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  • webmaster
    started a topic Left-Handed Catchers

    Left-Handed Catchers

    Hello Baseball Fever Fans:

    One of the most common questions at Baseball Almanac is whether or not my left-handed child can play catcher in the Major Leagues. An excellent reply to this was made on Yahoo! and it read / answered why not as follows:

    Two words: stolen bases.

    If you're a student of baseball, then you know that the catcher has many different duties: choosing pitches and signalling them to the pitcher; catching pitches; fielding pop-ups and bunts; tagging runners at the plate; and finally, perhaps the most difficult task, throwing runners out when they attempt to steal second or third base.

    The very best catchers in the Major Leagues rarely throw out even half of the runners that attempt stolen bases. A slow delivery from the pitcher, an off-speed pitch, a pitch in the dirt, or, of course, a speedy runner -- any of these complications can make retiring a runner a difficult proposition.

    So, you ask, how does being left-handed interfere with throwing out baserunners? It has to do with the fact that most batters are right-handed and therefore stand in the batter's box on the left side of home plate. A left-handed catcher would need to throw through that batter's box or move over and throw directly over the plate -- added problems that would hinder even the most talented athlete.

    Since most baseball coaches, from Little League to the Majors, are aware of the inherent difficulties of left-handed catching, they undoubtedly encourage talented southpaws to find other positions on the diamond -- outfield, first base, or even pitcher, where left-handedness is largely viewed as a competitive advantage.

    So, there you have it. The subtleties of handedness when it comes to being a baseball catcher. Other positions where left-handedness is all but unheard of: third base and shortstop.

    Lefty catchers are rare, but that's not to say that no left-handers have ever played the position. According to sites we found by searching on "left-handed catchers," both Mike Squires and Dale Long moved over from their regular positions and played multiple games at catcher.

    Perhaps most interesting was our discovery that the game's greatest player, Babe Ruth, was a left-handed catcher. At the National Sports Gallery, we learned that a young Babe caught left-handed, despite the lack of equipment. In his own words:

    "We had no catcher's mitt built for left handers, of course. We were lucky to have any kind of mitt. I'd used the regular catcher's mitt on my left hand, received the throw from the pitcher, take off the glove and throw it back to him left handed. When I had to throw to a base, trying to catch a runner, I'd toss the glove away, grab the ball with my left hand and heave it with everything I had."


    Answers a lot of things, but can they play or not? This led me to wonder and I've put together the following chart. It is a list of every left-handed player to catch in a Major League game. The list is ordered by number of games caught with ties alphabetized and links to player stats for further research.

    1,073 Clements, Jack
    272 Trott, Sam
    202 Tate, Pop
    186 Sutcliffe, Sy
    128 Harbridge, Bill
    99 Hines, Mike
    75 Humphries, John
    71 Tenney, Fred
    52 Twineham, Art
    50 Baker, Phil
    45 Donahue, Jiggs
    35 Oldfield, Dave
    34 Householder, Charlie
    21 Malone, Fergy
    16 McMahon, Jack
    12 Krehmeyer, Charlie
    7 Wall, Joe
    3 DiStefano, Benny
    3 Hillebrand, Homer
    2 Egan, Jim
    2 Long, Dale
    2 Squires, Mike
    1 Cassidy, John
    1 Eden, Charlie
    1 Marr, Lefty
    1 Mullen, John
    1 Powell, Martin
    1 Redmon, Billy
    1 Short, Chris

    Hope you enjoyed this Baseball Fever exclusive!

    Sean

    PS: In closing I leave you with the following Stengelese, "Left-handers have more enthusiasm for life. They sleep on the wrong side of the bed, and their heads get more stagnant on that side."

    PSS: No, I am not left handed

  • Death to Crawling Things
    replied
    Originally posted by RuthMayBond View Post
    I'm guessing these guys might have been a little athletic

    Ron Guidry
    George Sisler
    Rickey Henderson
    . . .
    Bobby Shantz

    Leave a comment:


  • thefeckcampaign
    replied
    Being a former lefty catcher, I tease my friend every so often that if he only let me pitch when we were LL age, perhaps I would be making $10 million a year as a lefty specialist. I could be pitching 1/3 an inning a game instead of being discouraged that I couldn't catch.
    Last edited by thefeckcampaign; 05-19-2012, 02:47 AM.

    Leave a comment:


  • SHOELESSJOE3
    replied
    Originally posted by TonyK View Post
    "Philadelphia Press says Hiland is slow and awkward on second on account of being left-handed." - Lancaster Daily Intelligencer, August 24, 1885.

    Rookie John Hiland played 3 games for Philadelphia-NL in 1885 going 0 for 9, and making 2 errors. Here is an example of contemporary views about a lefty playing second base.
    Easy to see why, left handed second baseman at a great disadvantage, the throw to first base in particular.

    Leave a comment:


  • TonyK
    replied
    "Philadelphia Press says Hiland is slow and awkward on second on account of being left-handed."
    - Lancaster Daily Intelligencer, August 24, 1885.

    Rookie John Hiland played 3 games for Philadelphia-NL in 1885 going 0 for 9, and making 2 errors. Here is an example of contemporary views about a lefty playing second base.

    Leave a comment:


  • dominik
    replied
    Here is a poster called CatchingCoach who believes that lefties could catch. he has a catching camp and coached several college players and is highly regarded here in the forum. he said that most of the perceived obstacles of lefties wouldn't be a problem if the catcher has sound mechanics. he believes that lefties don't become catchers mostly because of tradition.

    http://www.catchingcamp.com/blog/lef...st-aint-right/
    Last edited by dominik; 01-09-2011, 06:28 AM.

    Leave a comment:


  • CandlestickBum
    replied
    Originally posted by OmartgSS View Post
    Handedness ain't a race.
    Damn, there goes my arguments. Though I kicked butt at 12-13 Y.O. lefty catching

    And oh, it's really more about culture not race, as any given "race" has multiple cultures.

    "Race" is a really dumbed down version of class+culture these days.

    Leave a comment:


  • OmartgSS
    replied
    Handedness ain't a race.

    Leave a comment:


  • ipitch
    replied
    Originally posted by Brownieand45sfan View Post
    Another part of the institutionalized racism against left-handers is the very rule of having to go around the bases in counterclockwise fashion.
    What about the fact that lefty batters have an advantage at the plate, since they're closer to 1st base?

    Leave a comment:


  • SHOELESSJOE3
    replied
    Originally posted by Brownieand45sfan View Post
    It's blatant discrimination, you're right.

    Another part of the institutionalized racism against left-handers is the very rule of having to go around the bases in counterclockwise fashion. There will not be basic justice for left-handers, really, until the rule is changed and games alternate base directions every other day (as they do for horseracing in Australia).

    I know my proposal may sound radical now, but people were saying the same thing about ending discrimination under Jim Crow, That it was too radical and that the discriminated class should just "accept" the way things are. It really is identical to those who made the separate but equal argument in Plessy v. Ferguson: "Lefthanders have to throw to the exact same base as righthanders, they just have to do it with a different arm". Never mind that that particular accomodation is far worse for lefthanders than for righthanders.
    I doubt, I doubt very much that baseball will even "consider" alternating base running direction, not going to happen.
    Two completely different worlds, the mechanics of a baseball game to a horse race. Simple deal to change direction of a horse race.

    How do you compare baseball finally allowing blacks to play MLB, to bringing justice to LH throwers by making a drastic change in the game.
    Blacks were kept out of MLB by design, it was conscious effort, goal by MLB and some owners.
    No one ever said lets set up the game this way and keep it this way, make it more difficult for LH throwers to fill certain positions.

    Leave a comment:


  • SHOELESSJOE3
    replied
    Originally posted by Brownieand45sfan View Post
    But this may be simply a "self-fullfilling prophecy". If more coaches had the enlightened view of TyrusRaymondCobb, instead of the Stone Age thinking of most coaches, I am sure there would be exactly as many left-handers at those positions as there are lefthanders in the general population.
    I don't think we can lay it all on the coaches, I'm in agreement there are probably a number of coaches that have discouraged some LL players, LH throwers from catching.
    i wouldn't be surprised if a good anumber of LL players, even at that young age are aware that there are few if any LH throwing catchers beyond LL.

    Leave a comment:


  • Brownieand45sfan
    replied
    It's blatant discrimination, you're right.

    Another part of the institutionalized racism against left-handers is the very rule of having to go around the bases in counterclockwise fashion. There will not be basic justice for left-handers, really, until the rule is changed and games alternate base directions every other day (as they do for horseracing in Australia).

    I know my proposal may sound radical now, but people were saying the same thing about ending discrimination under Jim Crow, That it was too radical and that the discriminated class should just "accept" the way things are. It really is identical to those who made the separate but equal argument in Plessy v. Ferguson: "Lefthanders have to throw to the exact same base as righthanders, they just have to do it with a different arm". Never mind that that particular accomodation is far worse for lefthanders than for righthanders.
    Originally posted by Cucamongadan View Post
    This thread makes me want to read all the opinions from 1946 and earlier why it would never work to have a negro in the major leagues.

    Leave a comment:


  • Brownieand45sfan
    replied
    But this may be simply a "self-fullfilling prophecy". If more coaches had the enlightened view of TyrusRaymondCobb, instead of the Stone Age thinking of most coaches, I am sure there would be exactly as many left-handers at those positions as there are lefthanders in the general population.

    Originally posted by SHOELESSJOE3 View Post
    There doesn''t seem to be a call for LH catchers in the upper tier of the game.
    .

    Leave a comment:


  • SHOELESSJOE3
    replied
    Originally posted by RuthMayBond View Post
    Catching is one thing. If you let lefties try 3B, SS or 2B and one of them keeps with it out of stubbornness or to "keep up" with others, they may be setting themselves up for frustration.
    Noble effort on your part applaud that, but how far can they go being a left handed catcher, moving up the ladder from LL. Of course they are still very young and may want to make changes.
    There doesn''t seem to be a call for LH catchers in the upper tier of the game.
    Anyone out there know if there are any LH throwing catchers at the college level.

    Leave a comment:


  • Brownieand45sfan
    replied
    Originally posted by TyrusRaymondCobb View Post
    I coach LL and refuse to discourage any of my players if they want to try a particular position. If lefties want to have a go at catching, let them have a go at catching. If they find out they don't like it, at least they've tried it.
    You, Sir, are a Prince among Men.

    Leave a comment:

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