A Tribute To The Fungo Bat… and it’s masters.

    Fungo Bat
    June25/ 2017

    Originally Posted Feb 2016

    Last week during that lunch at Forks Cafeteria in Wake Forest, my new friend “Tom The Wuff” and I got to discussing the nuances of baseball. That discussion proceeded naturally to the art of “hitting fungoes”…. and the legendary Jimmie Reese – Unanimously Acclaimed THE Greatest Fungo Hitter of All-Time.

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    Our lunch-mate The Bob Kennel quickly interjected to proclaim he “…invented the fungo bat” or maybe it was “…. invented butter beans” or “….the spork”; whatever.   Anyhow, surprisingly, “Tom The Wuff” had NOT heard of Jimmie Reese…. or Clyde King. Tom won’t be my partner in Team Baseball Trivia; but is a fine fellow nonetheless.

    So, then I find this recent article from The Cardinals’ Spring Training beat-writer. It is all about “fungoing”. If you think you like baseball as much as I do, I think you will enjoy it. There a lot in it about Jimmie Reese…. which will further impress “Tom The Wuff” that BobLee is INDEED “The Internet Legend”.

    CNR is going to LOVE this article.  Maybe you will too.



    Hochman: Cards’ Oquendo dances the fungo fling


    JUPITER, Fla. • The Secret Weapon’s secret weapon.

    A fungo bat, his of course Cardinal red, enhances even Jose Oquendo’s versatility.

    A fungo (noun) is a lighter, thinner bat than a conventional one, used by coaches to fungo (verb) ground balls, fly balls, really any balls. Fungo BatOquendo is a wizard with it, whizzing grounders across the field, making shortstops field like The Wizard.

    With certain slicing swings, he simulates spin — a grounder snakes this way or unspools that way — and he has the chops to chop, controlling the number of hops on even a nubber.

    With a fungo, Oquendo can do things to a baseball like a Harlem Globetrotter does to a basketball.

    “Just watch him,” manager Mike Matheny said of the longtime Cardinals coach. “There’s an art to that.”
    This coming season, David Bell suggested I watch Oquendo closely during pregame batting and fielding practice, because “he does this thing.” If you can visualize the pregame setup, there is a screen set up in shallow center field, and a man mans it, along side a bucket of Rawlings. The guy collects all the batted balls.

    “The guy stands almost directly behind the screen, and Jose’s near the plate,” Bell said. “And Jose can hit it and make it land right in the guy’s glove. He has the perfect trajectory. It’s pretty incredible.”

    I interviewed numerous coaches about fungos, after having to explain to them that, yes, I truly wanted to conduct an interview about fungos, and the coaches then proceeded to explain the same thing: that fungos help maximize practice, because with a fungo, the coach can best control where the ball is hit to the fielder. And how fast. And how far.
    “I had the experience of seeing the best fungo hitter of all-time,” said Speier, a three-time All-Star and a longtime infielder. “His name was Jimmie Reese. I saw him when he was 75, dragging around his bat. But he was, at one time, Babe Ruth’s roommate.” Jimmie Reese

    Indeed, James Herman Reese played with George Herman Ruth in the 1930s, though in some old interviews, Reese joked that he was roommates with only the Babe’s suitcase.

    “I watched him with a fungo,” Speier said of Reese, as if describing Picasso with a paintbrush. “What they would do, back in the day, was have the pitchers run from line to line. He’d stand in center field, and when they would run it would be like a football pass. He’d take his fungo and go ‘boop!’ I’m not kidding you, it was like 10 out of 10, hitting it to the running pitchers.

    “Then I had the opportunity to see the fungo topper of all toppers. I saw him stand behind the mound, with a hitter at the plate, and he pitched batting practice with his fungo. I went, ‘Oh my god.’ Watching the batting practice segment, it was like, ‘This guy’s it. This guy is the (bleep).’ I was with the Giants, probably 24. And guys would say, ‘You should come out and see this guy.’”

    Instead of accepting a formulaic fungo from a sporting goods company, Reese himself would whittle regular bats into fungo bats, like something Roy Hobbs would’ve done if he ever went on to coach for the New York Knights. Once, according to lore, on a golf course Reese shot an 82 for 18 holes, using only a fungo bat and a putter.

    “His legacy will never be topped,” Speier said. “The consistency that he could do it was phenomenal.”

    Suddenly, it hit me — I giddily told Speier that Babe Ruth’s roommate was, thus, the Babe Ruth of fungo hitting.



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    • Tom the Wuff Reply
      4 years ago

      Hrumph! Regrets I do not qualify for your baseball trivia team, but thanks for the acknowledgement of being a fine fellow and I did enjoy The Forks food and table talk with you and BK! By the way, I did make it to the 7th game of the 1983 World Series between the Phillies and the Orioles! The Orioles had an ex-NCSU pitcher/power forward on that team named…(easy trivia for you!) But speaking of the Orioles, I also had the pleasure of meeting Frank Robinson on a St. Paddy’s Day in NYC! (There are TWO significant pieces of baseball trivia regarding Frank, one in 1974 and the other in 2007 ~ a little more difficult than the earlier trivia.) Unfortunately, I had a flu bug and got to spend little more than one hour with him! I got sick (as in throwing up sick) and he call a taxi to take me to my hotel! There is just one more bit of trivia surrounding Frank ~ he played hs basketball with a future NBA HOF’er (this one a bit harder than the first two)! Just one more trivia question for you and it is not related to Frank! Who signed the FIRST 100+ MILLION $$$ professional sports contract (it was a baseball player, fyi)?

      • BobLee Reply
        4 years ago

        Tim Stoddard? …. was the last one Andy Messersmith or Catfish Hunter ??

    • Doug Reply
      4 years ago

      I do recall George Ivey having a sense of humor failure at a few of us playing fungo and dropping mortar shells on the tennis courts during a KCC women’s tennis tournament. Ivey wasn’t nearly as mad as Mrs Eleanor Cummings was, when she found out who was dropping the bombs.

      • BobLee Reply
        4 years ago

        George “Poison” Ivey – truly a Kinston Legend !!!

    • 58 wolf kennel Reply
      4 years ago

      BL, great inside stories featuring Oquendo and Reese and the “fungo”. Many a catcher has been taught by a good fungo hitter getting the pop-up behind the plate always spinning back toward the infield. Only other comment is your picture supplier doesn’t have a fungo for the red bat lead-in :+))
      Beautiful weather today for a baseball game. Too bad Pack and Tar Heels play each other so late in the season.

      • BobLee Reply
        4 years ago

        A Master “Fungoer” is like watching any true artist. The pop-up spinning back towards the plate is the true test. 🙂

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