Willie Keeler: “How I Win”

2 Jun

As part of a syndicated syndicated series of articles asking star players and managers to explain, “How I Win,” writer Joseph B. Bowles spoke to the “brainiest outfielder in the business,” Wee Willie Keeler, then in his final season in the major leagues:

“The study of batting and of batters has done more for me in winning games and helping the team win than anything else.”

Keeler

Keeler said, “through long experience,” he knew where batters would hit “any kind of pitched ball,” but:

“(T)he modern game changes so rapidly a fielder has to keep studying all the time to keep up with it. The batters change their styles sometimes in a few days, and I have seen many games lost by fielders misplaying a batter who has changed his direction of hitting.”

He said he spent every morning reading and studying to see, “how each man is hitting and the general direction of his hits,” and who was pitching.

“At the end of the week I get all the scores in some sporting paper and take each man separately and go through all the games to study his batting. In that way I generally know just what each batter is likely to do, and I play for him accordingly.”

Keeler said in Brooklyn one season, after being out of the lineup for several days with an injury and not “studying box scores during the layoff, “It was surprising to see how many of them I misplayed when I got back into the game.”

The man nicknamed “Hit ‘em where they ain’t,” said, “The study of fielders by hitters is almost as important,” particularly for fast runners.

“Indeed, I think this is one of the most neglected points in baseball. No man can hit a ball to any point he wants to, but many can accomplish the feat a fair percentage of times.”

Keeler said throughout the game:

“I study the positions taken by the opposing players and very frequently it is possible to catch a player out of position or pull him out of position and hit into his territory.”

One of the “most effective forms of place hitting,” was drawing corner infielders in by feigning a bunt, “then poking the ball over his head or hitting it fast past him.”

Many players, rather than considering where they were being played, “see only the pitcher, and slam away at the ball without any idea of where it is going.”

He called himself an advocate for “hitting the ball squarely rather than hitting it hard,” and:

“If anyone will study how many hits are made after two strikes and the batter ‘chokes up’ his bat and hits squarely without swinging hard at the ball he will be convinced that style of batting is best.”

One Response to “Willie Keeler: “How I Win””

  1. hanspostcard June 2, 2021 at 10:05 am #

    Today’s game needs more hitters like Keeler.

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