Batting by Carl Yastrzemski with Al Hirshberg
New York : The Viking Press, 1972. First Edition. Hardcover. 118 pages ; b/w photographs ; 22 cm. $4.95 dust jacket with minimal wear. Pages are clean and unmarked. Binding is firm.
From the team that gave us Yaz, the autobiography of Boston Red Sox superstar Carl Yastrzemski, we now have the complete instruction book on batting, for everyone from Little Leaguer to Major Leaguer.
Starting with the basic fundamentals involved in developing and mastering this vital baseball skill ("Bats are part of baseball. You can't go up to the plate without one"), and moving on to illumine its finer points ("The trick isn't necessarily to know where the general strike zone is, but where your strike zone is"), the American League's three-time batting champion tells all.
"A hitter worth his salt knows exactly what he wants in a bat," Yaz writes. "He can spot fractional differences in length, weight, and shape by swinging it, sometimes even just by picking it up." But a young player whose professional career is still just a gleam in his eye, or a high-school player who would just like to improve his record, would do better to follow the rules for picking out a bat that Carl Yastrzemski gives here. As it turns out, when choosing a bat, comfort is the key. "Believe me," Yaz says, "It's better to miss a few with the right bat than hit a few with the wrong one."
Proceeding to the grip, the stance, the nuances of pitching patterns and styles of which a batter must be aware, Yaz discusses the pros and cons of cross-handed batting styles and switch-hitting, the whys and wherefores of evenly lining up the knuckles, the best times to choke up and how high, when to bunt, and the importance of maintaining a flexible grip. He reinforces each point throughout the text with memorable anecdotal examples and with photographs taken especially for this book. In a section devoted to the stance—a ballplayer's trademark—Yaz cautions one not to copy that of a personal favorite in the game. "I imagine dozens of kids must have ruined their chances of becoming good hitters by trying to imitate Babe Ruth/' he points out, adding, "I might include myself in that category.... I changed my own stance after I reached the majors. That in itself is pretty unusual."
As a matter of fact, all of Batting is pretty unusual in that it is the most comprehensive batting guide yet produced and it is made out of expert advice and teaching, a clarity of detail, and much experience and success, and is boosted by a well-assured—and assuring— point of view. With separate chapters exploring the batter's swing, the strike zone, the dread slump and what to do about it and other batting pitfalls, and with more sections on pitching patterns, on hitting behind the runner or to the opposite field, on stretching a hit from a single to a double, and on the best batting strategy of them all—hitting the ball out of the park—all included here, there could hardly be a better book on batting skills in baseball.
AL HIRSHBERG is a sportswriter who has followed the Red Sox closely for many years. He has co-authored many baseball books, including Yaz, Fear Strikes Out with Jimmy Piersall, and Backstage at the Mets with Lindsey Nelson. Mr. Hirshberg and his wife live in Brookline, Massachusetts.
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