How Jim Thome got his batting stance thanks to Charlie Manuel and 'The Natural'

How Jim Thome got his batting stance thanks to Charlie Manuel and 'The Natural'

If there's anyone in the world I could sit next to for hours and listen to talk about baseball it would be former Phillies manager and World Champion of baseball Charlie Manuel.

Charlie is still very involved in the Phillies organization to this day and we're lucky enough to have 45 minutes of his time talking ball with longtime Phillies scribe Jim Salisbury.

Those two know the Phillies just about as well as anybody, so there's plenty of meat on the bone to chew on. The duo chatted for a recent episode of Sully's "At The Yard" podcast.

The story that caught my ear the most was Charlie's telling of how Jim Thome came to have that somewhat-goofy stance before he hits. It was a timing mechanism that Manuel stumbled upon in the strangest of ways.

This was when both Charlie and Jim were working for a Cleveland Indians' affiliate in the minors. 

"We were playing in Scranton and it was a Phillies triple-A team at the time. I kept thinking of a timing mechanism of some kind, a waggle or something, what Thome could do with his bat where he wouldn't tense up, where it would help him to relax and everything."

"I came into our locker room early," Manuel said. "I didn't let my players turn the TV on after a certain time. I came through the clubhouse that day, they had 'The Natural' on. I told 'em to turn it off. Some of the players said, 'Hey, Charlie, we're watching The Natural can we watch the end of The Natural? I said, 'Not really, what's the rule?'

"I saw Robert Redford standing there pointing the bat with one hand, bringing it back. I looked over at Thome, I said, 'you can finish watching the movie. From now on that's going to be your load.' I took him down in the cage and worked with him. The game started and the Phillies had a left-handed pitcher named [Kyle] Abbott. He was pitching that day. I told Jimmy, 'From now on that's your stance.' He gets up there the first time up, Abbott throws him a breaking ball away and he hit a home run to left center... I mean a longways. He come up the next time he hit another one to right center. I think he had three hits that day."

"That's a true story," Manuel added.

It sounds to good to be true. So we did a little research and Thome has told the same tale on a television special out in Chicago last summer.

"We were in Scranton and I was a guy who held the bat still and would go from a standstill and swing," Thome explained. "(Charlie) was watching The Natural and he saw that (Hobbs) kind of had this little wiggle to his stance, and I remember the day. We went out the next day, we worked early and he said 'Do me a favor and try holding the bat out there (pointing towards the pitcher) and get a little rhythm with your swing.' And from that day I never looked back. The following day we played a doubleheader and I hit two home runs."

You can listen to the whole podcast with Jim Salisbury and Charlie Manuel right here.

6 cornerbacks Eagles could trade for before training camp ends

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6 cornerbacks Eagles could trade for before training camp ends

Eagles coach Doug Pederson opened the door on Monday to speculation the club could add another cornerback to the mix before the preseason comes to a close.

“It's a position that we continue to look even outside, as we do every position,” Pederson said following the first practice of training camp. “And as you know, we're going to continue to look and try to bring in guys if we can and just create as much competition at that spot.”

On its face, Pederson’s statement is innocuous enough. NFL teams are constantly evaluating their options. Players will come and go, especially as the league whittles its rosters down from 90 to 53, and even as the season progresses. There will even be a handful of trades.

Yet, given the track record of Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman for wheeling and dealing, Pederson’s words can be construed as more than a throwaway line. The Eagles are actively searching for talent, and cornerback is an area where it’s sorely needed.

Roseman likes a good bargain, too. With that in mind, we’ve scoured depth charts around the league for the type of young prospects who may be had in a trade for relatively cheap, but possibly reward the Eagles with high-quality play.

The Eagles could also wait to see what cut-down day produces, too, and no doubt will. But waiting usually isn’t Roseman’s style.

Bears CB Kyle Fuller
Pulling off a swap for Fuller is not an original thought. Best I can tell, it was first pitched by USA Today’s Turron Davenport in March (with the Eagles sending linebacker Mychal Kendricks), and continued to gain some traction until about a month after the draft.

That’s because it makes sense, perhaps more than any other idea I will pitch. A first-round draft pick in 2014, and a player the Eagles were rumored to covet, Fuller has fallen out of favor in Chicago and far from a lock to make the team. He missed the entire 2016 campaign with a knee injury, and was inconsistent his first two seasons, but is only 25 and flashed potential as a playmaker with 6 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles in 32 NFL games.

Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas served as the Bears’ director of college scouting in 2015. He has access to inside information on Fuller, and ties to the organization that may help facilitate a trade. Some type of exchange certainly seems plausible.

Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard
Like Fuller, the Eagles were believed to be interested in Dennard in the first round of the 2014 draft. And like Fuller, Dennard might be on the trade block in Cincinnati.

Dennard has remained stuck firmly behind Bengals cornerbacks Adam Joes and Dre Kirkpatrick on the depth chart, starting just four games in three seasons. Josh Shaw, a fourth-round pick in 2015, surpassed Dennard last season as well. The Bengals also spent a first-round pick on William Jackson last year, though he missed his rookie season with a torn pec. Clearly, there is a ton of competition there.

Less clear is whether the Eagles would be interested in a deal. Dennard hasn’t been elevated to starter for a reason. And the Eagles could have chosen Dennard in ’14, opting to trade down instead. Meanwhile, the Bengals picked up the fifth-year option on Dennard’s contract, and while the $8.5 million he’s owed for 2018 is only guaranteed for injury, that could impact any decision.

Steelers CBs Ross Cockrell or Senquez Golson
Cornerback was an area of concern in Pittsburgh last season. Now the Steelers might have too many bodies. The club used third- and fifth-round picks on Cameron Sutton and Brian Allen in April, creating a log jam of sorts on the back end of the depth chart.

Depending on the outcome of job competitions at training camp, either Cockrell or Golson might be available. Cockrell, 26 in August, started all 16 games for the Steelers last season, but the Steelers were dangling him for the low price of a fourth-round pick as a restricted free agent this offseason. A second-round pick in 2015, Golson missed both of his first two NFL seasons with a shoulder and foot injuries, and may have missed his shot with the team as a result.

Then again, William Gay is 32, and the Steelers could just as easily decide to move on and keep both Cockrell and Golson. With Sutton and Allen on their heels, even Gay’s departure could leave the door open for moves.

Dolphins CBs Tony Lippett or Bobby McCain
Oddly enough, Miami was rumored in February to have interest in trading for a veteran starting cornerback to pair with Byron Maxwell. Odd, because the defense already has a nice mix of experienced players and intriguing prospects.

It looks like 2016 second-round pick Xavien Howard will start opposite Maxwell, and third-round rookie Cordrea Tankersley is good for a roster spot at least. If Tankersley can contribute right away, either Lippett or McCain – a pair of fifth-rounders in ’15 – might be expendable. Lippett actually outplayed Howard by some measures in his 13 starts last season. McCain has been a little shaky at times, but only turns 24 in August and has 12 career starts under his belt.

The Dolphins have shown a willingness to work with the Eagles in recent years. Should either Lippett or McCain become available, Roseman could be among the first to receive a phone call.

Phils fan double fists way through rain-delayed blowout loss to Astros

Phils fan double fists way through rain-delayed blowout loss to Astros

Thunder may only happen when it rains and Philly fans may only love these Phillies players when they're... drinking.

At least that was the case last night when the Phils got their butts whooped by the Houston Astros, 13-4, after a lengthy one hour and 52 minute rain delay.

There was one fan who had some pretty great seats for the loss who was there pretty much the entire night with two beers in hand. 

Here he is in the fourth inning (two beers):

And later in the seventh: 

Not only is the man double fisting, but he's also rocking a pretty sweet Hawaiian shirt, elevating his legend even higher. 

He wasn't the only standout from the stands last night. Check out this sweet one-handed grab in the second level.

Phils fans are the real MVP for sitting through this season.