March 11, 1949: Introducing the batting tee

Posted on March 10th, 2009 – 11:50 PM
By Ben Welter

Just in time for Grapefruit League action, here’s a Minneapolis Star story on a new training device for baseball players. Who knew that something as simple as a batting tee needed to be invented?

.300 GIMMICK

New Tee Boon to
Batting Brigade

By BOB BEEBE

You can’t give a kid a Hornsby swing or develop a DiMaggio with a gimmick, but there is one on the market which, baseball people feel, will take a few feet out of the bucket.

The gadget is a batting tee which can be regulated to serve the ball in whatever position it might cross the plate. All the hitter need do is tee up the old nugget at his weakness and whack away.

Meanwhile, his coach can observe and make corrections. The theory is that defects in swing and stance can be detected and corrected more easily while cutting at a stationary baseball than at one pitched.

There is not the mental hazard connected with slugging a teed up horsehide that there is with thumping a high hard one inside. Neither pupil nor tutor is affected so much by the breeze.

The tee is a product of the Voit Rubber Corp. of Los Angeles and an improvement on the idea pioneered by Branch Rickey at the Dodger talent factories. In fact four of them are in use on Brooklyn’s Vero Beach, Fla., belt line right now, according to the firm’s representative, Bob Nelson.

The gadget consists of a regulation size rubber home plate with an adjustable aluminum arm supporting an aluminum-based telescoping tube of rubber upon which the ball is placed.

Nelson says the tee is catching on. He predicts that by next spring its use will be widespread. In addition to the four with Brooklyn, the Phillies have a pair. So do Lefty O’Doul’s San Francisco Seals.

Dick Siebert, Minnesota baseball coach, is enthusiastic enough about the tee to order a couple for his Gophers.

“If major league baseball men can see value in the idea, then it should be great for youngsters,” Siebert said.

Willie Mays of the Minneapolis Millers took a practice cut in 1951 with no batting tee in sight. (Minneapolis Tribune photo)

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