prey to the pitcher who can throw a curveball for a strike. Thus, the sudden or gradual decline in promise of the physical “phenom”!

The scientific approach that Ted Williams brought to “Hitting” certainly superseded the “no-brainer” application that the “natural-artisans” expressed through their mere adherence to sense testimony. Such scientific revelation should have continued to override the equally reprehensible technique endorsed by those pseudo-scientific proponents of the “downward swing”, which followed. Any batter whose notion of proper hitting technique includes the idea that a downward swinging bat can effectively strike a downward moving ball with the least margin of error does not understand the statistical improbability of such folly.

By knowing that a pitched ball is always traveling downward into the strike-zone, the intelligent batter will devise a technique that will ensure that the bat will strike the ball on a line as close to 180 degrees as is possible. To be 100% accurate with his guidance of the bat-to-ball is most improbable. But if the swinging bat is on the same parallel line as the in-coming ball, then the probability of solid contact will be strong, and the result most often will be a desirable ascending “line-drive.”

The “Ultimate Batting Principle” is based on the perfect application and integration of following components:

1. Balance and stability of the stance.

2. Security for undisturbed visual acuity.

3. Self-contained power source.

4. Balance and stability from start to finish of swing.


A low center of gravity can be established by spreading the feet to the length of one’s normal stride, and bending the knees as low as can accommodate comfort and quickness. This strong base affords the batter the fastest possible reaction time for a twisting body to respond to any variation of pitched balls. One of the most prominent features of a low stance is the obvious advantage the batter has with the establishment of a smaller strike zone.

don-mattingly 1Mark McGwire 3

With the low-wide stance, the batter is in an “ultra-stationary” position, from which to view the pitched ball with a minimum of distortion. As a tennis player, receiving serve, is bent over and down as low as he can, to see the speeding ball on as close to a parallel level to the eyes as possible, so the batter, in a low stance, views the pitched ball with most clarity.

yasiel 3yasiel Puig 1

With the body already in a stable and powerful position, from which to initiate the action of the swing, the only preliminary movement needed by the batter, as the pitcher is delivering the ball, is to brace himself (or “gather”). From there he awaits the arrival of the ball into the striking “zone.” The gathering simply implies that the body is twisting or coiling slightly in the direction toward the catcher, bringing the hands to a position just beyond the back shoulder, making ready to spring forward as the ball comes to the plate. The “coiling” is initiated by the front knee turning inwardly off a pivoting big toe whose foot is point at a 45 degree angle to the pitcher. While the back foot is anchored flat, the weight of the body is centered from the upper abdomen to the ground directly between both knees. The hips and shoulders follow the backward rotation of the twisting torso (the body never leaning backward with any concentration of weight on the back leg-the “buttocks” looks to be sitting on a high stool). The entire action of the backward twisting and subsequent forward explosion (without  a stride) in the opposite direction, as the swing takes place (after the front foot plants firmly into the ground), occurs while the head remains stationary and the eyes still, focusing on the ball.

The first metaphysical component to the perfect swing of a baseball bat is the ability to inhibit one’s personal proclivity to attack the oncoming pitched ball with direct linear force. The psychological tendency to meet an attacker head-on, with equal force, in order to counteract an over-powering momentum, most often imposes an obliteration effect that can prove unproductive in either direction.

The batter, when encountering the power of a 90 to 100 mph fastball, does not want to be intimidated by what could be an overwhelming force of speed. So he seems magnetically drawn in the direction from which the ball is coming, to offset somewhat the intent of the oncoming projectile. Figuratively, attacking the ball is attacking the opponent (pitcher) who threw it. The linear movement in the direction from which the ball is coming can give only an illusory sense of contrived confidence and facilitation to deploy a resourceful counterattack. Since the first incidence of an actual counterattack cannot proceed until the front foot plants itself to the ground, the airborne foot only creates a factor of vulnerability to the batter whose visual acuity is already substantially distorted by any movement of the head and eyes that automatically occurs as the body lunges forward.

Great athletes seem to have the ability to make certain physical adaptations that allow them to counteract visual distortions, some of the time, to maintain a respectable productivity. But, if all hitters would recognize that they are not sacrificing power with eliminating the “stride” and keeping the head still, their current batting performances would improve. The “ultimate-hitting” Principle can now assert a more pronounced effectiveness against the statistical dominance of the “Premier Pitcher Principle”– (which is merely an illusion). The missing link in applying the hitting principle has always been the inconsistent visual acuity of the batter in accurately detecting the speed of the fast-ball, as well as the direction and varying speeds of “breaking” and other off-speed pitches. All this, of course, was due to excessive movement of the head, the primary culprits being the tall stance, high bat, and batter’s stride. Although the pitcher’s arsenal of distracting and illusory forces will still wreak their havoc on unsuspecting “head-gliders,” a new era of batting prominence will set the standard for hitting elegance.

Puig’s primary margins for error are his high stance, his stride, and the side-ways position of his front foot. If he croutched down, with feet spread to the length of his normal stride, and pointed his front foot at a 45 degree angle to the pitcher, and took no stride, then he would be able to have maximum balance (at the beginning and end of swing), see the ball most clearly, and wait longer before exploding onto the pitched ball.

joe-dimaggio-s-legs-in-batting-stance-at-home-plateTed Williams (feet in stance)Ted Williams - swingStan MusialMark McGwire 5

Thus the process is simple and the results are sure if the Science is understood.


Josh Hamilton – A Favorite Player, But!

Good Morning Sports Fans:

As promised, the following is an essay describing the sudden tribulations of one of Baseball’s best Hitters, and the promising resolution to his new-found flaws.

Josh Hamilton – A Favorite Player, But!

Josh Hamilton is one of my favorite players, not only because of his tremendous physical skill-set and ultimate potential as a Hall-of-Fame candidate, but because of his life changing story that brought him back from the depths of moral degradation to become an exemplary figure and spokesperson for Mans’ incredible capacity for self-improvement and regeneration. A movie about his life-story has Hollywood on hold for the time-being because, for some inexplicable reason, his talent as a baseball player (more specifically, as a proficient Batsman) has suddenly diminished to the point that he has quickly become one of Big League Pitching’s easiest outs.

In the middle of the 2012 season, there was hardly a ballplayer in the American League who didn’t consider Josh Hamilton as “a god”, as he would address the field of defenders in his batting stance, exuding an irrepressible attitude of confidence and a nearly impeccable capacity to deliver on his purposeful intent. But by the end of that season the high hopes of repeating the acclaim given him the previous year as the Most Valuable Player had receded to a point that even his own Texas Rangers had hesitated in resigning him for the Big Bucks his potential seemed to warrant in the upcoming “free-agent” bidding.

We all know what happened next! Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno quickly took advantage of a questionable opportunity and signed Josh to a 125 million dollar (5 year) contract. Arte, no doubt, anticipated Hamilton’s resurgence  as one of the League’s premier hitters. And so the previous season’s acquisition of “premier” slugger Albert Pujols, along with Hamilton, presented their American League foes with a highly formidable adversary in the new, better, and financially endowed Angel Organization. However, the “brain-trust” of organizational standards of mechanical efficiency failed to take stock in the “corruption” that subtly had been taking place within the physical and mental framework of its newly acquired “super-stars”. Pujols’ first season with the “Halos” was unspectacular at best. And as this potentially “dynamic-duo” was failing to fulfill the 2013 hopes of both the fans and the Angel organization, all pundits of baseball expertise expounded on the travesty and waste of 1/3 Billion dollars.

With the deplorable showing of both Pujols and Hamilton, the Angels didn’t stand a chance in League play, even with the sound managerial effort of Mike Scioscia, and the remarkable talent of a crew of young super-stars in the making. Did Mr. Moreno make a gigantic mistake in signing these former super-stars, especially for such a sizable amount of “cash”? To the common skeptic the answer would be a resounding yes, because there is no tangible evidence to show that these former “masters-of-the-Bat” will ever regain their former illustrious status in the renowned hierarchy of Major-League hitters. Detractors will point to Pujols’ age, and predict the rapid deterioration of his body and new susceptibility to injury (which has already projected its debilitating face). While Hamilton seems to be in perfect health and the apparent embodiment of a statuesque god, the query becomes even more startling, since he still possesses race-horse speed and a cannon-arm as he garnishes high accolades for his defensive prowess.

When an Organization dishes out $375,000,000.00 for two players, those 2 individuals are expected to be Offensive Weaponry that produces positive results at least 30 percent of the time, and in situations where runs are produced consistently. To perform in that manner both have to attain a mechanical efficiency with the least margin for error possible when facing pitchers of high to moderate levels of proficiency. With their little margins of error, these batters should be capable of hitting the pitcher’s best pitch, and not merely wait to hit a pitcher’s mistake. In their ‘Prime” proficiency times, both Pujols and Hamilton projected both power and precision due to their mechanical advantage over pitchers of high to moderate levels of proficiency. But as happens in seemingly unexplainable “slumps” batters lose track of the very Principle that established the confidence that produced their own high proficiency ratings.

The remainder of this article will focus on the problem of Josh Hamilton’s batting inefficiency and the good possibility for its solution and his resurgence into the ranks of Baseball’s elite sluggers. (Albert Pujols’ mending process will be discussed at a later time.)

Please go to “What’s Wrong with His Swing” to detail the problems of Josh’s swing and resolution thereof.


The Single-most Amazing Performance Piece in Sports History

 dennis eckersley

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 thatLuis 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.


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 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.”

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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 25 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 the Spartan warriors had defeated the Persians.

October 15 is Fast Approaching – The 25th Anniversary of What?

Good Morning Sports Fans,

If you weren’t around 25 years ago in Los Angeles, and didn’t see or hear about the “Single-most Amazing Performance Piece in Sports History”, tune into my Home Page tomorrow morning and read about Kirk Gibson’s Historic Home Run in the 1988 World Series. If you’ve only heard about it, and were somewhat captivated by what a few described inaccurately as a “modest” blend of dramatic and heroic achievement, then join those who will be privy to a detailed account of what I’m sure you will all agree is the “Single-most Amazing Performance Piece in Sports HIstory.