Cincinnati Reds centerfielder Billy Hamilton is considered the fastest man in baseball. He leads the league with 49 stolen bases as of August 1. But there’s a problem: Billy doesn’t get to first base very often. Only 27.1% of the time, to be exact. Meaning most of the time, Billy uses his long, lean legs to jog back to the dugout.
If only there were a more effective way to get on base…
Oh wait, there is: Make more contact, foul off tough pitches and hit more line drives. And draw a few more walks.
But how can Billy get better at those things? I suggest emulating one of baseball’s all-time greats.
Here is the letter I mailed (100 Joe Nuxhall Way) to Hamilton, manager Bryan Price and hitting coach Don Long, along with a printout of a picture.
Attn: Bryan Price, Billy Hamilton, Don Long
Ty Cobb had the highest batting average in baseball history. So why hasn’t anyone adopted his unorthodox batting grip?
Cobb placed his hands about six inches apart on the bat. This allowed “The Georgia Peach” better bat control to place a line drive into an unoccupied area, or, if he desired, Cobb was able to shift his top hand further down the bat at the last second for a surprise bunt.
Now: If you’ve got blazing speed, lashing more line drives would be the focus. I never saw Cobb play, but I’m guessing he smacked a ton of line drives. How else would you hit .366?
One explanation for hitters not modeling their approach after Cobb’s was that Ty was not considered a power hitter. But that’s not true. Cobb led the league in slugging eight times. He did not belt many home runs, but nobody did during his era. Cobb played in the “Dead Ball Era” through his first fifteen seasons in the majors. Case in point: He led the league with nine bombs in 1909. He slugged .621 two years later.
As you can see, Cobb’s unique grip didn’t cost him any bat speed.
Other possible explanations: 1) Cobb was a devilish racist and a despicable person, so nobody wants to emulate him. 2) The widened grip isn’t what we grow up doing, so it’s too much of a switch to make.
Frankly, nobody I’ve asked can come up with a good reason why nobody’s at least tried Cobb’s wide-grip approach.
Is this the dumbest idea ever or a genius notion?
The only way to find out is to try it against live pitching.
Give it a shot. You never know.
Deer Park, OH