The nineteenth hole is often the most fascinating hole on the course. It is here that stories are told and embellished. Old friends can say anything over a "cold one" following a friendly game of golf. In this tongue-in-cheek story the protagonist reveals to his pal Shorty his secret of how he will prepare his portside grandsons for sure success with the Yankees.
A Stiff Southpaw Swing
by Don White
A Stiff Southpaw Swing
(4 pages, 1,727 words)
"When they get my age, most guys wantaí hang Ďem up. Mentally, Iím speaking. At my age nobody is playing sports well, theyíve settled down to cards and catch-and very little scratch golf. Oh, they do a friendly game of golf with beer and pretzels twice a week. On the nineteenth hole they drink several cold ones and shoot the bull. And thatís the extent of their living it over again. And you wouldnít believe the yarns they spin.
We had just played our Saturday game and Shorty asked about my kids:
"Did that big kid become a professional Pitcher? Didnít he have a pretty good moving fastball?"
"He did, and thatís a fact, but he gave it up-wanted to play every game because he was such a heavy hitter. I saw a lot of his homers. In fact, I tracked some of them down during a high school Vegas trip. But he didnít want to pay the price for baseball. He decided on computers.
"Thatís the trouble with kids these days, got too many electronic options. Too much entertainment out there. Too much sex, violence and drugs. Why, when we were kids the only thing to do after school was play ball. Today, kids go down to Best Buy and spend hours looking at new toys. I told them I had gone through my boys, and now I was anxious to see what the grandchildren would bring. Had a part in deciding that Fate, I did."
"Something like the old days when Mom and Pop arranged the marriage partner?
I nodded and leaned over and whispered in Shortyís ear: "My one son is left handed and he married a left- handed woman. Theyíre sure to have at least one lefty in their brood. Soon as the kidís old enough to hold a ball, Iíll be playiní with him on the floor. Teachiní him how to roll the ball. Then when he can stand Iíll be there tossiní him snerf balls."
"What?" Shorty said. "Donít you mean Nerf balls?"
I leaned back and washed the salty pretzels down with a mouthful of beer.
Yea, the kind kids play with before they can handle real cowhide. Like I said, theyíll be playiní with Styrofoam snerf balls. Then when heís like four Iíll buy him a glove and bat. Weíll start tossing the ball around. Iíll teach him to throw.
"When heís eight heíll be throwing hard fastballs,all left-handed, mind you."
"So, Shorty said, youíre planning to prime this kid with desire to pitch?
"You got it, Shorty, a feller canít start his grandson too young these days.
Thereíll be obstacles, of course--things like television and computers--to take away his attention. But Iíll rig that, too. Weíll watch major league baseball together. When the Series is on weíll be glued to the tube. Iíll bring in treats and snacks that mother would never approve, but no mind. Then weíll go to some local games: high school, college, and the pro circuit. You know-hot dogs, fries, popcorn, Cracker Jack-the whole deal."
"You hope to produce another Whitey Ford, Andy Pettitte or Randy Johnson?"
"You got it! And donít believe for a moment that I donít have determination to accomplish my goal. In sports left-handers have superiority."
"How can you prove that?" Shorty asked.
"Itís just a theory, but it can be proved. Lefties have more rapid reactions. They also make better spatial judgments."
"Whatís that? I think Iím heariní a space scientist or something."
"Space? Like in sword fighting?"
"Sword fighting, whatís that got to do with baseball?"
"Hold on now, Shorty. I was just going to explain. Have you ever fought with a sword?"
"No, have you? I just watched all those Zoro movies. The Count of Monte Crisco."
"Thatís Cristo. Not Crisco. Crisco is lard."
"I knew that: Cristo, sure. We used to bandy a pretty good stick when I was a kid."
"Good, now weíre on the same page. Itís good to know you used to sword fight. Because in fencing, seven of the 16 top world fencers are lefties. So are five of the top 25 international tennis players and four of Europeís ten best table tennis players are lefties. Itís true in boxing, squash, golf, cricket, and, of course, in baseball. Left-handers enjoy more than average success.
"Researchers say left-handed people may be better equipped for close range mortal combat than those who rely on their right hands. For example, take Indonesia--twenty-seven percent are left handers. And this is one of the most violent countries in the world. Because you know, Shorty, only one in ten Americans are lefties."
"Thatís astounding. I never thought of it that way. But you may be onto something."
"I am, Shorty, thatís why Iím praying for left-handed grandchildren.
"Thatís why youíre promoting your kids to marry lefties, right?"
"Right. But itís not what you think. I donít expect to get rich over the vast amounts of money my lefty pitcher gets for playing for the Yankees. Thatís his money, but if he wants he can get me tickets. See, itís that way with me. All I ask in return is that these grandchildren all marry left-handed people."
"Thatís real charitable of you, I have to agree. You set it all up but expect nothing...
"No, not nothing! I expect to sit back and bask in the realization that I fathered a winner. Maybe in a thousand years you could say I fathered a left-handed nation."
Shorty took another gulp of his third beer and looked at me hard. "You didnít exactly father anythingóbut, yes, you fathered the idea."
I was working on only my second cold one when I said: "See, Shorty, the lefty advantage is in rapid reaction and good spatial judgment. Thereís this Frenchman, Guy Azemar. Heís a neuroscientist who has investigated the proportion of left-handers in world-class championships over several years. He said that about a third of elite fencers are left-handed. One fencing great was the Italian Edoardo Mangiarotti who won a total of 13 fencing medals. Mangiarotti was naturally right-handed but was forced by his father to fence with his left hand because he knew it was an advantage."
"Do you also think lefty women are cuter than righty women?"
"You know, I havenít really thought on that, Shorty, but come to think of it they are."
"Whatís your wife?" he said with a glint in his eye, snarfing down a handful of pretzels.
"Oh, her, sheís right handed. But she donít count."
"So, I see where this is going. If you donít get no lefties in your tree..."
"Thatís right, Iíll make the kids hit and throw lefty. Iíll make my own lefties."
"Hey, your not as stupid as I thought."
"Of course not. Itís a good idea, is it not?"
"Of course it is. But thereís just one hitch."
"Yeah, whatís that?"
"What if the kid donít wantaí?"
"Hey, did you know that tennis champion Martina Navratilova was a lefty. So was the great Bambino, Babe RuthÖha, ha, ha, and thatís a fact. Shorty, this guy Asemar believes lefties have an innate advantage. Itís all in the way theyíre wired. You know the brain, itís wired up..."
"Sure, I got one. I know itís wired up."
"The brain has two halves. Theyíre called hemispheres. Each side performs different tasks. In left-handers these functions are more evenly distributed between the two sides. Compared to ours, theirs are more symmetrical. For example, in a left-handed tennis player the control of movements and part of space management are performed on the right side of the brain."
Shorty gulped down some more beer and pretzels and feigned hitting a ball with his right hand, then his left. "Yeah, I sense that."
"This means that the process of the player seeing the ball coming and actually hitting the ball are both dealt with by the same hemisphere. In a righty this visual info has to transfer to the opposite hemisphere to direct the player's movement, adding an extra 20 or 30 milliseconds to the reaction time--hardly significant, one would think, but it can be decisive in world class sport."
"Oh, yeah? But how does that translate to lefties being better than righties?"
"As a percentage of population, itís a proven fact. Lefties are better than righties.I donít know how it is, but the advantage to the kid is also that they're always a need for lefties in organized baseball. For example, first basemen and pitchers.How many teams wish they had a lefty in the bull pen or in their rotation?"
"Yeah, I know, said Shorty. Lefties whiff more right-handed hitters, and vice versa."
"Well, my son--er, I mean grandson--is going to have an advantage. If heís a half-way good pitcher, heís got a shot at the majors, right? I could have made the majors, myself, if only I had learned to bat left-handed."
"You really think you were that good?"
"Sure, I was only twenty percentage points away from being a top hitter. Take Mantle-thatís why he was a 300 plus hitter. The shorter distance to first base for lefties can mean an extra step or two on close plays-and thatís the difference between a base hit and a putout. How many times did you run to first with your foot in the air and only six inches from touching the bag when the ball reaches the first basemanís glove? You just became an out. It happened to me thousands of times. But my kidís going to leg out those infield hits, which will muscle up his BA."
"Good theory, and Iíd like to see it happen."
"It will, Shorty, I know it will."
Shortyís eyes narrowed and glssed over, and his forehead knit as he sucked the last ounce of beer out of the bottle. "Do you think if a right hander marries a lefty that she would become dominant over him in time?"
I shook my head. "Never really thought of it that way. I guess if you buy the general gist of my arguments you would have to believe she would."
"Reason I ask, said Shorty, is my wifeís left handed and Iím right. She has long dominated over me and I never could figure it out. I agree, she is a lot smarter than me, but that, too, may be because sheís got a stiff southpaw swing."
Copyright © 2007 by Don White