Boudreau Shift Appears to No Longer Defense Against Williams
Vince Guerrieri | On 06, Dec 2015
June 17, 1948
“It served its purpose when Williams was hitting to right, but he’s not pulling the ball much any more,” Boudreau originally told Charles Heaton of The Plain Dealer.
Boudreau devised the shift after Williams drove in eight runs in an 11-10 win in the first half of a doubleheader. When Williams came up to bat in the second game, Boudreau and third baseman Ken Keltner moved over to the right side of the infield, which suddenly was stacked against the pull hitter. However, it appears the shift is becoming a thing of the past for the Splendid Splinter.
“All around the league they’re beginning to play me straight again,” Williams said. “Pitchers are throwing on the outside to me more than ever. I’m still just hitting the pitch.”
At the time, Williams asked the umpire to move the players back into position, but the rules state only that players have to be on the field between the foul lines. Technically, Boudreau had done nothing wrong.
The Splendid Splinter went 1-for-2 in the nightcap, scoring two runs as the Red Sox got the win, 6-4, and the sweep. Ironically, the best use of the shift wasn’t by the Indians, but in that fall’s World Series, as the Cardinals held Williams to a .200 average in the Fall Classic.
Tigers legend Ty Cobb said that Williams should accept the challenge and start hitting toward left field – or drop a couple of bunts down the third base line. But Williams, the defending Triple Crown winner, said that would do more harm than good to his goal to be the greatest hitter of all time.
Instead, he learned to spray the ball to all fields – including left field, which he made his personal domain yesterday, with a home run and two doubles in a 7-4 Red Sox win. Williams also had a single to right. Prior to spring training, Williams made a prediction that he’d be able to break the shift this year, and with his batting average rising over .400 with his performance yesterday, he appears to have made that prophecy come true.
“I’m going for the batting championship,” Williams said. “I’ll take the hits wherever I can get them.”
Photo: AP Photo