Kagan: The physics of fungoes

From SABR member David Kagan at The Hardball Times on March 5, 2019:

Ed Roebuck was not the kind of player who usually gets remembered. He pitched his way to a lifetime record of 52-31 from 1955 to 1966 playing for four different teams and gathered a grand total of -0.7 WAR. And yet people do remember him, not least because he somehow managed to earn World Series rings with the 1955 Dodgers and the 2004 Red Sox (for whom he was a scout). Roebuck’s SABR Biography is an interesting read, but it’s one particular aspect of his baseball career that interests us today. He was one of the very best hitters of fungos ever. From the aforementioned SABR Biography:

…One of his hobbies as a child was hitting stones with a stick or a club by himself. This turned out to be great training for such feats as hitting the eagle atop the scoreboard at the first Busch Stadium, hitting a ball over the roof at Forbes Field, hitting the center-field wall at the Polo Grounds, and whacking a ball into the colonnaded end of the Los Angeles Coliseum. For that feat, [Dodgers manager Walter] Alston fined Roebuck $75.

‘There is a funny story regarding how I got that $75 back. The architect designing the Astrodome asked Walter O’Malley how to figure how high to make the roof. O’Malley promised to find out how high his good fungo hitter, which was me, could hit one.

On the breakfast line at Vero, O’Malley approached me and asked me how high I could hit a fungo. I said, “I guess about 200 feet in the air, sir.” At the end of the workouts that day, Mr. O’Malley had me report to Field 4, where I hit a bunch of fungoes until he was satisfied. When I finished he asked me, “How much did Alston fine you for hitting the ball out of the Coliseum?” I told him $75, and a few weeks later a batboy came to the bullpen in spring training with a bag filled with $75 in quarters, which he said were from Mr. O’Malley.’”

Maybe you don’t know what the heck a fungo is. It is a bat designed specifically to hit balls tossed upward by a hitter as opposed to balls thrown by a pitcher. For example, a coach might use a fungo to hit balls for infield practice. A sample fungo is shown below. Why would a fungo be any different than a bat used by a player in a game? That’s where the physics comes in.

Read the full article here: https://tht.fangraphs.com/the-physics-of-fungos/

Originally published: March 8, 2019. Last Updated: March 8, 2019.