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  • Workouts/Training of the old stars

    Do you have any anecdotes about the training of the old stars? especially the "extra curricular" training in the off season.
    I have read that a lot of players till about the 50s or so didn't work out at all in the offseason. Is that true?

    Did players like cobb, williams, ruth, hornsby... train in the offseason? what did they do to stay in shape?

    I read stories about williams doing chin ups, swinging overweight bats and squeezing tennis balls and other stuff. but other than that I have not heard much about their training.
    I now have my own non commercial blog about training for batspeed and power using my training experience in baseball and track and field.

  • #2
    Cobb allegedly would run the bases in the offseason with weights in his shoes, which he felt helped his speed when he switched to the paper-thin cleats he would wear for games. I have no idea about his fitness regimen, though.
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    • #3
      I believe Babe Ruth trained very hard in a gym after his terrible 1925 season. Not sure if he did it during other offseasons though.
      My top 10 players:

      1. Babe Ruth
      2. Barry Bonds
      3. Ty Cobb
      4. Ted Williams
      5. Willie Mays
      6. Alex Rodriguez
      7. Hank Aaron
      8. Honus Wagner
      9. Lou Gehrig
      10. Mickey Mantle

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      • #4
        Honus Wagner worked out with dumbbells and was also an avid basketball player.
        Sometime in the mid '20s, Babe Ruth started working out regularly at McGovern's gym in NYC, where his workouts included weightlifting, tossing medicine balls, riding a stationary bike, and sparring. He was also an avid golfer and hunter. Ruth claimed that Eddie Collins stayed in shape by tramping around in the woods with a gun all winter but rarely shooting anything. I believe that Cobb also spent a lot of time hunting and golfing.
        Stan Musial did gymnastics and actually hurt his pitching arm during a workout as a young man, which contributed to his move to the outfield.
        I was amazed to read that Ted Williams did a lot of fingertip pushups as a young man, guess he didn't have a lot of weight to move at that time and was also very strong in a wiry way.
        Gus Zernial may have been the first prominent ballplayer to really bulk up a lot through weightlifting, he picked it up in the Navy in WWII and many baseball people thought he had too much muscle mass for a ballplayer. Big Klu looked like a weightlifter, but I've never read that he actually worked with weights.
        "If I drink whiskey, I'll never get worms!" - Hack Wilson

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        • #5
          Musial injured his arm playing outfield...
          "Herman Franks to Sal Yvars to Bobby Thomson. Ralph Branca to Bobby Thomson to Helen Rita... cue Russ Hodges."

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          • #6
            Duplicate post... like so many Musial line drives
            Last edited by StanTheMan; 06-18-2012, 07:24 AM.
            "Herman Franks to Sal Yvars to Bobby Thomson. Ralph Branca to Bobby Thomson to Helen Rita... cue Russ Hodges."

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            • #7
              Originally posted by StanTheMan View Post
              Musial injured his arm playing outfield...
              Maybe you're right, I know that I read somewhere that Stan hurt his arm doing gymnastics but it could be BS. Can't remember if that was from the rather mediocre Musial biography I read a few years ago (not Vecsey) or somebody like Bill James. I did see that Stan also was an avid basketball player as a young man.

              Tony Lazzeri working as a boilermaker in the offseason also comes to mind, supposedly helped with his great wrist/forearm strength.

              Does Rogers Hornsby starting out the window waiting for spring count as an exercise regimen?
              ;^)
              "If I drink whiskey, I'll never get worms!" - Hack Wilson

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              • #8
                Warren Spahn worked on a farm:

                THE OLD COWHAND

                Thirty years ago on the Diamond Star Ranch, a norther swept down on Oklahoma one February day--as often happens--and turned the landscape into a frigid wasteland.

                That morning, in other words, it was even colder and more bleak and melancholy out there than usual.

                But Spahn's cattle still had to be fed, and as the only adult male on the premises, Spahn was elected.

                He got up, went out, and did it.

                Now, feeding 400 or 500 head on an Oklahoma cattle ranch isn't like feeding the cat. You don't just set out a few saucers of milk. You lift 50-pound sacks of corn and 68-pound bales of hay into a truck and ferry them down a rutty road to the cows' wind-swept cafeteria.

                There, either before or after cleaving the stiff wire that holds the bags together, you lift one out at a time, throw the feed around, and say, "Come and get it, girls."

                In the 1950s, that is, you did. Today they have fork lifts and other labor-saving equipment. But in the days when Spahn was winning 20 games a year for the Braves, year after year, he spent the off-season throwing 50-pound sacks and 68-pound bales in and out of a truck.

                There was just one good thing about it, Spahn said: "I stayed in perfect physical condition.

                "I was so ready that in 21 years (in the majors), I never had a sore arm."
                Your Second Base Coach
                Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and Cey started 833 times and the Dodgers went 498-335, for a .598 winning percentage. That’s equal to a team going 97-65 over a season. On those occasions when at least one of them missed his start, the Dodgers were 306-267-1, which is a .534 clip. That works out to a team going 87-75. So having all four of them added 10 wins to the Dodgers per year.
                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5hCIvMule0

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                • #9
                  Richie Hebner dug graves:

                  He made his debut on September 23, 1968 for the Pirates (and didn't even get an at-bat; he pinch hit with two outs and Freddy Patek was caught stealing), and took his final swing on October 3, 1985 for the Cubbies (and homered). In between, he played for Pittsburgh (1968-76, 82-83), Philadelphia (77-78), the New York Mets (1979), Detroit (80-82), and the Chicago Cubs (84-85) before he hung up the spikes.

                  He didn't exactly retire. The story goes that Cubs manager Dallas Green called Hebner into his office during spring training in 1986 and told him "It's time to go home and dig graves in the summer too, not just in the winter." Subtle, hey?

                  Hebner was famous for working as a gravedigger at a cemetery run by his father in Norwood at a time when major league ballplayers often held other jobs during the off season, earning $35 per grave. Heck, he didn't make six figures until he went to the Phils as a free agent in 1977, and topped out at $310K, less than today's MLB minimum wage.
                  Your Second Base Coach
                  Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and Cey started 833 times and the Dodgers went 498-335, for a .598 winning percentage. That’s equal to a team going 97-65 over a season. On those occasions when at least one of them missed his start, the Dodgers were 306-267-1, which is a .534 clip. That works out to a team going 87-75. So having all four of them added 10 wins to the Dodgers per year.
                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5hCIvMule0

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                  • #10
                    Musial did play some basketball (he was a good high school player) but his offseason job early in his career was locked up before he was even a teen. A man named Ken Barbao live close to the Musial's, worked in the local Zinc mining industry, as well as playing/coaching the company team. He also taught a young Musial a ton about baseball. How to conduct yourself on the diamond, how to throw (and presumably hit) a curve ball. Musial was invited to play on the company team before he ever worked there, which caused a few raise eyebrows, by apparently it was not too big of an issue - possibly overcome by his good play.

                    Musial definitely worked at the Zinc Mine after entering pro ball and definitley was there after his rookie season in 1942, reporting to the Cardinals wartime Spring Training in Illinois (teams held Spring Training close to home during the war) in great shape perhaps due in part to working all winter. Basketball and "exercise" also cited as reasons.

                    His relationship with Barbao also helped to keep Stan out of WWII, the Zinc industry being essential to the WW effort. The high number of eligible draftees in his area of Pennsylvania, Musial being the father of a young child and his elderly parents being dependent on his income all helped push him further down he draft list.
                    "Herman Franks to Sal Yvars to Bobby Thomson. Ralph Branca to Bobby Thomson to Helen Rita... cue Russ Hodges."

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Dude Paskert View Post
                      Maybe you're right, I know that I read somewhere that Stan hurt his arm doing gymnastics but it could be BS.
                      The injury came in 1940 while playing outfield (as he did when not pitching) for the Daytona Beach Club, the Cardinals D Club in the Florida State League. A fall while attempting a shoestring catch injured the shoulder to the extent that pitching was eventually discarded.
                      "Herman Franks to Sal Yvars to Bobby Thomson. Ralph Branca to Bobby Thomson to Helen Rita... cue Russ Hodges."

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                      • #12
                        Going back a ways, Cy Young kept in shape doing chores around his farm.

                        Bob Feller was a pioneer in developing and following a strict conditioning program - considered pretty eccentric behavior at the time.

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                        • #13
                          Cy Young would actually chop a TON (literally) of firewood in the offseason...and NEVER had an arm injury

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                          • #14
                            In addition to some of the information above, I have a picture of Lou Gehrig posing in a weightroom with some weights. I am not sure to what extent he lifted weights but it appears that it was not uncommon for old-timers to work out.

                            Hack Wilson worked out in the early 30's with a rowing machine and punching bag when he came back from an off year.

                            Hornsby worked out at a gym playing basketball and volleyball in the early 30's.

                            I read a magazine article about Ron Santo in the 60's in which he states that he lifted weights.

                            I saw a video of Joe DiMaggio working out with a universal type machine in the 40's.

                            In the 70's and 80's there was a show called "The Superstars" on ABC. One of the events was a standing press. Some of the baseball players did pretty well despite the fact that they did not lift weights very much.

                            Here is Steve Garvey doing 230 pounds in 1978:
                            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQxC3-gxzxE


                            Here is Mike Schmidt doing 230 pounds in 1976:
                            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGD_KMsfK2c

                            Bill Buckner bows out at 240 and Ron LeFlore bows out at 260 in 1979:
                            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_PjzTwgnS8
                            "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

                            Rogers Hornsby, 1961

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by GiambiJuice View Post
                              I believe Babe Ruth trained very hard in a gym after his terrible 1925 season. Not sure if he did it during other offseasons though.
                              He did and your right it was after his 1925 season.In 1926 he trained yearly at Arty McGovern's Gym. I have a couple of dozen pictures of Babe doing a good variety of exercises, stationary bike, rowing, isometrics, hand ball and even some road work, jogging.

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