Star Tracks: Monday, May 16, 2016 42 years, 2,191 covers and 55,436 stories from PEOPLE magazine's history for you to enjoy
- Comic-Con Has Started – and Fans Are Going All Out with Their Costumes
- Read the Cover Story: JFK Jr.: The John We Loved
- RHONJ's Teresa Giudice Struggles to Balance Motherhood with Post-Prison Restrictions: 'It's Hard to Be Monitored All the Time'
- 7 Times Jennifer Lopez & Her Rock-Hard Abs Made Us Forget She's 47
- We Performed Circus Acts with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
On Newsstands Now
- Matthew McConaughey: In His Own Words
- Jessa Duggar's Wedding Album
- Brittany Maynard's Final Days
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine
People Top 5
LAST UPDATE: Tuesday February 10, 2015 01:10PM EST
PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- October 06, 1980
- Vol. 14
- No. 14
For Batting Coach Charley Lau, the American League Play-Offs Should Be a Family Feud
Both clubs have warm feelings toward the 47-year-old batting coach. Brett believes he would never have come close to hitting .400 if Lau hadn't taught him a new stance seven years ago. This season Lau has worked intensively with New York shortstop Bucky Dent and catcher Rick Cerone, and both have raised their batting averages 40 points over last year. "Charley is the most scientific teacher I've ever seen," says Yankee first baseman Bob Watson, a lifetime .300 hitter. "If I'd had a Charley Lau seven years ago, I'd be a much better hitter today."
Curiously, Lau himself was never a man to inspire fear on the pitcher's mound. In 11 major-league seasons, from 1956 to 1967, he hit a mere 16 home runs while compiling an anemic .255 lifetime batting average. "The question arises not more than 50 times a day," he admits, "how I can presume to tell anyone how to hit .300." The answer is that Lau is a natural psychologist and a penetrating observer of the game. In 1969, when his playing days were over, he was asked to work with the Baltimore Orioles' slick-fielding shortstop Mark Belanger, then hitting only .208. "I kept emphasizing rhythm, balance, preparation and weight shift to the front leg," Lau remembers. "When Mark started to hit, everybody started stening."
Belanger finished the season at .287—a mark he has never since equaled—and Lau moved on to coach in Oakland, then Kansas City. With the Royals he spent thousands of hours videotaping hitters and analyzing swings. He discovered that much batting lore was nonsense, including the old saw that a hitter's power is transmitted through his top hand on the bat. (Lau believes it comes from arm extension and follow-through.) He then formulated his Ten Absolutes of Good Hitting, which are the basis of his new book, The Art of Hitting .300 (Hawthorn, $7.95).
Despite his success, the Royals fired Lau after the 1978 season, supposedly for turning the team's sluggers into singles hitters. Though he was hired immediately by the Yankees, the episode, coupled with lingering legal conflicts from a 1969 divorce (he has four children by his first marriage), aggravated a long-standing drinking problem. "He worries about the players too much," says his second wife, Evelyn, owner of a Marathon Key, Fla. sportswear shop. Then last winter Lau went on the wagon. "Evelyn said, 'You're ridiculous,' and that was enough for me," he said. "I quit drinking in one day."
Lau's only weaknesses nowadays are for ex-Oriole Boog Powell's conch chowder, Pavarotti records and hitters who ask for his help. "More and more teams are adopting his ideas," says former Oakland catcher Dave Duncan. "Yet the most amazing thing about Charley isn't his ideas. It's that he convinces you you're capable of doing things you didn't know you could."
Treat Yourself! 4 Preview Issues
The most buzzed about stars this minute!