Swing kings The inside story of baseball's home run revolution

Jared Diamond

Book - 2020

"We are in a historic era for the home run. The 2017 season saw the most homers ever, with 2016 and 2018 close behind, a shift that has transformed the way the game is played. In Swing Kings, Wall Street Journal national baseball writer Jared Diamond reveals that the secret behind this unprecedented shift isn't steroids or the stitching of the baseballs, it's the most elemental explanation of all: the swing. In this lively narrative romp, he tracks a group of baseball's bigge...st stars -- including Aaron Judge and J.D. Martinez -- who remade their swings under the tutelage of a band of renegade coaches, and remade the game of baseball in the process. These coaches, many of them baseball washouts who have reinvented themselves as swing gurus, for years were one of the game's best-kept secrets. Now, as Diamond artfully charts, they're moving from the baseball margins to its center of power. They are changing the way hitting is taught to players of all ages, and major league clubs are scrambling for their services, hiring them in record numbers as coaches and consultants. Diamond himself, taking a page out of the George Plimpton playbook, enlisted the tutelage of each swing coach he profiles, with an aim toward starring in the annual Boston-New York media game at Yankee Stadium. Swing Kings is both a rollicking history of baseball's recent past and a deeply reported, character-driven account of a battle between opponents as old as time: old and new, change and stasis, the establishment and those who break from it. For fans of the game, old and young, and for readers of The Arm, Astroball, and of course Moneyball, Swing Kings is the next big book on America's pastime."--

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2nd Floor 796.35726/Diamond Due May 27, 2022
Subjects
Genres
Instructional and educational works
Published
New York, NY : William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers [2020]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Item Description
Includes index.
Physical Description
[viii], 322 pages : illustrations, genealogical table ; 24 cm
ISBN
9780062872104
0062872109
Main Author
Jared Diamond (author)
  • Swing kings family trees
  • Prologue: The day I conquered the swing
  • Introduction: The revolution
  • Broken swings
  • The oracle of Santa Clarita
  • The ball yard
  • Up, up is the way
  • Bobby Tewksbary, with an A
  • The teacherman
  • Searching for acceptance
  • The road to J.D.
  • A Byrd learns to fly
  • On the verge
  • Rich from the basement
  • Meeting the gurus
  • Success
  • The year the revolution nearly died
  • Stardom
  • Swing kings
  • Epilogue: Swinging for glory.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Baseball purists loathe change because they believe the game must remain consistent. Yet, baseball is always evolving. The pitching mound was lowered because pitching became too dominant in the late 1960s. In the last few seasons, the number of home runs has risen dramatically, though this time not thanks to performance-enhancing drugs. The current surge can be traced to subtle technique changes developed by freelance hitting coaches. Diamond, national baseball writer for the Wall Street Journal, traces the history of hitting over the years. Now independent coaches such as Craig Wallenbrock and Doug Latta have had success improving the performance of hitters either mired in slumps or who simply want to improve. Diamond shows how Wallenbrock and Latta analyze performance with videotape breakdowns and then apply the techniques they've learned through years of trial and error. Of course, this has generated some friction between baseball's "official" hitting coaches and the various freelancers. In addition to examining modern hitting, Diamond tells the fascinating story of this struggle between the establishment and the innovators. A great way for fans to kick off the new decade. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Booklist Reviews

Baseball purists loathe change because they believe the game must remain consistent. Yet, baseball is always evolving. The pitching mound was lowered because pitching became too dominant in the late 1960s. In the last few seasons, the number of home runs has risen dramatically, though this time not thanks to performance-enhancing drugs. The current surge can be traced to subtle technique changes developed by freelance hitting coaches. Diamond, national baseball writer for the Wall Street Journal, traces the history of hitting over the years. Now independent coaches such as Craig Wallenbrock and Doug Latta have had success improving the performance of hitters either mired in slumps or who simply want to improve. Diamond shows how Wallenbrock and Latta analyze performance with videotape breakdowns and then apply the techniques they've learned through years of trial and error. Of course, this has generated some friction between baseball's "official" hitting coaches and the various freelancers. In addition to examining modern hitting, Diamond tells the fascinating story of this struggle between the establishment and the innovators. A great way for fans to kick off the new decade. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Baseball is often perceived as the sport most resistant to change but in truth, it's steadily evolving, as Diamond, national baseball writer for the Wall Street Journal, explains. The science and art of hitting are in the midst of a rebirth, in the wake of the steroid era that devalued home runs and finally subsided in the early 2000s. Diamond's authorial debut describes revolutionary new theories about putting the bat on the ball, and introduces a cast of characters worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. He even tries the new training methods himself, to see if he can improve his hitting techniques. Written with self-effacing humor and a healthy respect for the national pastime, even the most traditionally-minded baseball fans will find this a refreshing look at the game as it is passed along to the next generation of players and fans. VERDICT A timely reminder that most limits are self-imposed, and most records are made to be broken. Baseball fans who enjoyed Michael Lewis's Moneyball will embrace Diamond's account of new methods of hitting and strategies that are both true to the sport's history and promising for its future.—Janet Davis, Darien P.L., CT Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Wall Street Journal baseball writer Diamond delivers a rollicking account of the recent shift in that most joyous and elemental moment in sports: the home run. Diamond explores how changes in how players swing the bat have resulted in record-setting numbers of home runs, leading him to conclude: "Baseball today is about one thing: power—and how to cultivate it." But rather than digressing into statistics and data analytics, Diamond focuses on the work of such players as Boston Red Sox outfielder J.D. Martinez, who, after suffering a freak injury and on the disabled list in 2013, changed his swing with the help of "hitting pioneer" Craig Wallenbrock, which resulted in multiple All-Star appearances and Silver Slugger awards. In addition to providing the background story of this swing guru, Diamond provides historical anecdotes about the cultural and strategic significance of the home run and the history of batting strategy and training, such as the famed contrast between Babe Ruth's home-run slugging and Ty Cobb's "small ball" game of bunting and hitting singles. Diamond also talks about his own life in amateur baseball, including a colorful story of his work to improve his swing before the annual New York vs. Boston media game. This breezy and engaging history will be a hit with baseball aficionados and casual fans alike. (Mar.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

The Wall Street Journal national baseball writer presents a narrative account of the “home run boom” that describes the pivotal contributions of such figures as J. D. Martinez, Aaron Judge and Justin Turner. A first book. 50,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"The best baseball book I’ve read in years." — Sam Walker • "An exhilarating story of innovation."  — Ben Reiter • "Swing Kings feels like a spiritual successor to Moneyball." — Baseball ProspectusFrom the Wall Street Journal’s national baseball writer, the captivating story of the home run boom, following a group of players who rose from obscurity to stardom and the rogue swing coaches who helped them usher the game into a new age. We are in a historic era for the home run. The 2019 season saw the most homers ever, obliterating a record set just two years before. It is a shift that has transformed the way the game is played, contributing to more strikeouts, longer games, and what feels like the logical conclusion of the analytics era. In Swing Kings, Wall Street Journal national baseball writer Jared Diamond reveals that the secret behind this unprecedented shift isn’t steroids or the stitching of the baseballs, it’s the most elemental explanation of all: the swing. In this lively narrative romp, he tracks a group of baseball’s biggest stars—including Aaron Judge, J.D. Martinez, and Justin Turner—who remade their swings under the tutelage of a band of renegade coaches, and remade the game in the process. These coaches, many of them baseball washouts who have reinvented themselves as swing gurus, for years were one of the game’s best-kept secrets. Among their ranks are a swimming pool contractor, the owner of a billiards hall, and an ex-hippie whose swing insights draw from surfing and the technique of Japanese samurai. Now, as Diamond artfully charts, this motley cast has moved from the baseball margins to its center of power. They are changing the way hitting is taught to players of all ages, and major league clubs are scrambling for their services, hiring them in record numbers as coaches and consultants. And Diamond himself, whose baseball career ended in high school, enlists the tutelage of each swing coach he profiles, with an aim toward starring in the annual Boston-New York media game at Yankee Stadium. Swing Kings is both a rollicking history of baseball’s recent past and a deeply reported, character-driven account of a battle between opponents as old as time: old and new, change and stasis, the establishment and those who break from it. Jared Diamond has written a masterful chronicle of America’s pastime at the crossroads.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

"The best baseball book I've read in years." ' Sam Walker ' "An exhilarating story of innovation."  ' Ben Reiter ' "Swing Kings feels like a spiritual successor to Moneyball." ' Baseball ProspectusFrom the Wall Street Journal's national baseball writer, the captivating story of the home run boom, following a group of players who rose from obscurity to stardom and the rogue swing coaches who helped them usher the game into a new age. We are in a historic era for the home run. The 2019 season saw the most homers ever, obliterating a record set just two years before. It is a shift that has transformed the way the game is played, contributing to more strikeouts, longer games, and what feels like the logical conclusion of the analytics era. In Swing Kings, Wall Street Journal national baseball writer Jared Diamond reveals that the secret behind this unprecedented shift isn't steroids or the stitching of the baseballs, it's the most elemental explanation of all: the swing. In this lively narrative romp, he tracks a group of baseball's biggest stars'including Aaron Judge, J.D. Martinez, and Justin Turner'who remade their swings under the tutelage of a band of renegade coaches, and remade the game in the process. These coaches, many of them baseball washouts who have reinvented themselves as swing gurus, for years were one of the game's best-kept secrets. Among their ranks are a swimming pool contractor, the owner of a billiards hall, and an ex-hippie whose swing insights draw from surfing and the technique of Japanese samurai. Now, as Diamond artfully charts, this motley cast has moved from the baseball margins to its center of power. They are changing the way hitting is taught to players of all ages, and major league clubs are scrambling for their services, hiring them in record numbers as coaches and consultants. And Diamond himself, whose baseball career ended in high school, enlists the tutelage of each swing coach he profiles, with an aim toward starring in the annual Boston-New York media game at Yankee Stadium. Swing Kings is both a rollicking history of baseball's recent past and a deeply reported, character-driven account of a battle between opponents as old as time: old and new, change and stasis, the establishment and those who break from it. Jared Diamond has written a masterful chronicle of America's pastime at the crossroads.