Rambling on About My Glory Days – How I Became a Lifetime .380 Hitter – No Thanks to Nolan Ryan
Now that I have your attention and before you think of me as a liar, let me explain.
I am sure you have noticed that Baseball is all about numbers and statistics. It is what makes baseball so much fun to follow, like comparing Dustin Pedroia’s offensive output to Josh Hamilton’s numbers. It also ties the generations together. Comparing Babe Ruth’s 714 homeruns with Henry Aaron’s 755 makes baseball timeless and spurs discussions about who was the best. People who do not even follow baseball tend to know certain numbers like Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak and Nolan Ryan’s total number of strikeouts - not sure of that number but it is somewhere up around the amount of our national debt (trillions).
That reminds me. I was one of the strikeout victims of Nolan Ryan. Sitting on the bench in the Astrodome one Saturday afternoon in 1981, my fellow Los Angeles Dodger teammates and I were in awe watching Nolan Ryan pitch. Then, I was called upon to pinch hit. Before going up to bat, a few teammates mentioned, “Don’t let him get two strikes on you. “Why is that?” I asked, as if I did not know. “You will find out,” they shot back – and find out I did. Going up to bat, I was determined to be aggressive and stay ahead in the count, but that did not happen. It was not all my fault, as I was told that Ryan’s fastball was straight. The first pitch started at me and moved back three inches or so over the inside corner for called strike one – so much for being straight. I took a mighty cut at the second fastball and just missed “smoking” it, as I fouled it straight back. Still confident, I was getting my timing down and Nolan was now in trouble. I am sure he knew it, because the next pitch was very unfair, and the reason for my teammates two strike warning. Geared for the fastball, I proceeded to swing at the next pitch (I think it was a curve), which bounced about halfway to home plate, for strike three. I hope you are not saying, “Overmatched” because, for the record, I did foul a pitch off the greatest strikeout pitcher ever. I am convinced that if he had thrown another fastball, I would have broke up his 5th career no-hitter (that he threw against us that day), and the record books would show one less strikeout and one less no-hitter under the great Nolan Ryan’s baseball numbers.
Where was I? – Back to my lifetime batting average. Often, people ask what my lifetime batting average was, and I know they are talking about my career major league average. However, they did say “lifetime” batting average, so I tell them .380. You see, when I calculate my batting average in the major leagues, minor leagues, college, high school, pony league, little league, and peewee league, it comes out to 380. It is a good conversation starter anyway, and much more impressive sounding then my .270 major league average.
I can only imagine what some of the great hitters of all time lifetime averages were. Ted Williams may have been the greatest hitter of all time and he said many times that “Hitting a baseball is the single most difficult thing to do in sport.” He reasoned that even the most successful hitters fail seven out of ten times. Not so fast, Ted. When you think of what Ted’s “lifetime” average was, going all the way back to his little league days, his average was probably around .500. Anyone who could hit over .400 in a major league season must have hit around .700 or above in little league, I would guess.
I know our Seamheads leader Mike Lynch is great at tracking down information, maybe he can find out Ted Williams lifetime batting average, from little league age on.
Former major leaguer Jack Perconte is the author of The Making of a Hitter (http://jackperconte.com) and has a baseball instruction site that can be found at www.baseballcoachingtips.net. He has recently published his second book Raising an Athlete: How to Instill Confidence, Build Skills and Inspire a Love of Sport