Monday, August 13, 2012

Great acts of left-handedness


Today is National Left-Handers' Day. As a left-hander all of my life, I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't know there was a day reserved for me. And that they've been doing it since 1976.

I thought of a way that I could make it up to myself, and of course those thoughts involve the blog and baseball cards.

But before I get to that, a little perspective on life as a lefty. As you might have heard, it's not easy -- obnoxious right-handed desks in school, getting pen marks on your hand every time you write, operating a mouse on the right-handed side because we wouldn't dare subject a right-hander to using their left hand when operating the computer.

In school the teacher would pull a container filled with scissors and distribute them to the kids during whatever scissor-cutting exercise was taking place. If I was very lucky -- and by "lucky" I mean maybe once every other year -- I'd find a pair of left-handed scissors. And then I remember one time when, for some freak reason, there were TWO pairs of left-handed scissors and some right-handed kid got stuck with a left-handed pair. He carried on so much I thought he'd get sent to the principal's office.

But have I carried on? Psssh. I've known how to cut with right-handed scissors since I was 3. Not a peep from me.

That's OK, as payback for all the carrying on that right-handers do when forced to encounter a left-handed utensil once every 17 years or so, somebody ingenius invented the driver's side ATM machine, which favors left-handed people more than any other invention on earth. I sit back in my car smuggly every time I see somebody with their entire ass outside of the driver's side window in an attempt to operate the ATM with their right hand.

As for sports, I've already addressed the issues left-handers face in baseball. However, unlike some other sports in which left-handedness is a novelty or an inconvenience, there is a necessary place for lefties in baseball. Baseball NEEDS lefties. For strategy, for intrigue and for some of the greatest feats in the sport's history.

I'm not going to list those feats here. That'd take too much research. What I figured I'd do is show some notable left-handed moments on cardboard. Specifically, my cardboard.

These are left-handed acts that mean something to me. The lefty. On Left-Handers' Day. So I'm something of an expert.


I'll start with one of the many great left-handers to pitch for the Dodgers. The reason I like this card of Johnny Podres so much is that it appears to be one of the cards in the 1956 set that uses a photo for the action shot instead of a painting.

That makes me think that if it's a photo, it could be from the World Series, as available photos were limited to big events like that at the time. And if it's a World Series photo, then it's likely from the 1955 World Series, which featured the Bums' Wait Til Next Year championship featuring hero Johnny Podres. Throwing with his left hand.


More left-handed greatness. From the first player I think of when someone says "left-hander." There's the Left Arm of God displaying the ball in his south paw for all the see. But they still ain't hitting it.


I enjoyed going through my collection and finding great acts of left-handedness performed during the postseason. Here, left-hander Dave McNally makes it two straight (exclamation point!) in the 1970 ALCS.



In the 1974 Topps set, two cards were devoted to the Championship Series, one for each series. Both featured left-handers, Reggie Jackson and Jerry Koosman.


Left-hander Lou Brock gets St. Louis' massacre off to an early start with a home run on the second pitch in the 1968 World Series.


But left-handed hitter Jim Northrup responded in Game 6 with a grand slam in the Tigers' own massacre.

Northrup wasn't actually a lefty. He threw right and hit left.

Kind of like this man:


Who hit one of the most memorable postseason home runs left-handed.

There have been a lot of right-handers who hit left-handed. And because of this it took a long time for me to realize that ...


Rod Carew ...


Pete Rose ...


George Brett ...


Oscar Gamble ...


Carl Yastrzemski ...


And Dave Parker ...

... all threw right-handed. Because the cards showed them as lefties.

But I still consider them great acts of left-handedness because they were pictured as lefties on their respective cards.

There ARE truly great cards of truly great lefties -- lefties who throw and hit lefty.

Just a few:


That Lynn card takes me back to the first moments when I was aware of ballplayers and "handedness."


This is the first card in which I was truly aware of a player being left-handed. And, damn, did Holtzman look bad-ass and 12-feet tall.


The first two players I ever equated with slugging a ball a long, LONG way were both left-handed.


Wilver Dornel Stargell ...


... and Reginald Martinez Jackson.


Another left-handed guy I read about as a kid who could hammer the ball a long way. Mayberry held the bat the way every player does today. Don't you dare let the bat knob show.


One of my favorites back in '78. I think it would have stood out as an all-time best if Lerch became a star and Topps didn't double-print the card to death.


The only Seattle Pilots card that I have. And Gosger was a lefty through and through.


Here's a fun page from the 1975 Topps set, cards No. 244 through 252. Notice the pitchers. All four of them are lefties. Three of them are in the classic lefty throwing pose. And the best hitter on the page -- Buckner -- is a lefty, too. Heck, even Red Schoendienst hit lefty as a switch-hitter.


Another fun page. It's the first page of the 1980 Topps set. Every Highlights card -- except for Manny Mota -- features a player hitting left-handed. And Mota is excused because he's a Dodger and it's a night card.

Even Mike Lum and Steve Braun were lefties.

I don't necessarily agree with the popular perception that most lefty ballplayers are flakes. I think that's just a way for 90 percent of the population to put 10 percent of the population in their place again. I think players from Mark Fidrych to Luis Tiant to Dock Ellis to Joe Charboneau -- all right-handers -- somewhat dispel that myth.


But you've got me here.

Famed wife-swappers, Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich were BOTH left-handed.

No word on whether their wives were left-handed, too.

Finally, just a couple more of my favorite left-handness on cardboard.


A famous card, featuring a left-hander. Good thing it was captured on cardboard. Or nobody would have known it happened.


Possibly the greatest act of left-handness on cardboard ever. Peace again to you, Vida.


And vindication for every left-handed joke ever told and possibly even some of those lefties burned at the stake as witches and warlocks 500 years ago.

Lefty beats righty. In one of the greatest acts of left-handness ever told.

Of course, there are plenty of great cards of right-handed players, too. Many more than lefties. But as you probably already know, "Every Day is Right-Handers' Day." Give us lefties August 13th.

Actually, one day isn't enough to show all the great lefty cards. This is really just a smattering. As some of you younger readers might have realized, I didn't even show any cards from the last two decades.

No mention of ...


Ken Griffey Jr. ...


Or Fernando Valenzuela ...


Or current players, like my favorite lefty playing today, Clayton Kershaw.

But that's because I plan to make this an annual tradition.

Now that I KNOW that there is a National Left-Handers' Day and I know what day it is, I'll be more prepared.

It'll give me more time to page through my binders, which, by the way, favor right-handers, too.

Not that I've noticed.

11 comments:

  1. We lefties notice all of the right-handed golfers that actually write left-handed. Lefies in boxing and tennis are problematic for their opponents. I tell people that I run left-handed just to see their reaction.

    As a kid I was relegated to playing P, 1B and outfield. Unfortunately, I was horrible at pitching and didn't really like it as a result. In high school, the coaches said that a lefty QB couldn't fit into their system. I guess they never met a Tebow.

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  2. Chris Short threw left and bat right (less common than throws right/bats left, I would presume).

    If I recall correctly, although Short pitched left, he wrote with his right hand. (I don't remember how I know that.)

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  3. Holtzman got pretty lucky getting traded by the Cubs to the A's. of course, it didn't hurt that he was good

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  4. Happy Lefty Day from a fellow lefty! I got to play second base for my first two years in little league, mainly because the ball didn't go between my legs. Our league even had a lefty catchers mitt and I got to catch one game. But eventually I ended up at first and in the outfield. But, shamefully, I must admit that I bat right handed. Everyone else I saw batted that way, so I just copied them.

    That '75 Holtzman is a cool card. I tried to copy his wind up (he was the only lefty starter the Cubs had) but I was just the typical wild lefty.

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  5. my mom was a lefty. I still remember when I was three years old her extreme frustration with me as she tried and tried to teach me how to tie my own shoes.

    Then when day her good friend asked her if she would mind teaching her son how to tie his shoes as he was left handed like her.

    The light bulb went off and they swapped kids for an afternoon, and I learned how to tie shoes quite quickly to her relief.

    Silly mom.

    I miss her. Somehow this post made me think of that/her....

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  6. Thanks for sharing. I too am a lefty... and never knew there was a National Left-Handers' Day.

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  7. @ Jim from Downingtown

    BR/TL is very, very rare among non-pitchers. Rickey Henderson being the notable example.

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  8. That Fran Healy card is making my head explode. He's got a right handed mitt on...help!

    "I sit back in my car smuggly every time I see somebody with their entire ass outside of the driver's side window in an attempt to operate the ATM with their right hand."

    You have no idea (maybe you do) how much I needed the belly laugh that line gave me. Good stuff sir.

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  9. Fellow lefty! It's funny, I always had trouble tying my shoes as a kid, never realized it was a righty-lefty thing. My daughter seems to be a lefty too so I guess I'll be the one to teach her how to tie her shoes!

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  10. Favorite lefties... Sandy Koufax, Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally, Scott McGregor and Jim Abbott.

    That Fred Norman card is awesome, as is the Vuda Blue. Vida, btw, was very close to being a lefthanded QB at the University of Houston. He was a high school star at that position. As I recall he signed a baseball contract because he needed to help his family after his dad died.

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  11. I'm left handed too. Except I learned to bat right handed and throw left. Guess I'm a weird example. I used to play catcher but now since I can't throw to third they won't let me play it. I play the normal left handed posistions of 1B,P, and Outfield.

    I barely learned how to tie my shoes. The funny thing is a lot of my family is left handed. I also didn't know Left Handed Day until last year. Then I forgot. This year I didn't.

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