Charlie Lau

Except for catching Warren Spahn‘s 1961 no-hitter, Lau’s playing career was relatively uneventful; he gained his notoriety as the most respected batting coach of his time. He was a lifetime .180 hitter until 1962, when he radically changed his batting style to win a job with the Orioles. He adopted a contact hitter’s stance, straight out of the 19th century: feet wide apart, bat held almost parallel to the ground. He had two hits in an inning he entered as a pinch hitter on June 23 and doubled four times in a game on July 13, 1962, tying a ML record. His average jumped to .294. Slow afoot, with a weak arm, he caught less and pinch hit more each season. After 1966 arm surgery, he only pinch hit. At a team party in August 1966, he saved MVP Frank Robinson from drowning after a swimming pool accident.

Lau taught his hitting technique to the Orioles, A’s, Royals, Yankees, and White Sox. His book How to Hit .300 supplanted Ted Williams‘s The Science of Hitting as the “Bible of Batting.” Most of the Royals adopted his spray-hitting style: Hal McRae, George Brett, Amos Otis, and Willie Wilson all used the Lau approach during their most successful seasons. In 1983 Lau voluntarily gave up his spot on the White Sox coaching staff to enable scout Loren Babe, who was dying of lung cancer, to qualify for his ten-year pension. Babe died in February 1984. Lau died from cancer of the colon in March.