"out of left field" (Why "left"?)

Frank Abate abatefr at EARTHLINK.NET
Wed Mar 28 13:07:45 UTC 2001

First graph below is Larry H, next is Alice F:

>Again, I'd love to see empirical support for this claim.  Center
>fielders make more putouts than left or right fielders, although no
>doubt some of that results from the fact that they're usually faster
>afoot (precisely because the greensward is so much vaster in
>center--can you imagine Willie Mays playing left?), and also because
>on fly balls to left- or right-center, the CF is the presumptive
>fielder and calls the others off the ball.  But none of this
>demonstrates that more play takes place in left.

Actually, I suspect that *less* play takes place in left than in the right
or, certainly, than center. There's a reason the Mets tried Hundley in left
when he couldn't catch yet after his elbow surgery. And that's the same
reason that the Yankees have Knoblauch in left, now that he can't handle

We need to check stats.  I'm not sure that either contention (centerfielders
make more putouts OR less play takes place in left) is correct.  What I can
say, as I think I have observed previously, is that often, in the majors, an
old or suspect fielder (who can still hit) is put in left because one does
not need to be a great fielder or have a great arm to "get away with it".
In right field, to make the plays (especially the long throw to third), you
need a strong, accurate arm.  Furthermore, if the centerfielder is fast, he
can cover for some of the ground in left center, reducing what the left
fielder needs to cover.

It is true that the CF calls off both LF and RF on any plays where they come

All in all, given the preponderance of rightie hitters to lefties, I doubt
that there is more play in right.  But are there stats on this?

As for "why left?", it is at least possible that Yankee Stadium's Death
Valley in left center was famous enough to have been a major influence.  Is
the early evidence for the expression largely from sports pages?

Frank Abate

More information about the Ads-l mailing list