Wednesday, July 21, 2010
By Chuck Garfien
For three months, Gordon Beckham remained stuck in a baseball abyss; a dark, lonely existence where its just you, your mind, your bat, and that embarrassing batting average that pops off the scoreboard for everyone to see when you come to the plate.
How low could it go? And for how long? Beckham wasnt sure.
"I was supposed to come into Chicago this year and hit just like I did last year and then some," Beckham said by phone from Seattle before the White Sox played the Mariners. "I understand that a lot of people were wondering what was going on."
That includes the White Sox, who were suddenly faced with the possibility of sending their prized second baseman back down to the minor leagues. Did Gordon think it could happen?
"Yeah, that always goes through your head."
No one seemed to have the answer for Beckhams struggles at the plate.
Well, except for one Sox fan, who recently sent a letter to Gordon, a letter that begins with the words:
"Im 78 years old, so I think I know a little something about baseball"
Beckham picks up the story from there.
The guy says, You obviously have an upper cut in your swing. The Japanese guy from Seattle (Ichiro Suzuki) does not have an upper cut in his swing and hes hitting around .330. It seems to be working for him.
Sound advice. Entertaining as well. So much so that the letter is currently taped to a wall inside the White Sox clubhouse. Its the same place where Beckham and hitting coach Greg Walker have hunkered down, as Gordon puts it, "a million times trying to get his swing back.
"I know its been tough on Walker to watch me struggle, but hes been good. Hes helped me out a lot.
And it was advice that Walker gave to Beckham before the All-Star break that suddenly clicked with last years rookie sensation.
"We talked about the swing and the swing plane," Beckham said. He told me to almost swing underneath the ball as opposed to firing at the ball from the top. So its basically an easy path, an easy swing under the ball which is actually the way youre supposed to swing."
And lately, Beckham has started swinging like Tarzan from a tree.
In just 8 games, Gordon raised his batting average from .205 to .241, going 16-for-28 with 2 HRs and 8 RBIs.
Beckham and Walker had something to do with it, but so did that 78-year-old fan, and a countless number of Sox supporters who came to Beckhams emotional rescue when times were tough.
"People have been stopping me on the street, not really giving me advice, but just saying were still behind you and we know youre going to come through," Beckham said. "Thats always nice when people dont abandon you when youre struggling, and people could have for sure. A lot of people could have. The White Sox, everybody could have. People have stayed with me. It has obviously helped. And I have taken that with me. Im glad Im over the hump, and hopefully Ill give back to them in the second half of the season."
In one way, Beckham already ismusically.
Last month, his struggles had bottomed to the point where he had to ask the White Sox to stop playing his wildly popular intro song "Your Love" by The Outfield when he came to the plate.
Fortunately, Josies no longer on a vacation far away.
"If youve been listening closely, every time I get a hit now, The Outfield should be playing over the loud speakers, so weve turned it from a negative into a positive."
Personally, I hadnt noticed.
"Youve got to pay attention, Chuck. Youve got to pay attention."
My apologies. Ive been locked in the studio lately with Frank Thomas and Bill Melton.
As it turns out, the musical change was Gordons idea.
"I got a lot of flack from people saying they wanted the song back, so I said why dont we just put it back when I get a hit and that way everybodys happy."
Right now everybody is. Gordon, his fans, and probably the members of The Outfield, who are back raking in the royalties.
As for Beckhams hitting woes, "If I dont hear another question about that, it would be fantastic."