It’s not The Natural or Field of Dreams (my two favorite baseball movies), but this archival footage of Ted Williams giving hitting tips is quite a gem.
The wording has changed in the last fifty years or so, but these batting tips are timeless:
- Quick Hands & Wrists
- Stay Inside the Baseball
- Look For & Hit Your Pitch
This video brings to mind a great article entitled “The Lost Secrets of Hitting”, in which Rob Ellis, former Milwaukee Brewers 1st round pick (#3) and co-author of the Mike Schmidt Hitting Study, came across some old 8mm reels of Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and others. Ellis called this footage a “monumental find,” and it would go on to lay the groundwork for much of the hitting theory he would later develop with Mike Schmidt.
Smaller Men Swinging Heavier Bats, Traveling By Train, Playing On Ok Ballfields
Stan Musial’s career strikeout percentage: 6.3 with a lifetime batting average of .331 and 475 bombs. Not bad for 6’0″, 175 lbs!
Compare that to Mark McGwire* (6’5″, 250 lbs.), who struck out an amazing 24.5 percent of the time, had a career average of .261, and still hit fewer home runs than Musial at 457! All this despite being in the lineup everyday for his ability to hit the ball out of the park. What coach wants a player with those stats? And wouldn’t any coach much prefer someone like Stan The Man?
All of the big names from the past seem to fit this trend: guys with names like Ruth, Gehrig, Mays, and Aaron, maximized their power and minimized their strikeouts. The numbers are not as kind to the recently retired sluggers like Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Albert Belle, and Jose Canseco.
What’s the difference? Ellis boils it down to:
- A Flat Swing Plane
- A Flat Wrist Roll
- A Low Finish
You can’t learn to hit by gawking at (and trying to imitate the swing of) guys who crush the occasional towering 450-foot shot into the upper deck, but the numbers don’t lie: focusing on putting the ball in play and hitting it hard every AB will tame those strikeouts, keep you in the lineup and end up helping your team win every day!
*This is a slightly older article; the numbers cited are through the 1998 season. It should be noted, however, that these trends continued for McGwire and the rest of the modern sluggers on Ellis’ list. Read the article here!