Moore: The strange, occult origins of the ‘wacky lefty’

From Jack Moore at The Hardball Times on April 15, 2014:

Bill Lee, baseball’s wacky lefty emeritus, once dropped this wonderful piece of wisdom on handedness:

“You have two hemispheres in your brain–a left and a right side. The left side controls the right side of your body, and right controls the left half. It’s a fact. Therefore, left-handers are the only people in their right minds.”

“Spaceman’s” wackiness was hardly limited to his thoughts on left-handedness. Lee famously told Boston media he would sprinkle marijuana on his morning pancakes to protect himself from bus fumes on his morning jogs to Fenway Park. He once was released by the Montreal Expos after leaving the stadium in the middle of a game only to be found in a nearby tavern later on. The stories are endless.

The wacky lefty has been a stereotype throughout baseball history. It goes all the way back to Rube Waddell, one of baseball’s first ace pitchers. Opposing fans would hold shiny objects and puppies behind home plate to distract Waddell. He would leave the dugout in the middle of games to chase fire trucks. He wrestled alligators in the offseason. From Waddell to Lee to Lefty Gomez to Al Hrabosky to Barry Zito, major league baseball always has featured a wacky lefty or two.

Baseball is unique not just for its wacky lefties. The sport is one of the few–and certainly one of the first–American institutions with a high number of visible left-handers of any disposition. It is also one of the few vocations in which being left-handed not only isn’t an impediment but actually offers a significant advantage in many scenarios. Handling a bat from the left side is much easier than dealing with those damned right-handed scissors, at least.

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Originally published: April 16, 2014. Last Updated: April 16, 2014.