We decided to create this annotated inventory of all our videos after the operation had run for over a year and we saw our library starting to swell. Both the technical quality and the accuracy of content is generally higher for the later additions, as is to be expected. Our range and depth of instruction expands as our experiments proceed–and our technical expertise is also growing slowly.
Now that items are multiplying in all categories, certain titles have been bolded whose contents we consider especially informative. These don’t always have the most views or “likes” on YouTube, however. People obviously bring their own ideas about what’s important to any post or video.
Deadball Era Basics
Author discusses Deadball Era hitting This was the first video I ever made for SmallBallSuccess.com. It was essentially meant to introduce Hitting Secrets From Baseball’s Graveyard, but I covered a lot of the basics in the process.
Effective Backspin in Hitting: A Deadball Approach (Part One) and Effective Backspin in Hitting: A Deadball Approach (Part Two) This is a two-part discussion of several critical points, including these: 1) why backspin allows hits to carry, 2) why excessive backspin is lethal for smaller players, and 3) how Deadball batsmen perfected the technique of hitting low liners with just the right degree of backspin.
The Bottom Hand and the “Mobile Back Foot” We really should have labeled this video “Part One” and the following one “Part Two”. We ran over our YouTube time limit; the segment presented here mostly discusses the extreme importance of the bottom hand’s “levering” the handle down and in during the cut.
Another Deadball Era hitting tip This video addresses what I labeled “the mobile back foot” in Landing Safeties. A few of yesteryear’s hitters (or, I suspect, very many: it’s hard to say in the absence of a motion-picture record) waited until the pitcher went into his wind-up to anchor their back foot on top of or away from the plate, far up or far back in the box. Must have driven defenses crazy!
Hand-spreading on the bat This discussion explains why positioning hands two or three inches apart on the handle was so common in the pre-Ruthian era (and it was: Ty Cobb was one of many to do this, and by no means the first). More misinformation has circulated on this topic than any other concerning yesteryear’s hitting mechanics.
The most incredible claim of Deadball hitting Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner claimed that they would stride to where they saw the pitch coming–and that they would still have time to pull the trigger on it. Wagner insisted that Fred Clarke taught him how to do this. How in the world could anyone do it against adult overhand pitching? Here’s how.
Hitting line drives with a century-old swing: first demonstration and Hitting line drives with a century-old swing: second demonstration These were the first live demonstrations of Old School hitting that I ever videoed, using a pitching machine that gave me very little reaction time to emphasize that you can go through all the prescribed motions before contact. Low line drives are the pleasing result.
Deadball Era swing: side view One of my most successful demonstrations, I think: it features a minimalist kind of Deadball stroke that lands quite a few low line drives.
You CAN Hitch–But You Won’t Learn Off a Pitching Machine Is “hitching” (pumping the hands before a swing) a “basic”? A lot of the past greatest sluggers did it–Gibson, Ruth, Foxx, Greenberg. Timing is the key… but practice on a pitching machine won’t allow you to see the necessary cues.
Why You Can’t Swing a Bat Any Way You Like: Physics and Anatomy You can develop your very own “signature” way to swing a bat… right? No–not if you want to succeed. Your body type and your specific objectives will force you to work within certain parameters.
Deadball Era Graduate School
I Love Paul Reddick, BUT… (Part One) and I Love Paul Reddick, BUT… (Part Two) One of the Internet’s leading baseball gurus has helped thousands of boys to learn healthy, effective pitching technique… but he has lately expanded his operation to embrace hitting. Coach Paul signs off on a lot of truisms that could be questioned even with regard to conventional hitting style–but that certainly don’t apply to yesteryear’s style.
Deadball Hitting: Fine Points Most of this video concerns the motion of the hands, and how rehearsing their operations in practice swings can pay big dividends (despite the mind-boggling advice of some respected coaches to desist from practice-swinging).
Redemption for the Notorious “Hitch” Jimmie Foxx, Josh Gibson, Hank Greenberg… all of them employed a dip of the barrel in their load that would be branded a hitch today and eliminate you from most tryouts. But hitches can be explosive: it’s all a matter of timing.
The Golden Plane Here’s something you’ll want to have in the back of your mind as you practice the Old School cut and try to synchronize all of your movements for maximum effect: moving forward leg, arms, and hands all in the same plane.
The Intricacies of “Staying Back” Generations of ballplayers have been told to “stay back” at the plate, and this may be very good advice… or it may be very bad, if enforced like a holy commandment. Depends. Deadball strikers gave themselves the flexibility to leak too far forward if they were fooled and still make solid contact.
The “Microload” That Allows Foot and Hands to Descend Together Though I used a metal bat in this demonstration, the technique works equally well with wood. A very fine preparatory movement in the hands allows them to descend into the pitch even as the foot is catching the forward weight shift. Amazing!
From 1890 to 2020: What Has Changed in Hitting, What Remains the Same This video was conceived both as a summary of our groundbreaking discoveries about “strikers” of the Brouthers/Owens/Kelly era and as a preview of our experiments in applying Old School techniques to the metal bat and high-octane fastballs.
Demonstration: Tris Speaker Meets a 100 mph Fastball This is the demo that follows up on the previous video. I’m able here to land at least a few well-struck hits to the opposite field with less reaction time than I’ve ever given myself before. The “shuffle load”, the hand-spread, the cocked front foot, and the slightly rear-shifted hands are all out of Speaker’s playbook.
How They Used a Heavy Bat (Part I) This discussion focuses almost entirely on hands (though footwork was also an integral part of getting the heavy bat to the ball). You can’t buy a bat today that would handle like my 60-year-old model in the video… but maybe you know someone who’s good with a lathe and a chisel!
How They Used a Heavy Bat (Part II) Following the previous discussion, I show (with the help of a pitching machine set up 15 feet away) how to let the bat’s weight supply a lot of the acceleration into the ball. I use three variants of Deadball Swing, the final one probably more like Edd Roush than Ty Cobb.
Fine-Tuning the Deadball Stroke This is a fairly short video where I mention and demonstrate four fine points of the swing that’s my favorite Old School variety as of January 2020. These tweaks occurred to me only after much rehearsal. They’re probably a composite of 1910 techniques.
Why (and How) Deadball Batsmen Swung Down on the Pitch In this follow-up to the previous video, I attempt to demonstrate and explain how swinging down into the ball with the right grip and weight transfer made good things happen for elite hitters a century ago and more. The post-WW II generation (including Ted Williams) really didn’t understand what the oldtimers were talking about who recommended the technique.
Shuffling Off the Back Foot (a Deadball Footnote)
The Tris Speaker Shuffle We know that Tris Speaker, in particular, had a distinctive two-step shuffle: sportswriters of the day told us so. Some cricket players today use the same technique–and it’s not at all clumsy or crazy when you give it a fair try.
Three Variations on the Old School Swing This indoor demonstration of three different ways to load up for the strongly forward-shifting and descending stroke was recorded in Fall 2018, in pursuance of several suggestions made in Landing Safeties. All three ways involve shuffling forward from the back foot, a technique used by Tris Speaker and Edd Roush (among others).
Ty Cobb vs. Dan Brouthers Neither the Georgia Peach nor Big Dan (as far as we know) routinely employed the rear-foot shuffle that I use in this demonstration; but I’m also, and primarily, trying to test the different outcomes of hitting from a crouch vs. standing erect. The reaction time allowed here is equivalent to a mid-90s fastball.
Excavating the Striker’s Swing of the 1890s, Part I Explains why batsmen of the late 19th century probably set up in the box with their front foot turned outward: the step into the pitch was most likely a fluid glide–with little or no rear loading–that served to shift the hitter’s weight fully forward as quickly as possible.
Excavating the Striker’s Swing of the 1890s, Part II In a follow-up video, we attempt to demonstrate how the stiff front leg’s quick glide into the pitch could have delivered a compact lightning strike as our hitting machine cuts reaction time to that of a mid-90s fastball.
More Deadball Techniques Applied to 90+ mph Fastballs A relatively brief demo where I try to stress a) how to shuffle smoothly off the back foot without any head-bobbing, b) how to ensure that the handle stays in the fingers and out of the palms, and c) how setting up with bat head low and front foot pointed outward (both very common in 1890s) make “a” and “b” much simpler.
Between the Cracks: Abandoned Swings That May Have Ancient Elements
Tapping the Hitch-Load’s Power: Mel Ott Among baseball’s greatest power-hitters just after the Deadball Era numbered many who deeply dropped the barrel during their load: Ruth, Foxx, Mel Ott, and Josh Gibson. Here I reconstruct a stroke very like Ott’s and demonstrate how explosive it can be with proper timing. There’s reason to believe “strikers” of the 1890’s were doing something quite similar.
Falls, Pumps, Lunges: Some Nineteenth-Century Elements Resurfacing Today Some of the more exotic loads and weight shifts in contemporary hitting (cf. Cody Bellinger and Ronald Acuna, Jr.) resonate with techniques as deeply embedded in the past as what we glimpse in Zack Wheat–and even carry us to nineteenth-century strikers like Sam Thompson and King Kelly.
Falls, Pumps, Lunges: Farewell to 1890 Here I demonstrate how attention to detail during a live batting practice can help us reverse-engineer the stroke of batsmen long gone who were never filmed. We can also often deduce what qualities of their technique made it pass out of style in response (say) to changes in pitching.
Hitting Approaches (What You’re Thinking as You Enter the Box)
The Typical Deadball-Era Approach to Hitting When a Deadball Era hitting legend like Fred Clarke or Honus Wagner stepped to the plate, what was his plan of attack? In this video, I try to reconstruct the strategy of a great pre-Ruthian “sticker”–and, frankly, I think that certain of these tactics would probably work very well today.
The Proper Approach for Hitting Off a Machine Some baseball coaches avoid the use of hitting machines as creating practice too unlike real pitching. I disagree, as long as the batter recognizes the vital role of imagination in projecting the tempo of human motions onto this handy technology.
Switch-Hitting and Deadball Thinking: A Potent Combination (Part I) The Deadball Era produced surprisingly few switch-hitters. Nevertheless, I argue here that the Old School approach of hitting up the middle or to the opposite field works very well for the batter who uses both sides of the plate, though such artists today prefer to pull everything they can.
Switch-Hitting and Deadball Thinking: A Potent Combination (Part II) Among other things in this demonstration, I especially try to emphasize the kind of subtle adaptation required when a hitter applies a tried-and-true swing and approach to his weaker, less natural side. Switch-hitters have traditionally been told to make this side mirror their stronger one. The effort to do so inflexibly can produce much frustration.
Going Oppo From the Right Side Hitting to the opposite field is a skill usually cultivated by lefties (because of the longer throw across the diamond combined with a shorter sprint from the left box). Yet immortal righty sluggers like Lajoie, Wagner, and Hornsby logged huge tallies of doubles by hitting to right. Here I explain and demonstrate how setting up far from the plate and then chasing pitches the other way would have allowed such batsmen both to create the proper angle into the ball and to grab a headstart toward first base.
Using a Metal Bat
Metal Bat Small Ball, Part I This brief discussion exactly explains the focus of the following two field tests–the first we have ever run using metal bats. For several reasons, Deadball technique doesn’t mix with metal, so adjustments were necessary.
Metal Bat Small Ball, Part II and Metal Bat Small Ball, Part III The former video emphasizes that the bat has to beheld stubbornly forward during the load since its extreme lightness will otherwise disrupt balance; the latter adapts an unusual bottom-hand grip to keep the barrel from dipping as it approaches the ball.
The Best Deadball Swing for a Metal Bat (Part I) and The Best Deadball Swing for a Metal Bat (Part II) I regard these two videos as my final word on using the metal bat with a supremely simple, uncomplicated stroke combining several of the 1890’s “striker” techniques: easy to do, high probability of contact. Low line drives are harder to achieve… but that’s what you sacrifice with metal.
Old-School Hitting with Metal Bat: Using the Whole Field In this demonstration, I show how immortals like Lajoie, Wagner, Hornsby, and even Clemente could stand far away from the plate and then drive pitches to right. I’m hitting right-handed–not my better side: but with this technique you can get instant results while you’re still rough around the edges.
Resurrecting Ty Cobb with a Metal Bat This video and the one just above may be the two best hitting demo’s I’ve ever made. I found a way to use Cobb’s crouch with the light metal bat: you just have to fish around for a balance point.
If Tris Speaker Had Used a Metal Bat… I was surprised at how easy it was to employ the shuffle step with today’s light metal bat once I had discovered the principle of working around a center of gravity closer to the body. A really smooth, adaptable stroke!
Replicating the Simplest 1890s Swing With a Metal Bat Sometimes the simple things are the hardest to reverse-engineer. This ancient stroke took us months to figure out, and months more to translate into a similar technique suitable for metal… but we did it!
The Simplest and Best Deadball-Era Stroke for Beginners I present a swing that adapts all the essential qualities of the Old School line-drive stroke to the metal bat: it’s the “beginner swing” recommended at the end of Metal Ropes. Technique is adjusted to create something that even young kids can easily manage with practice.
Bunting: A Brief Introduction Bunting has been called a lost art, and there are many reasons why it’s rarer today than decades ago. This video offers a “then and now” perspective to set the scene for its sequels.
The Basics of Sacrifice Bunting Deadball Era “stickers” didn’t have a category for the sacrifice, because nothing they did discounted the chance of reaching first base. Here, however, is what I think they might have done with their rather mobile stances if they wanted to be sure to get one down.
Cobb Meets Ichiro: The Fake-and-Throw-Down (Part I) In a discussion setting the stage for the following demo, I present the Ichiro-like tactic of swatting the ball the opposite way and beating the throw–though I stir in some Ty Cobb by suggesting that we serve the ball into the outfield.
Cobb Meets Ichiro: The Fake-and-Throw-Down (Part II) In this demonstration, I attempt to execute the difficult (very difficult, as it turns out) maneuver of pushing a pitch over the charging third baseman after bluffing a bunt.
Cobb Did It… But Was It a Bunt? Ty Cobb was said deliberately to roll a grounder past the mound sometimes that no infielder could make a play on, almost as if he could “place” the hit in just the right spot. We’ll never know for sure how he did this–but I have a suggestion.
The Baltimore Chop, a.k.a. “Butcher Boy” This video explores a kind of “quasi-bunt” stroke that scrappy hitters of the 1890s might have used to beat pitches into the ground and leg out hits–but the technique seems ill suited to today’s game.
NOT the Deadball Stroke
We’re not quite sure how much this section may grow or in what direction… but it seems reasonable that we should look at some alternative swings, if only to discuss why we’re not promoting them.
Why Ted Williams and Deadball Don’t Mix This demonstration suggests why the classic sweet swing of Teddy Ballgame and his heirs isn’t what we recommend for players of smaller stature. It’s potent, but it pays highest dividends for taller hitters who are just trying to drive the ball rather than place it.
The Adjusted Johnny Mize Stroke (Part I) Though I draw most of my inspiration from the Deadball Era, here I explain how a classic post-WW II swing like that of Johnny Mize might multiply the production of low line drives with just a bit of tinkering (specifically, a little more forward weight transfer).
The Adjusted Johnny Mize Stroke (Part II) In two brief demonstrations, I model the “stay back” swing popularized by mid-century sluggers like Mize and then tweak it into a line-drive stroke with a stronger forward shift and a straighter, less dipping barrel path to the ball.
The Lau/Hriniak Hitting System (Part I) Legendary hitting instructors Charley Lau and Walt Hriniak were in some ways reviving the style of the Deadball Era during the 70’s and 80’s (cf. George Brett, Bill Buckner, Tim Raines) after the post-WW II home-run barrage. I detail some of the system’s major elements here.
The Lau/Hriniak Hitting System (Part II) In demonstrating the Charley Lau stroke that influenced master-hitters like Brett and Raines, I discovered that one of my favorite Deadball Era tactics doesn’t integrate well with these methods: the weight doesn’t shift forward strongly enough to flatten out the downward swing.
These entries will probably be divided further with time, since the submarine style with which we began our experiments has been discarded (no doubt permanently) for a very low overhand angle. The latter produces much more velocity, is exactly what a bunch of hurlers were doing in the Twenties and Thirties, and favors the broad frame common in players of shorter build.
Low Sidearm/Submarine Arm Slot
Pitching tips for short, broad frames: low sidearm angle Our first pitching video ever. This one laid out the rationale for experimenting with the lower arm angle while stressing that we are “what if” guys rather than retired professionals or technicians in white coats.
Six tips for pitching from a low sidearm angle Adding one technique that appears promising onto another that works smoothly with it, we came up with half a dozen interesting recommendations. This is our method: each new thing we try has to harmonize with everything else we’ve put into the mix.
Two-seam fastball thrown from 8:30 I’m in the back yard of my old digs pumping fastballs into a backstop after a long day at the office. The velo isn’t blinding unless you’re a mole–but most of the pitches have a nicely dipping finish.
Throwing the old-school sidearm slider (Part One) and Throwing the old-school sidearm slider (Part Two) You learn new pitches by messing around with the various grips that your hand (as customized by God) allows you to get and seeing what happens. If we were all made the same way, everyone could throw a knuckleball and a splitter. I don’t think these pitches were moving as effectively as I believed them to be in the video… but I was having fun, and I was exploring.
“It’s a curve! It’s a change! it’s… a DROP??” (Part One) and “It’s a curve! It’s a change! it’s… a DROP??” (Part Two) I could repeat here all the comments made just above. I will add that, even if you discover an unhittable pitch, you have to be able to throw it reliably in or around the strike zone time after time. Sometimes discovery is not followed by mastery.
Submarine Pitching: A New Look at Old Problems This was the first video I’d made about submarining after a lay-off months. I had given up on finding a smoother delivery with greater velocity: a degree of herky-jerkiness seemed inevitable. Then I happened upon this supremely simple, “minimalist” technique!
A Direct-to-the-Plate Submarine Delivery I’d been looking for this “El Dorado” of submarine pitching for years before stumbling upon it. Simplicity itself: easy on the arm and straight to the plate, with no velo-eroding release across the front leg.
An Utterly New Submarine-Pitching Technique (Part I) One of the great drawbacks of submarine pitching has always been the necessity of coming at the plate with a roundabout delivery–a.k.a. “throwing over the body”. Here I unveil a way to carry everything straight toward the target.
An Utterly New Submarine-Pitching Technique (Part II) A demonstration of the previous discussion’s technique from three different angles–and I also give it a try with a few left-handed throws (always a good way of checking the validity of your work). Feels pretty smooth!
Fine-Tuning the Low Submarine Delivery Here I discuss and demonstrate with minor but significant improvements 1) how to pitch from a very low arm angle without having the legs get in the arm’s way, and 2) how to replicate this motion in a scaled-down fashion useful when runners are on base.
High Sidearm/Low Overhand Slot
Just Above Sidearm: Lift Angle, Lift Velocity This discussion lays out some common-sense reasons for raising the arm angle a bit above perfect sidearm (parallel to the ground). It’s basically a matter of velocity.
Reconstructing the Pitching Technique of 90 Years Ago Here I trot out reproductions of some very old baseball cards that show star pitches from almost a century ago in their delivery or just after their release. Those who are very close to the sidearm angle make up a whopping percentage.
Basics of the “9:30” Arm Slot This live demonstration shows some of my first attempts to model the higher arm angle after discarding the submarine approach (and abandoning baseball for several months). The transition can be rougher than you might expect.
Some Tweaks and Details About the 9:30 Pitching Arm Slot Here I attempt to demonstrate in more intricacy how to get the most out of a slot just above the sidearm. Much of the focus is on lower body movement.
The Ambidextrous Warm-Up and Left and Right Hands Can Teach Each Other Two of my favorite videos. I’m definitely not left-handed, but I think warming up from your weaker side can teach you a lot of lessons about your strong side.
Be Your Own Pitching Coach: Learning From the Weak Side (Part I) and Be Your Own Pitching Coach: Learning From the Weak Side (Part II) I videoed these sessions because, though I had a sore elbow (from yard work), I knew kids were gearing up for Spring 2019. I had to throw left-handed as I explored the almost-sidearm angle–and, boy, did those awkward efforts teach me a lot!
Shorter Pitchers: Find Good Velocity Throwing Sidearm (Part I) My objective here was to explain an innovative approach to the forward leg’s pump before the thrust off the rubber; I also wandered a bit on my favorite topic of why coaches with strong “player” resumes don’t necessarily give good advice.
Shorter Pitchers: Find Good Velocity Throwing Sidearm (Part II) Here I apply the lessons of the previous talk in a live demonstration–maybe too live, because the wind blows the camera over toward the end!
Pitching From the 9:30 Power Slot The shorter, broader body type with a strong core (e.g., Kirby Yates) seems perfectly matched to the just-above-sidearm angle: lots of velocity can be tapped here with the proper mechanics. But getting all the horses to pull in the same direction requires careful training.
Demonstration From the 9:30 Power Slot Here I throw several pitches from three camera angles to illustrate the delivery described just above.
Tactics for All Angles
Pitching From Multiple Arm Angles This demonstration was less graphic than I’d hoped for: finding the best camera angle was challenging. The principle of combining various arm angles in your game, however, is thoroughly discussed. The advantages here will compensate your long hours of hard work.
Great short athletes in (pre)history A little historical perspective here–and some of it from the prehistory of ancient legends: shorter body types have long been recognized as having more dexterity and explosiveness. There’s no reason why you should feel defeated because you’ll never see six feet.
Why Farm Boys Once Made Great Hitters Nobody ever discusses, or even considers discussing, this topic: we all just assume that our weight-lifting regimen prepares us infinitely better to play the game than anything our forefathers ever did. But now that I’m working with manual tools daily, I’m beginning to doubt that.
Authority: knowing that you “know nothing” is more than some pitching coaches know On trial for his life, Socrates admitted that the Delphic Oracle was probably right in declaring him the wisest of all men, “Because at least I know that I know nothing.” In pitching, perhaps every lesson should begin in acknowledging that our bodies have very different capabilities.
Faith, Reality, and Baseball (1st part) and Faith, Reality, and Baseball (2nd part) As I struggled to get settled on 25 acres of Appalachia in our new home, I took time off from hard manual labor one day to talk about how and why baseball can keep you grounded in an aging, ailing society that seems to be losing its moral principles, and maybe its collective mind.
How to Get Big Hits While Playing Fair The Astros’ sign-stealing scandal is probably the tip of the iceberg: abuse of electronic tech is bound to undermine fair play from now on. But I wonder if an Old School approach to hitting wouldn’t dispel much of the perceived need to cheat against contemporary fireballers.