Headhunting: An Essential Element of America’s Pastime

Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images/http://bleacherreport.com

 

Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

I’m sure that you’ve heard this term used when talking about baseball with older guys.  The term “headhunters” eventually comes up when the conversation focuses on pitchers who were really good.  The discussion starts with pitchers who won a lot of games, then shifts to pitchers with great stuff, then the focus narrows on pitchers who were workhorses, then slims down further to the guys who were tough, and then finally the conversation settles on those pitchers who were just flat out mean.  Why were these guys so feared?  Simple, because they had no qualms about throwing a fastball right at a hitter’s ear whenever they needed to get their point across.

A shortlist of these pitchers includes Nolan Ryan, Sal “The Barber” Maglie, Don Drysdale, and most famously, Bob Gibson.

Now I understand that intentionally throwing at someone’s head doesn’t sound very gentlemanly, but baseball is not golf.  Baseball does not claim to be a gentleman’s game.  Baseball is much too quirky to be a gentleman’s game.  I mean, come on, we’re talking about a sport where chewing and spitting tobacco is an accepted part of the culture!

So why might throwing at a batter’s head be necessary?  Simple, it’s a matter of gamesmanship.  Take this scene from Bull Durham (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euHfP6X_axY&feature=youtu.be) in which Crash Davis tells Nuke to throw one at the mascot on the first pitch.  Why…because it makes the batter nervous.  Have you ever been hit by a baseball?  I have news for you, it may shock some of you, but it hurts!  Most people tend to avoid that kind of pain, which translates to a batter who is more likely to bail on a 1-2 breaking ball on the inside corner.

Now, given recent events, people are saying that baseball needs to do something about this “archaic” tradition.  Well, in my opinion, those people need to shove it and leave this great game alone.  The idiots that have this opinion are the same idiots who have made the NFL a passing league because hitting the quarterback is too violent.  The whole point of hitting the quarterback as hard as you can is to get in his head so he can’t sit back in the pocket and pick apart your defense!  The worst sort of people are the ones who complain that the NFL is getting too soft and then in the same breath say that MLB needs to ban throwing at the batter.  I’m sorry, but if you hold that opinion, you are talking out of both sides of your mouth.  You can’t have it both ways.  Either you want all sports to become less violent, or you don’t.  End of story.