Merv Rettenmund Ponders Pinch-hitting

“Hitting? Glad you asked!”

Merv Rettenmund always hustled. He’s still hustling today at http://www.mervrettenmund.com/.

Most remember him as the scrappy Baltimore outfielder, someone who might hit .300 in his sleep.

He credits Orioles coaches Jim Frey and Billy DeMars with hitting wisdom that inspired him to become a coach, too.

Collectors know “The Hit Man” as a willing signer, although someone who tired of squeezing every letter into each autograph.

By the way, I smiled at the compact facsimile autograph on the 1971 Topps.  For years, I’ve seen Rettenmund take two lines to sign cards, stacking his first name atop his long last name.

I asked him about the twilight of his career, when he led the National League with 21 pinch-hits in 1977.

How did he do it? Rettenmund replied with a surprising breakdown of the art:

“Pinch-hitting is simple:

1. A lot of at-bats in spring (training)
2. Hit breaking ball and fastball until All-Star break
3. After All-Star break, only swing at fastballs

Also play on a really bad team, where you lost every night, so you get one at-bat a night. It helps maintain your timing. I actually enjoyed pinch-hitting.”

Phillies Coach Billy DeMars Makes Hall of Fame Case For Fellow Shortstop Larry Bowa

Billy DeMars was a marvel. A talented batting coach long before the advent of videotape and other technological boosts, DeMars had a fan in Pete Rose. They worked together in Philadelphia, Montreal and Cincinnati. DeMars wrote:

“Pete would have been a very good manager. All he needed was more experience.”


DeMars began his 13-year association with the Phillies at the 1968 World Series. He recalled:

“I was at the World Series in Detroit in 1968 and ran into Paul Owens and John Quinn from the Phillies. As I was leaving, I told Paul Owens who I knew that if they ever needed a good person to let me know. A month later, they called and offered me a coaching job. I spent 13 yrs with the Phillies, 3 with Montreal Expos and 3 with Cin Reds.”


During his service with the Phillies, DeMars remembers one crowning glory named Larry Bowa:

“I was very pleased at what I did for Larry Bowa. He only hit one year left-handed in the minors before coming up to the Phillies. He was a very poor hitter and not much power. But we worked hard almost 365 days a year and it turned out he hit about .265 lifetime. Had 2,191 hits, 25 less than Joe DiMaggio. that’s more hits than 6 shortstops in the Hall of Fame, and he had one of the highest fielding averages lifetime of any shortstop that played the game.”

How does DeMars sum up his half century-plus in baseball?

“Baseball was my lifetime, 58 years. Every job has its ups and downs, but I still can’t see me doing anything else. It was a great ride.”

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