With the Bronx Bombers in another postseason, fans will hear the name of Yankee batting coach, Kevin Long mentioned several times during New York’s current playoff run. This year, he’s being credited with helping Curtis Granderson get more effective at bats against lefthanders and helping Derek Jeter end his long slump in the second half of the just completed regular season. Last night during his post game interview, the great Andy Pettitte indicated that Yankee teammate Lance Berkman told him that he had spent some time with Long the last few days and adjusted his hitting stance. Berkman then went out and hit a homer and double to help put New York up 2-0 in their 2010 LDS against the Twins.
Giving hitting coaches credit and press is relatively new in baseball. I believe it really got started with Charley Lau. Lau coached hitting for several teams, including the Yankees but he seemed to gain most of his attention when he tutored hitters in the very good Kansas City Royal lineups that used to challenge New York for the AL Pennant every year in the mid-to-late seventies. Before that, about the only time you might have heard or read a hitting coach’s name in the media would have been when they were hired or fired.
The 1961 Yankees were considered by many to be one of the great offensive teams of all times. So who was the hitting coach for that powerful bunch of home-run hitting sluggers? You have to be a pretty loyal and long-time pinstripe fan to remember him. His name was Wally Moses and the most remarkable thing about him coaching hitting on that particular team was that Wally himself was a singles hitter during his 17 year career as an AL outfielder with the A’s, White Sox and Red Sox. But upon closer inspection, even though he averaged just 7 home runs per year during his career, he did figure out how to develop a power stroke in 1937, when he hit 25 round-trippers for Philadelphia. The Yankee hitters he coached absolutely loved Wally because he made them feel so good about themselves as hitters. A grateful Ralph Houk once begged him never to leave.
If one of the reasons today’s Yankees are winning postseason series is because they’ve learned to play “Long” ball, I guess you could also say that Moses helped lead those 1961 Yankee bats to the promised land. Wally was born on October 8, 1910 in Uvalda, GA and passed away in 1990.
October 8 is not a date on which fans of New York Yankee birthdays have lots to celebrate about. Bernie Williams, the former outfielder, celebrates a birthday today but he’s the Bernie Williams who played for the Giants and Padres back in the early 1970’s and not the “Bern Baby Bern” who won four World Series rings and a batting championship with the Yankees. Catfish was also born on October 8 but this one’s last name was Metkovich and not the late great Yankee pitcher named Hunter. There was also an old Yankee hitting coach named Wally Moses who was born on this date. I remember Wally looked like he was eighty years old when he was fifty and I remember wondering back then why New York’s management expected the power-hitting Yankee roster of the early sixties to take batting instructions from a perennial singles-hitter that Moses was throughout his own playing career. Also born on today’s date is Ping Bodie, the Yankees’ first Italian American player.
The only former Yankee player who I personally saw play that celebrates a birthday on today’s date is a utility infielder named Bryan Little. Little played very little in Pinstripes, appearing in 14 games at second base during the 1986 season. Bryan, who was born in Houston, turns fifty-years-old today.