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I'm really not one of those old fogeys who grumbles that things were way better back in my day. I'm really not. I make a point of not being one of those guys.

For example. I occasionally hear people of my own general vintage grumbling that most of today's music is crap, and that we had all the best tunes back in our day, whenever that was. (My own general vintage would be folks who started taking music very seriously indeed roughly around the time that the 60s turned to the 70s.) Anyway, to this it is my sworn duty to observe that we did indeed have a lot of great tunes, and how could we not - there really was more great music in the last forty years than in the last forty weeks. Like, DUH. But most of the music in our day was crap as well. And luckily, with the passage of time, we've forgotten all of it. And only brought the good stuff forward with us into the modern day. Where there is, I would observe, no shortage of great music. (Is anyone else as dazzled by The National as I am, by the way?)

And so it is with baseball. I don't think the players of the past were better than the ones today. The game is played at a higher level today. This is entirely due to advances in nutrition, training, and coaching - human beings don't evolve and improve that quickly. Not in two generations. We're not fruit flies. And so, while Roy Halladay is doubtless a superior athlete to Christy Mathewson - had Mathewson been born when Halladay was born, it may have been an entirely different story. When you compare the players of different eras, I think you need to make this kind of space-time continuum adjustment.

That said, I want to be an old fogey for a moment.

Last week I posted a somewhat lengthy (somewhat? somewhat?) lengthy piece on the Dodgers. One of the fun parts of the task was surfing YouTube in quest of videos of Sandy Koufax. I knew his pitching motion needed to be described, and I wanted to have it in front of me. Naturally, in the course of my YouTubing I got sidetracked, and found myself looking at all of these wonderful clips of old World Series games.

And the pitcher's motions! I wrote about Koufax last week - the enormous stride forward, the almost total lack of follow-through from the traling leg... here!

Everybody should take a good look at Bob Gibson pitching. I hadn't quite forgotten, but it's still startling to see. He did that Paul Byrd double pump to get started - he delivers the ball normally enough - but in the process, he pushes off so violently with his planted leg that he literally vaults off the mound towards first base, and ends up having to turn his head and peer back over his right shoulder to follow the path of the pitch he's delivered.

And Juan Marichal! That wasn't a leg kick, that was a Rockettes move. He leaned back and pointed his straight leg as high as he could manage without toppling backward, until it was nearly perpendicular to the ground, and from this bizarre point, he somehow fell gracefully forward into his delivery.

(Should you find some pictures of Warren Spahn kicking his leg in a similar fashion - and there are lots of them - be forewarned. That's not what Spahn did on the mound when he was actually pitching. It's just what he liked to do for laughs when posing for the photographers. Spahn did have a big leg lift, but it was much closer to Dontrelle Willis than Marichal.)

We have nothing like this today. What's probably happened is modern coaching has weeded all of that out of the game, and taught kids the right way to do things. There's Dontrelle, and Mike Mussina does that weird bend when pitching from the stretch. But for the most part - don't you find everybody looks the same? They're all brisk, efficient, streamlined. They all look like Whitey Ford.

Now I'm moaning about this for aesthetic reasons. But Bill James in his second Historical Abstract actually suggests that because of the stripped down motions of the modern game (which he believes developed as a response to combat base stealing) most pitchers today simply don't throw as hard.

We have had some great, great pitchers in our time. And is there anything memorable in how they throw the ball? Anything? Other than the results? Here's a list of eight sure Hall of Famers, plus Johan and our Doc:

Roger Clemens
Tom Glavine
Roy Halladay
Randy Johnson
Greg Maddux
Pedro Martinez
Mariano Rivera
Johan Santana
Curt Schilling
John Smoltz

I challenge you! Is there anything memorable about the way these men deliver the ball?
TDIB 7 April 2008: Those Fabulous Sixties | 27 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
AWeb - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 07:43 AM EDT (#182297) #
Randy Johnson in his younger days was certainly a bit out of control, falling towards third, seemingly able to touch the batter, if not the third baseman when he was done. But there was nothing in the windup particularly memorable, just the follow-through. Maddux seems memorable to me just for the absurdly controlled and centred motion. Along with Glavine, there was nothing remotely violent about about throwing a ball 90mph when they pitched...anyone could do that if those regular sized dudes could, right?
Thomas - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 08:38 AM EDT (#182298) #
(Is anyone else as dazzled by The National as I am, by the way?)

Yes. Very much so.

MatO - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 09:31 AM EDT (#182299) #

(Is anyone else as dazzled by The National as I am, by the way?)

Yes and also The National's good friend Sufjan Stevens.

Mike Green - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 09:52 AM EDT (#182300) #
Check out this one of Tom Seaver.

We are definitely not at a low point for popular music.  That would have been about 1975, as far as I am concerned.  The arts do seem to run in cycles, bursts of creativity followed by lulls.  It does seem that difficult political times do bring out the best in artists, from Picasso's Guernica to the Romanian film-makers of today, who grew up under Ceausescu.

Skills - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 10:46 AM EDT (#182304) #

(Is anyone else as dazzled by The National as I am, by the way?)

Same here. I highly recommend going to see them live.

TimberLee - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 10:52 AM EDT (#182305) #
Peter Mansbridge does a good job heading The National, but he's no Lamont Tilden.
Original Ryan - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 11:47 AM EDT (#182308) #
David Cone had an interesting delivery.  I can't really describe what made it unique, but I haven't seen a pitcher with a delivery similar to his.
ChicagoJaysFan - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 11:53 AM EDT (#182310) #
Submariners have always been around, but they've still got interesting deliveries, like Chad Bradford.
Sister - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 12:15 PM EDT (#182312) #
RE: David Cone. I think what made his delivery interesting is that he threw at varying arm angles all game from 3/4, over the top, and side arm and he seemed to throw all of his pitches at each angle.

I think a fluid delivery is more common now and likely preached to young kids as the move up, probably as the science of pitching has evolved and changed. Fewer pitchers come up with a hurky-jerky motion (i.e. Tom Henke or Jim Clancy come to mind) and foot placement is emphasized more, and motion to the plate (and wasted motion/movement is eliminated). This is unfortunate in some ways because a) mixed deliveries can really enhance deceptiveness and affect hitter timing and b) its darn fun to watch a pitcher with a unique wide-up.

dan gordon - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 12:18 PM EDT (#182313) #

There used to be several pitchers whose deliveries were different enough that somebody could imitate them and you knew who it was.  I agree that most pitchers now look pretty much the same.  One exception I have noticed is that several of the Japanese pitchers who have come over to North America have unusual deliveries.  Hideo Nomo perhaps the best example.  A lot of these deliveries of the Japanese pitchers seem deliberately designed to try to fool the batter, to upset his timing.  I don't know if that is the case or not.  I don't know if unusual deliveries are common among pitchers in Japan, or if it is just a coincidence that several of the ones who have come to North America have them.

I always liked Luis Tiant's delivery.  How he could throw strikes consistently was beyond me.

Geoff - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 12:44 PM EDT (#182315) #
There is so much entertainment to be had in quirky deliveries that MLB should sanction all pitchers to come up with something to bring more entertainment to the game. It's twice as entertaining as batter's box rituals that hitters perform when you have a pitcher with a head-scratching quirk in his routine.

I already deeply miss watching Casey Janssen throw. At least we still have blind Johnny Mac throws on the money. (Which makes me think how wonderful it would be to see McDonald spinning on a mound and blindly throwing a strike.)

Magpie - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 02:51 PM EDT (#182320) #
David Cone had an interesting delivery.

David Cone's basic delivery was sort of a drop and drive - it was the drop part that was interesting. After he lifted his front  (left) leg, all his weight would be on his back leg, which would then do a slight knee bend - and then he would spring forward off it. His delivery slowed down at that point as well.

Jim Palmer was also utterly unmistakable. Another 60s guy, of course.
zeppelinkm - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 04:28 PM EDT (#182322) #

One of my favorite things about MLB 2k7 (Haven't got 2K8 yet) (it's a video game...) is that if you create a pitcher, you can select delivery type and it has all your classic "over the top, 3/4 quarter, side arm, etc" but then it has a whole plethora of famous pitchers deliveries. It's pretty cool though because there are so many to choose from and seeing them through the motion is neat.

Funny you mention Palmer because he's one of the deliveries I picked one time.

zeppelinkm - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 04:44 PM EDT (#182323) #

Mike Green:

I'm surprised by your comment about 1975 being a low point for popular music. I'd be interested in hearing your reasoning, but this isn't a music site so...

The only reason I'm surprised is because Led Zeppelin put out Physical Graffiti in 1975 (and it was kind of hugely popular!), Pink Floyd put out Wish You Were Here, The Who put out by Numbers, and Black Sabbath released Sabotage. And that's just 3 or 4 I can think of the top of my head, but i'm sure there were some other good albums released by popular bands (albeit probably lots of bad ones released, there always are).

Now, i'm not sure Sabotage was hugely successful (it certainly isn't my favorite Sabbath album), but man, i'd challenge you to name a year in the last 10 that has seen 3 hugely popular bands put out an album of the quality the bands above did. I don't think you could because the hugely popular bands now a day's mostly (i say mostly) aren't as musical creative as the bands above were.

Today there is lots of quality music going around. But you have to dig and claw your way to find it, it isn't "mainstream" the way some popular music was back then. For example, Physical Graffiti had gone gold before it was even released, based off of pre-orders alone.  Don't get me wrong, as I wasn't alive back in 1975 i'm sure there was a lof of garbage hogging up a lot of radio time, but at least the most talented acts were able to achieve a level of success that it seems only the most marketable acts can achieve today.

ChicagoJaysFan - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 05:07 PM EDT (#182324) #
I second the 1975 being a good year for music.

Two other groups / artists that I can think of are:  Bob Dylan with Blood on the Tracks and AC / DC with T.N.T. and High Voltage.  AC / DC may be stretching it though - I don't think I listened to them until Back in Black (1980ish) and am not sure you could get either of their debut albums in North America until much after 1975.  However, those two are still solid albums and they were initially released at that time, so I give 1975 credit (and I'm sure it thanks me).

I think the downtime for music came in the early 80s.  I'm going to go for probably 1982 - I think that's when Steve Miller Band came out with Abracadbra, which seems to fit right in with the rest of the stuff coming out at that time. 
Mike Green - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 05:07 PM EDT (#182325) #
Led Zep was 5 years past their prime, and the Who was close to 10 in 1975.  Springsteen released "Born to Run" that year, and Bowie was going strong,  but there wasn't much else then current that interested a 16 year old music-starved young man. 
ChicagoJaysFan - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 05:38 PM EDT (#182326) #
Led Zep was 5 years past their prime, and the Who was close to 10 in 1975.

I disagree, especially with your comment about The Who.  In general though, your comment probably depends on what you mean by prime.  I'm defining a music peak as best couple of albums, but prime being when you're still churning out solid albums.  Past their prime is your Abracadabra years.

For Zeppelin, the fourth album came out in 1971.  I'd say that around then is when they finished their peak.  I don't think they were past their prime until In Through the Out Door.

The Who were in their prime until Moon's death. In my mind, they became a completely different band without him. To say they peaked around '65 is to say they pretty much never did anything as they'd only released My Generation at that time.  Certainly Tommy, Who's Next, and Quadrophenia have to be considered the peak of The Who and that takes us right to 1973.  This may depend on your criteria though, as I'm not as big of a fan of Quadrophenia as others, but have always thought the concept of the Rock Opera to be something that defines The Who.
jjdynomite - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 06:45 PM EDT (#182327) #
Perhaps Mike G is referring to the general musical zeitgeist of the mid-70s.  You guys are mainly sticking to classic rock/heavy metal.

However, there were other genres that flourished in the late-60s/early-70s, from funk to soul to jazz, that got royally DISsed during this period, which culminated in 17 minutes of Donna Summer moaning orgasmically on "Love to Love you Baby", which was released, not-so-coincidentally, in 1975. This ultimately led to the hysterical backlash that would tie both Baux passions together:

Sincerely, your funk/soul/jazz lurker, jjdynomite

P.S. Go Jays Go
ChicagoJaysFan - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 06:59 PM EDT (#182328) #
First, I love wikipedia.

Second, I send by 1982's suckitude vs. 1975

Lefty - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 08:46 PM EDT (#182331) #

I was likely a year older than you in 75. I needed a job to pay for all the records I wanted to buy. Highlights of that year other than the previously mentioned.

A Night at the Opera, Blues ofr Allah, The Basement Tapes, Blow by BLow, Fandango, Fly by Night, Horses, One size Fits All, Rock&Roll, Shaved Fish, The Tubes, Tonights the Night, Welcome to my Nightmare, Young Americans and Zuma.

Theres quite a few I would critque just under the line. But those were all very good to great albums, again not mentioning those already mentioned in the thread.




Mike Green - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 09:09 PM EDT (#182333) #
Oh sure, jjdynomite. The early 70s had Stevie Wonder at his best, Earth Wind and Fire, plus (who knew?) Shuggie Otis.  And Bob Marley's "No woman, no cry" was released in 1975. That song almost made up for the rest of the year.  Back to baseball and 2008...
HollywoodHartman - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 10:38 PM EDT (#182336) #

Back to baseball. Rich Harden and Justin Duchscherer have both been scratched for the coming series. Old friend Chad Gaudin will oppose AJ tomorrow, and likely Lenny DiNardo (Our first lefty, this should be fun) will get the nod on Wednesday against McGowan. Lefty #2 and one of the prizes of the Danny Haren deal, Dana Eveland (a member of the Lindsey Hunter All-Stars) will likely still oppose Marcum on Thursday.

Nolan - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 11:06 PM EDT (#182337) #
I second the love of Sufjan....
James W - Monday, April 07 2008 @ 11:55 PM EDT (#182340) #

Dana Eveland

I chuckled a littled when I saw that Eveland beat Cleveland last week.  I was hoping his name was Clint or Cliff though.

ANationalAcrobat - Tuesday, April 08 2008 @ 12:11 AM EDT (#182342) #
Thanks for the update on Harden, HH. Good news for the Jays and terrible news for my fantasy teams. I'm torn.

On another note, John Sickels quite likes Shaun Marcum - and why shouldn't he?

subculture - Tuesday, April 08 2008 @ 01:22 AM EDT (#182343) #
I like Marcum quite a bit, and think there's a good chance he'll have a better career than McGowan, and many other more dominant 'stuff' pitchers.  I see his upside as more like Greg Maddux, where McGowan is closer to Smoltz..... not saying either will be THAT good, but there's some similarity there when I see them pitch.  A good mentor might help make both take that bigger next step.... Doc might be just the ticket... and maybe Burnett can learn from watching McGowan mature as a pitcher, and apply that to his own cultural learnings of America.

I'm still waiting to see League pitch, and take a spot as a dominant set-up or 7th inning guy.... League/Downs, Accardo, Ryan... wow... and Tallet, Wolfe are pitching well over my expectations!  Oh yeah, how's Frasor for those tight tie games?  Jays have a great set of arms, pls stay healthy!!

scottt - Tuesday, April 08 2008 @ 07:40 AM EDT (#182345) #
A couple of lefties would probably give Stairs another 2 days to rest and it's always nice to have someone of that caliber on the bench.

TDIB 7 April 2008: Those Fabulous Sixties | 27 comments | Create New Account
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