How did the oldtimers learn about hip/shoulder separation

I looked at some old clips of power pitchers from the 1960s-1980s and noticed that several got excellent hip/shoulder separation (and external rotation). I read the books by ryan,koufax, seaver, and others and then never really talk about their mechanics. Or about how they got hip/shoulder separation.

1- Did these actually learn this, or was it coming naturally?
2- Did pitching coaches teach this back in the day?
3- How were mechanics analyzed before videotape?

I think Zita would be able to give you a pretty solid answer on this with her experiences with Eddie Lopat.

I’ll give you my best thoughts on the subject though…

I think it was taught to some degree, but not to the extent that it is now.

It probably wasn’t even called separation, chances are it didn’t have an actual definite term.

Before video it was all done through a Coaches or Scouts or fellow player’s eye’s.

Let’s go back further than that, Doc. In the forties and fifties, to be exact. I went to the ball games every chance I got, and I watched the pitchers, particularly the Yankees’ Big Three rotation—Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi and Eddie Lopat. And it seemed to me that those guys picked it up on their own. Pitching coaches then were not what they are not, and they certainly did not know exactly how to work with pitchers on the things you describe. Now, I watched those three guys closely, and I noticed that they all were doing the same thing. They were all driving off the lower half of the body, using the legs, the hips and the torso in one continuous—and, it seemed, seamless—motion, and that was how they were generating the power behind their pitches (even Lopat, who was by no means a fireballer). That continuous motion made for a flow of energy all the way up to and through the shoulder and the arm, in the process taking a lot of pressure off said shoulder and arm so that it seemed they were just going along for the ride.
I made a note of this and started working on this on my own. As I practiced this—and I consider it an essential aspect of good mechanics—I found myself doing just what they were doing. With all that pressure taken off my shoulder and arm I could throw harder with less effort, and it didn’t hurt that I was a true natural sidearmer. Later on, when I was working with Eddie Lopat, he checked me out on this and also helped me refine the crossfire which I had picked up.
It was later on that pitching coaches would catch on to this. 8) :slight_smile:

Comes “naturally” to some, and those guys go on to throw harder than everyone else and rise to the top (along with other environmental and genetic factors, of course).

by naturally I mean they were exposed to the proper environmental factors (lots of throwing, especially max effort at a young age). This turns out to almost be a necessity for throwing hard (due to humeral retroversion). Without formal pitching instruction, trial and error plays a big role in the mechanics a player ends up with…exposing a child to long toss is a good way to develop mechanics that will meet the goal of throwing a ball far, just as exposing a child to an environment where he is only told to throw strikes and not worry about velocity will help them develop mechanics geared towards that goal. I suspect all of the hardest throwers spent their childhoods throwing hard and far, teaching their bodies how to acquire the movement patterns that allow for high velocities. Players that experiment a lot and are in tune with their bodies (I fell and still fall into this category) are more likely through trial and error to land upon a “set” of throwing mechanics that allow for elite velocities.

Here’s how Paul Nyman described it. The body has a (nearly) infinite number of ways it can organize itself to throw a baseball. Only a very very very small % of these ways will allow for 95+mph velocity. Throwing is a continual trial and error process, with most players settling on their “set” of mechanics around 12 or 13. That is, due to the demands of competition, etc. many players end their trial and error process in their youth and stick to that most desirable set of mechanics they have found up to that point. One reason nyman and ron wolforth place so much emphasis on encouraging young kids to throw hard and not worry about strikes that early. They also stress the difficulty of changing ones mechanics (in this case I’m mainly referring to arm action) after little league.

It is possible, though, to make significant changes to your “natural” mechanics after little league. Not easy, for sure, but possible. From low 70s to low 90s in 5 years, I have shown that much.

To get back to your question, there wasn’t as much widespread knowledge about mechanics or how velocity was generated…I doubt many knew what hip shoulder separation was or that it was a key factor in elite velocity…therefore the guys who threw the hardest were called “blessed” with good arms and the guys who didn’t have elite velocities tended to give up on their careers due to lack of “talent.”

Funny how so many people still believe in this… scouts say all the time “you can’t teach velocity,” to which I think to myself “no, YOU can’t teach velocity.” It’s not impossible, just improbable.

Good points lefty.

I also think it was doubtful that it was taught back in the day, due to the fact that you really cant see HS sep without the aid of videotape. Videotape is fairly recent to pitching instruction- mills, nyman, house etc weren’t coming well known until the late 90s. Videotape is still rare at the HS level and below, unless you hire a pitching coach. And alot of the ones who use videotape arent even teaching HS sep. They teach the same old straight up/be balanced stuff of days gone by. Or they teach arm action and not lower body mechanics.

Amazing lefty

I think back in the day it was called “rear back and throw it”. :lol: