In a recent issue of Sports Illustrated, seven-time National League batting champ Tony Gwynn spoke of conversations, going back several years, between himself and baseball great Ted Williams.
Williams, considered the preeminent authority on the science of hitting, has been a mentor not only to Gwynn, but to other modern-day batsmen.
Less publicized, however, is the ongoing relationship between Montreal Expo utility second baseman Connie Sanks and Henry Townsend, backup catcher for the 1939 Phillies.
Townsend, somewhat envious of the relationship Williams enjoys with today's players, began an aggressive, unsolicited campaign to provide hitting advice to the guruless.
Townsend first contacted Sanks on a winter morning in December 1992. His 5 a.m. call was answered by Sank's wife, Trish.
Townsend: This is Henry Townsend. I'd like to speak to young Connie Sanks about my ideas on hitting.
Trish: He's asleep.
Townsend: Wake him up. He has much to learn.
Townsend: This is Henry Townsend. You got a bat nearby?
Sanks: Who are you?
Townsend: Henry Townsend. Used to play in the Bigs. Now I'm a hitting mentor. What size bat you got there?
Sanks: I use a 33-ounce bat.
Townsend: That's an excellent size. What else would you like to know?
Sanks: Why are you calling?
Townsend: Too many young people don't know how to hit. For instance, what do you do if the pitcher is pitching you outside. Do you try to pull it?
Sanks: I go with the pitch.
Townsend: You know that one. You have the makings of a fine protege. What time should I pop over?
Sanks: I don't want you over here.
Townsend: We'll cook up some eggs and do some bunting.
Sanks: I'm not interested. I already have a hitting coach.
Townsend: Does he call you at home? Once you leave that field, he doesn't care about you. I, on the other hand, will provide live-in hitting services for $200 a week plus kitchen privileges.
Sanks: I don't understand. Do you have a particular hitting . . . philosophy?
Townsend: Very much so.
Sanks: Which is?
Townsend: Swing twice. You got plenty of time up at that plate. So often you young people swing only once, which cuts your chances of hitting the ball in half.
Sanks: There's no opportunity to swing twice.
Townsend: It's called time management, son. When I played for the Phillies, I would sometimes swing four times at the same pitch. That's why I used a light bat.
Sanks: Who else are you coaching right now?
Townsend: I have a call in to Jim Penders of the Yankees. We've never actually spoken. He's down in some resort in the Caribbean. He never answered my page, and I am frankly quite upset with him.
Sanks: Have you ever seen me hit?
Townsend: I don't keep up with the game as much as I should. But I was told by a friend of mine that you're in need of a mentor.
Sanks: Please leave me alone.
Townsend: Does your wife play baseball?
Sanks: We are not interested.
Townsend: How's your fielding?
Townsend: How's your lawn? Do you need some tips on clean, even mulching? I can be over in about 10 minutes.
Sanks: We have no need for you right now.
Townsend: How are your parents hitting?
Sanks: I'm going to hang up.
Townsend: Baseball is a game of senses. Have you ever noticed the sound of the ball hitting the bat? It's subtle, but it makes a distinct sound.
Sanks: Yes, I have heard it.
Townsend: There is no game like baseball, young man. What other game is played with a bat?
Sanks: How did you get my number?
Townsend: Some call it the summer game. However, I'm working on my own name for it. We can toss ideas back and forth. Pick me up in 10 minutes.