THE BURT AWARDS SHOWCASE CATEGORY: BATTING STANCE
From now until October, 27th, the hard-working staff at Better Off Red is spending a day on the blog showcasing each voting category for The Burt Awards. These blog posts will prove to be erroneous and based on falsehoods and are intended for entertainment purposes only. They are NOT to be taken too seriously. Today’s showcase category is Best Batting Stance. To vote for The Burt Awards, click here, here and here . Winners will be announced at the first ever Burt Awards Ceremony on October 28th.
In the Fall of 1988, a 26 year-old outfielder from Jamaica named Rolando Roomes had just wrapped up his first baseball season as a big leaguer. Spending a modest 17 games with the Chicago Cubs, the worrisome Roomes was uneasy about his future. The Cubs had just installed lights at Wrigley Field and he knew his Major League salary would probably be used the following year to pay for the sky-rocketing electric bills. The hand-writing was on the ivy-covered brick wall. He was destined to spend his ninth year in the minor leagues.
Roomes wasn’t a young prospect anymore. His chance at proving himself in the Major Leagues was fading fast. He had to do something. So on October 18, 1988, the former cricket player, unveiled something he had privately been working on for months. He was calling it “Hitter’s Position at Home Plate.”
In 1988, and all the years before, the art of hitting a baseball consisted of the batter using a bat like one would use a sledgehammer. He would stand on top of home plate, with both shoulders facing the pitcher, holding the bat above his head. The batter would then sit in a squatting position until the pitcher threw the baseball. At that moment, the batter would leap out of his squatting position, yell out “SURPRISE,” and use the bat to swat down on the ball. The entire process is very similar to how Gallagher smashes watermelons.
Needless to say, this trivial method of batting was not conducive to high scoring games or eye-popping statistics. Prior to 1989, Ted Williams had owned the batting average record when, in 1975, he hit .046. It was a pitchers game. Christy Mathewson, playing for the Marlins in ‘88, went 134-2 with a 0.01 ERA and won the Cy Young Award. Hitters had zero chance and no one at the time could figure out why…except Rolando Roomes.
Innovative, unorthodox and widely regarded as ridiculous, Roomes’ invention, “Hitter’s Position at Home Plate,” broke all traditional norms. Borrowing from his friends on the cricket pitch, Roomes’ new method had the batter standing parallel to home plate (not on top of it), with his bat slightly above his strong shoulder and his feet and shoulders facing east (or west depending on your Garmin). The squatting leap and yelling was omitted altogether because, well, that was just weird. The batter would now swing the bat at a pitched ball in a fashion similar to chopping a tree.
Experimenting with this style in the Dominican Winter League, Roomes hit .250 with 4 home runs. He was in the process of turning the baseball world on its head. Sure, it was freakish but “Hitter’s Position at Home Plate” worked. Roomes was ready to bring it back to America…and Chicago.
Cubs’ owner Charles Comiskey was not impressed with Roomes’ new invention. He felt that it would compromise the integrity of the sport, so he suspended Roomes and seven of his teammates for conspiring to ruin baseball. This is now known as the infamous Black Sox Scandal.
Blackballed and out of a job, Roomes was not yet ready to give up. He traveled to Cincinnati where folks were much more liberal about new inventions. Roomes demonstrated his new batting method to Reds’ owner Pete Rose. Rose thought “Hitter’s Invention at Home Plate” was brilliant, but needed a new name. He signed Rolando Roomes with the condition that Roomes change the name to “batting stance.” Roomes agreed.
With the Reds, Rolando Roomes and his “batting stance” were on their way to stardom. In 1989, Roomes batted .263 with a whopping 7 home runs – modern day baseball records. For his accomplishments, he won the Most Valuable Player Award, the Cy Young Award, an Emmy Award and the Nobel Peace Prize.
Seeing that he could never again have a season as historic as the one he enjoyed in 1989, Rolando Roomes retired in January of 1990. He has since joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Bill James. Today, he is a baseball statistician living happily in Boston.
When voting for The Burt Awards’ Best Batting Stance, please remember the story of Rolando Roomes.
Until next time,