Babe Could Beat His own Record!
Before proceeding to the psychological tests, however, we tried another in physics to satisfy my curiosity. A harness composed of rubber tubing was strapped around Ruth's chest and shoulders and attached by hollow tubes to a recording cylinder. By this means his breathing was recorded on a revolving disk. He was then placed in position to bat, an imaginary pitcher pitched an imaginary ball, and he went through the motions of hitting a home run. The test proved that, as a ball is pitched to him, Babe draws in his breath sharply as he makes the back-swing with his bat, and really "holds his breath" or suspends the operation of his breathing until after the ball is hit. But for that fact, he would hit the ball much harder and more effectively than he now does. It has been discovered that the act of drawing in the breath and holding it results in a sharp tension of the muscles and a consequent loss of striking power. If Ruth expelled his breath before striking the ball, the muscles would not become tense and his swing would have greater strength and rhythm.
The first test to discover the efficiency of his psychophysical organism was one designed to try his coordination; a simple little test. The scientists set up a triangular board, looking some thing like a ouija-board, with a small round hole at each angle. At the bottom of each hole was an electrified plate that registered every time it was touched. Ruth was presented with a little instrument that looked like a doll-sized curling iron, the end of which just fitted into the holes. Then he was told to take the instrument in his right hand and jab it into the holes successively, as often as he could in one minute, going around the board from left to right.
He grew interested at once. Here was something at which he could play. The professor "shushed" me, fearing that I would disturb Ruth or distract his attention as he started around the board, jabbing the curling-iron into the holes with great rapidity. He would put it into the holes twelve to sixteen times so perfectly that the instrument barely touched the sides. Then he would lose control and touch the sides, slowing down. Only twice did he pass the hole without getting the end of the iron into it. With his right hand he made a score of 122. Not unnaturally, his wrist was tired and Babe shook it and grinned ruefully.
Then he tried it with his left hand, scored 132 with it, proving himself a bit more left- than right-handed -- at least in some activities. The significance of the experiment, however, lies in the fact that the average of hundreds of persons who have taken that test is 82 to the minute, which shows how much swifter in the coordination of hand, brain, and eye Ruth is than the average.
Every Test but Another Triumph
In a sequel to this test that followed, Babe tapped an electrified plate with an electrically charged stylus with the speed of a drum-roll, scoring 193 taps per minute with his right hand and 176 with his left hand. The average score for right-handed persons undergoing this wrist-wracking experiment is 180, and, while there is no data covering right-handed persons using the left hand, it is certain that Ruth's record is much above the average, as he is highly efficient with the left hand.
But steadiness must accompany speed and so they tested the home-run king for his steadiness of nerve and muscle by having [p. 110] him thrust the useful little curling-iron stylus in different-sized holes pierced through an electrified plate which registered contacts between the stylus and the side of the hole. These measured respectively sixteen, eleven, nine, eight, and seven sixty-fourths of an inch; small enough, but not too small for Babe, for he made a score that showed him better than 499 persons out of 500.
The tests that interested me most were those to determine how quickly Ruth's eye acts and how quickly its signals are flashed through the brain to the muscles. Showing an amazingly quick reaction time, they interpreted what happens on the ball-field when the stands rock under the cheering that greets another of Ruth's smashes to the fence, proved an eye so quick that it sees the ball make an erratic curve and guides the bat to follow.
This article shows that tests of the past are as good or better then what we have today. I wonder how Ted Williams would score on a similar test?
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