I have no idea what the original question was, but I’m willing to indulge in a bit of speculation. Okay. We have a pitcher who has just come up to the major leagues, or perhaps from high school to college, or has advanced in some other way. He has good stuff, but there’s something about his mechanics that doesn’t look quite right. Question: is it something in his delivery that’s out of whack? Perhaps he’s falling off to one side or the other too much in his follow-through. Perhaps he throws with his arm and his shoulder too much and fails to recognize the importance of using the whole body in the process. Or perhaps his elbow is too low or too high. Now, these are things that can be easily corrected, and the person who sets the kid straight might not even be the pitching coach—it could be one of the more experienced pitchers on the staff. In any case, what should be done is for the coach, or the other pitcher, to watch the kid in action, have him do some throwing for, say, fifteen minutes, using all his stuff. If there’s a problem, it might be immediately obvious, and then the two of them could address it right away. It’s rare that the kid is screwing up so badly that a wholesale overhaul needs to be done.
But to change a pitcher’s way of doing things just because it offends the coach’s esthetic sensibilities? To force a pitcher to change his arm angle for a similar reason? Therein lies a direct route to disaster. Remember the case of Fred Sanford. He was a pitcher for the old St. Louis Browns, and not a bad pitcher at that. The Yankees saw something in him and acquired him in a trade. But then—his problem, if you want to call it that, was that he had what is best described as a herky-jerky motion, and never mind that he was getting the batters out, pitching coach Jim Turner didn’t like it. It offended his esthetic sensibilities. Third-base coach Frank Crosetti didn’t like it either. They wanted Sanford to have a classic, Spalding-Guide-picture-perfect delivery. And so they started futzing around with him—and they ended up destroying him. When they got through with him he wasn’t a good pitcher any more; the very element that had enabled him to get batters out was gone.
So at the end of the 1950 season he was traded.
That’s one thing that should never be done—change a pitcher’s arm angle. You work with it, whatever it is, and show that pitcher how to make the most of it, how to use it to best advantage. There are other things that can be done, like lenghtening or shortening the stride, or learning to use the lower half of the body—legs, hips, torso—in one continuous motion to generate more power behind the pitches, or making sure the pitcher focuses on the target (the catcher’s mitt), or some such. But for Pete’s sake, leave the arm angle alone if the pitcher is comfortable with it and can use it effectively!!!
Mechanics can be a tricky thing. They can be the key to a pitcher’s power, or they can be a blueprint for big trouble. Ed Lopat firmly believed that every pitcher has a natural motion, and what he would do was work with that, show the pitcher how to make the most of it, and if something needed to be done about the mechanics it was usually some fine-tuning. Likewise, Johnny Sain, who was another of the great pitching coaches of the time. And here’s another story to illustrate the ijmportance of not messing around with the motion.
Whitey Ford came up to the Yankees in 1950, and he was considered a real phenom. But one day he started a game, and the other team was beltintg him around from here to Timbuktu and back, converting every pitch he threw into a line-drive base hit. Finally, in the fifth inning, first-baseman Tommy Henrich came rushing out to the mound and said to Whitey, “You know, that first-base coach is calling every pitch you’re throwing!” Not only had Ford been getting shellacked, but there was an additional distraction in the form of the opposing first-base coach yelling behind him all the time. And this was the first that Ford became aware that he might be telegraphing his pitches.
The next day pitching coach Jim Turner and fellow pitcher Ed Lopat, who doubled as an extra pitching coach for the team, took Ford into the bullpen and had him do some throwing from the stretch because that was when the problem seemed to be occurring. Turner was puzzled and kept scratching his head—but Lopat, who had been watching Ford the day before with a sardonic smile on his face, saw the problem at once: Ford was positioning his glove one way when he was going to throw a fast ball and another way when he was going to throw a curve, and because the kid was a southpaw it was no problem for the opposing first-base coach to pick up on it! Lopat took Ford aside, told him quietly what he was doing wrong, and worked with him to correct the problem.
So, to sum up—if anything needs to be corrected, discretion is the key. Some minor adjustments, fine. But don’t do anything drastic unless the pitcher is really making a mess of everything, and DON"T change the arm angle “just because”—work with it, not against it. Again, my 50 cents worth (allowing for inflation). 8)