The Southpaw

Jeff Merron is now writing for 108 Magazine, where he’s running The Southpaw blog. You may remember him from his extensive article on Leo Mazzone last year for

With the passing of Syd Thrift last week, Jeff decided to publish his full interview with Thrift that he used in his profile of Mazzone. Thrift is the man responsible for ending Mazzone’s playing career and giving him his first coaching job. Here’s an except.

THRIFT: A lot of the pitching coaches try to get everybody to pitch the way they pitch. That’s the mistake they make.

JM: But they know Leo doesn’t do that, right, I mean Leo doesn’t keep anything secret?

THRIFT: No, no, no he’s wide open.

JM: So, if let’s say I were trying to become a pitching coach, I…

THRIFT: You’d go learn from him, wouldn’t you?

JM: What’s your favorite thing about Leo?

THRIFT: My favorite thing about Leo is that he’s a teacher. You know a teacher is sometimes a person who can take information and give it to another party. Sometimes though without even realizing what’s happening, you know? It just happens. And I think the main thing is, the reason he has great results is the players and the pitchers trust him. They trust him and they respect him.

Also, check out his discussion of Johnny Sain.

2 Responses “The Southpaw”

  1. Cliff Harpe says:

    The history on Johnny Sain is lost to most moderns. He is the preeminent pitching coach of baseball history before 1990. Everywhere he went, the pitchers got better. His stint on the major league staff with the Braves was a little rough because part of the time it was a co-coaching thing with Bob Gibson.

    The second pitching coach in the Hall of Fame should be Leo Mazzone. I think he would tell you he didn’t want to join a club that thought it was too good for his mentor, Johnny Sain.

  2. Marc says:

    The question I always have is, how much credit or blame can you give to hitting or pitching coaches for a team’s performance? Obviously, Sain and Mazzone did have an effect on pitchers, but they also had good pitchers to work with. Do we know that Roger McDowell is a lousy pitching coach or did he just not have the horses? And, how much time do you have to give the guy before making an evaluation? The O’s pitching was terrible this year, but I doubt that Leo was somehow a worse coach.

    Bouton’s statement about Sain improving pitchers is undoubtedly true, but misleading in one respect. Johnny Sain came to the Yankees when Ralph Houk took over from Casey Stengel. One reason that Whitey Ford never one more than 19 games under Stengel is that Stengel would often skip Ford’s turn against bad teams and save him for the better teams (Cleveland, Chicago, etc.). Thus, not only did Ford not start as many games, he also had to pitch against better teams. Not to say that Sain did not have any effect on Ford, but he was a very good pitcher before Sain got there.