Stroke of genius

The swing has a signature. It’s head down all the way through contact, because you can’t hit what you can’t see, he would say. It’s a weight shift from the back leg to the front, because you need to get leverage. It’s a top-hand release of the bat, because you need your lead arm extended to swing through the ball, maintain your bat speed and keep the bat plane level. It’s a level swing, finishing high, because that creates backspin and backspin gives you loft and distance. It’s the signature of Charley Lau, and now, more than 23 years after his death, his handwriting is everywhere. It’s in Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez. It’s in Frank Thomas and Albert Pujols. They are the fruit of a hitting revolution, a new religion that started in the early 1970s when a light-hitting backup catcher with a lifetime .255 batting average turned the baseball world upside down and exposed a generation gap in the process. When the Charley Lau Swing was introduced nearly 30 years ago, it challenged decades of beliefs on how to hit a baseball, and it will be on display again this All-Star week in San Francisco. “All these guys that are being successful now, and all that success that’s bringing them fame and fortune, don’t know that they should attribute it, in a very large part, to Charley,” says St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. “To me, the two most significant men of the last 40 years I’ve… [Read full story]

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