People REALLY Thought This Was A Good Idea?

By Coach Ron Wolforth-


Here is a rather iconic picture of a ‘candy striper’… a nurse’s assistant… in the 1950s selling cigarettes, gum, and candy to patients in their hospital beds.


If you are a student of history, you will often come across the incredible evolution of thought of our culture at large regarding what is wholesome, appropriate, and/or acceptable.


In short, we get it wrong… A LOT!


In this week’s segment, I’m going to share 5 previous cultural paradigms that, at one time, were viewed as positive and trendy, and are now viewed as archaic, contraindicated, and maybe even downright dangerous.


Then I’m going to predict 3 currently accepted baseball pitching paradigms that in my opinion will look much different in 20 years.


First, 5 Changing Paradigms From The Culture At Large: (taken from a list from, “10 Deadly Things People Used To Think Were Harmless”)


#1. Smoking


Cigarettes are bad for you… period.


We all know that cigarettes cause cosmetic damage, heart problems, and issues with your oral health and that, in the end, they are often a contributing factor in many people’s cancer.


Unfortunately for pre-1950s children though, mothers across the globe were as convinced as everyone else that a cigarette a day kept the doctor away. Ad campaigns that were actually endorsed by qualified physicians insisted that cigarettes made you skinny, helped you sleep, and sobered you up if, for example, you drank too much of your baby’s teething brandy (see #2).


#2. Brandy for the baby


The 19th century old wives’ tale goes that doting parents might be able to quieten a teething baby by rubbing brandy into its gums and, for once, the old wives might well be onto something.


Pediatricians have known for many years now that even small amounts of alcohol can cause enormous problems with babies’ blood-sugar levels and respiration, so yes, brandy will definitely stop a baby from crying sooner or later. The issue lies in the fact that it might never cry again.


#3. Bloodletting


As far back as 1000 B.C., assorted quacks have held the risible belief that too much blood can be bad for you. A medieval doctor might have treated almost any medical complaint by fetching a knife, cutting a limb or two, and letting out some of that bad, bad blood.


Naturally, there’s actually not a great deal to be said for needlessly opening up one of your patients and bleeding them like a radiator. Invariably, patients would feel nauseous and lightheaded or, at worst, die of infection or blood loss.


#4.  Arsenic


Arsenic needs no introduction. It kills you. We know this. Even in low doses it can cause serious kidney and liver damage, so when the Victorians started using it to color green sweets, they were asking for trouble. Further to that, many Victorian ladies also used to mix arsenic compounds with chalk and vinegar and chug the concoction. Their intention was to give themselves a paler complexion as a tan would imply that you worked out in the fields.


Sadly, the resultant organ damage, vomiting, convulsions, and coma eventually led the ladies to an early death, so ironically, they probably looked a lot paler than they’d initially hoped.


#5. The 1950s Food Pyramid


From 1956 until 1992 the United States Department of Agriculture recommended its “Basic Four” food groups. The Food Guide Pyramid was introduced by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1992 and it included six blocks. (It is any wonder why the rates of obesity in the United States exploded during that period.)


Even the adaptations to the food pyramid in 1992 were less than enlightened.

One thing is for certain, neither government nor big business has a stellar track record for looking out for our best interests.


Now for the baseball version of this phenomena: 


3 Baseball Pitching Paradigms Which, In Our Opinion,
Will Look Much Different In 20 Years


#1. Limited Distance Throwing 60-90-120ft is best for the health and durability of an athlete’s arm and their ability to pitch in competition.


We believe such constraints are actually harmful, limiting, and very detrimental to the development of young arms. A certain degree of stress is in fact absolutely necessary to elicit favorable physiological adaptations to soft tissue. In other words, when managed well, stress becomes an invaluable component in developing a healthy, robust, durable, and electric arm.


We must not fear stress. We must not fear dynamic and athletic expressions of throwing. Instead we must embrace, understand, and manage stress on an individual basis, and encourage every throwing athlete to continually build and expand upon his own foundation and current ability level.


Our good friend Alan Jaeger has been remarkable with regards to taking on this limiting construct and will deserve much of the credit for its eventual demise.   


#2. Long distance running (poles) is the superior conditioning and recovery process for the pitching athlete.


Thank goodness the science is already quite clear on this. Pitching a baseball in competition, every 5 days, over 4-6 months suggests a very specific type of recovery/conditioning. 


Baseball in general and pitching specifically, is quite different in its demands upon the body than is almost any other sport. Far too many people associate general physical fitness with jogging, running, swimming, and cycling, and then conflate overall fitness with skill specific conditioning.


It’s one thing to be in good ‘shape’ to run a 10K and it’s quite another to be in good ‘shape’ to throw 100+ pitches every fifth day for 6 months.


Another very good friend, Eric Cressey, wrote a wonderful piece on the flawed thinking of long distance running for pitchers. I’d highly suggest you read it. Eric will likewise be a major contributor in giving the ‘running of poles’ its much-deserved death knell.


#3. High school and college coaches calling every pitch for their pitcher and catcher is a superior model for winning games and pitcher development.


This one is simply more insidious but no less damaging and far more intractable.


I have personally heard dozens and dozens of otherwise reasonable people, people who I actually respect a great deal, shower me with all the reasons why coaches should, and in fact must, call the pitches for the little skulls full of mush in their charge.


I always force myself to listen intently, actually often secretly hoping that someone will finally give me an overriding rationale that I haven’t heard before for taking one of the most crucial parts of the game completely away from the two entities most directly involved in its success and/or failure.


Alas, as of my writing today, the reasons all have been vastly underwhelming.


Even though many of their justifications ‘sound’ reasonable, and in fact are indeed often far more efficient and may actually give their team a better chance to win at THIS moment in time, the long-term effects of such a philosophy are incredibly damaging.


First, as to the efficiency of the process and that the high school or college coach is infinitely more capable, skilled, and competent to call pitches than the players—Of course, that is almost always true initially… but it is mind blowing to me that these otherwise fantastic teachers believe THIS one segment of the game is just too complex to leave to the discretion of the ones trying to execute.


I assure you it is not.


The age-old wisdom, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” I believe absolutely applies here.


Secondly, I often ask the coach how he would take it if his Athletic Director told him that this season Skip Bertman was going to make the line-up, give the offensive signals, and make all the pitching changes from the press box. Primarily because Skip was “infinitely more capable, skilled, and competent to make those decisions than you were because of his experience”.


A vast majority of coaches would not like it one bit. Many would walk.  Some would state the following rational, “Either I’m in charge of this team or I’m not. If you are going to ask me to do a job and hold me accountable for the success or failure of that job but give me no say so in the decision-making processes… I’m out”.


I couldn’t agree more.


But that is EXACTLY what many are doing to their players.


And finally, I have little doubt, with my background, that I would personally be far better at calling a game initially than the pitchers and catchers of almost every level short of MLB baseball. Yet even if I coached a 12 and under team, and my livelihood depended on my team winning, I would still turn over the game as quickly as I could to my pitcher and catcher.


Why would I do that?


Simple. The power of ownership, self-reliance, accountability, problem solving, awareness, and teamwork far surpass the advantage of me controlling every aspect of pitch selection.


You can be efficient with processes, but you must be effective with people.


You manage systems. You lead men.


All it will take is for several competent teachers to gain success by giving back pitch calling to those in the trenches and the tide will shift.  


Until next time.

Stay Curious and Keep Fighting the Good Fight.


– – – – – – – – – – – – – –


At The Texas Baseball Ranch® we constantly look at and challenge our current paradigms to make sure we’re providing the best training possible to our athletes.  If you are a pitcher or know a pitcher that would like to train with others who want to play at the next level, check out our upcoming 3-Day “Elite Pitchers Bootcamp”.  More information can be found at or you can call (936) 588-6762.  We also have a FREE DVD (and flash drive) package “What Makes This Bootcamp Different”.  Simply call and request your copy of the bootcamp DVD.



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