When I was a kid, my brothers and I used to mimic every unusual batting stance we knew. Of course, We all did the Julio Franco. My favorite, however, was my right-handed version of Will Clark because it actually made me hit better. I wonder who the kids pretend to be today.
I thought this was a fun one from Baseball Prospectus.
1. Willie Aikens
For one highly forgettable Little League season, I used a righty-version of the corkscrew batting stance used by the Royals’ Willie Mays Aikens. The only pictures I could find online don’t do it justice. He held his hands high and his elbow even higher, sort of like Joe Morgan in that regard. However, his lower body was all coiled up, with his right knee kind of bowed in the wrong direction. The result was a long, unwinding kind of swing that generated a lot of power—he hit 77 homers during his four full seasons with Kansas City, which is a very respectable total for Royals Stadium in that era. I wish I could say that the stance also generated a lot of power for me. I did not. I seem to remember cueballing a lot of pitches off the end of the bat. —Bradford Doolittle
2. Tony Batista
Most batting stances, however varied, begin with a hitter’s legs more or less parallel to the line between the mound and the plate. Somewhere along the way to his peculiar brand of slugging stardom, Tony Batista took a look at this centuries-old tradition and decided that everyone else was doing it totally wrong. Batista began his at-bats with his feet more or less perpendicular to the pitcher, his bat held high in front of his face as though he were wielding a samurai sword. As the incredulous pitcher peered in for the sign, muttered, “What the hell?” and delivered, Batista would swing his left leg forward, his foot still essentially “in the bucket” the way your Little League coach horsewhipped you into avoiding. Then he would hack away. The results weren’t pretty, but they weren’t entirely ineffective. In his 11-year-career, Batista bopped 221 homers, with a high of 41 for the Blue Jays in 2000, part of a six-year stretch from 1999-2004 in which he averaged 31 per year. His unorthodox swing didn’t help his plate discipline any; he hit a lopsided .251/.299/.453 for his career, for a substandard .253 True Average. —Jay Jaffe
11. Rickey Henderson
Rickey and I share the same rare genetic mutation, a condition not commonly known as “baseball platoon dyslexia.” Symptoms include a dual predisposition to left-handed throwing and right-handed batting. This unfortunate malady can be a death knell to baseball careers; the afflicted must overcome significant barriers in the field and at the plate, but Rickey was a model for success in the face of adversity, providing a template for my own development. I was mesmerized by his batting stance, with the low crouch that effectively shrunk Rickey’s strike zone to Eddie Gaedel levels, and I mimicked the technique to the chagrin of opposing Little League pitchers. The knees were bent, the hands stayed back, the bat wrapped slightly behind the head, and the spine was hunched over like Quasimodo.
Rickey retired with all-time records for steals (1406), runs (2295), and walks (2190), and though the latter mark would be cracked by Barry Bonds during the video game years, Rickey is still the all-time leader in unintentional free passes (with a 259 UIBB lead on Bonds). Rickey stalked walks like no other player of my generation, structuring not only his batting stance but also his plate approach toward the singular goal of seizing control of the basepaths.
Rickey was one of the most entertaining personalities that has ever graced the baseball landscape, teasing the crowds with his third-person monologues, conducting silent symphonies on his home run trots, and flashing snap-catches on routine fly balls. We can roll our eyes at his swagger, but that bravado was all part of Rickey’s competitive approach. Rickey was the ultimate grinder despite his aloof reputation, with an unbridled passion for the game that is as rare as it is infectious. The man played in the majors through age 44 and continued to ply his trade in the independent leagues after major-league teams stopped inviting him to spring training. I will not be surprised if Rickey resurfaces at the age of 62, leading off for the St. Paul Saints in an attempt to harness his inner Minnie Minoso. —Doug Thorburn