WORLD SERIES MADNESS at the Best of PubMed!!!

This is a special edition of the Best of PubMed, in honor of the World Series, which is underway. As you’ll see, scientists have devoted an extraordinary amount of research into baseball… revealing that they aren’t immune to the obsession regarding gathering data and statistics that marks the true baseball fan!

We work our way from the pregame, to umpires, to the fellow at the plate, through the infield, and into the outfield. A lot of this is SERIOUS research, guys, really, really, really serious!

Here you’ll find answers to all those burning questions that you’ve wondered about: from the physics of the curve ball, to the life expectancy of left-handed vs. right-handed pitchers, whether being in the Hall of Fame extends your life, how to end a batting slump, whether hot days bring teams off the bench for a brawl, how to know where to run to catch a fly ball, whether there’s really an “at-home” advantage, does the team that bats last have an advantage…What can Babe Ruth teach psychologists? What can they learn from center fielders? The list goes on and on. Many of the links point to abstracts or even free full articles…

Be sure not to miss the hot topic of whether baseball players whose initials spell out “good” words (like “ACE”) live longer than those whose initials are bad (like “ASS”)!!! (See the section on epidemiology.)

So, it’s off to the ball park (and PubMed) for some World Series madness…

N C Med J. 1964 Oct;25:439-40.
PMID: 14200489

Before the game and behind the plate:

Singing the national anthem at major league baseball stadiums raises awareness of ALS.
Herreria J.
Profiles Healthc Mark. 1998 Jul-Aug;14(4):18-20.
PMID: 10186395

Concussions experienced by Major League Baseball catchers and umpires: field data and experimental baseball impacts.
Beyer JA, Rowson S, Duma SM.
Ann Biomed Eng. 2012 Jan;40(1):150-9.
PMID: 22012084

[A study on the effect of physical load of baseball umpire, during a baseball game in the summer].
Kurakake S, Sugawara K, Kumae T, Shimaoka A, Mathida K, Okamura N.
Nihon Eiseigaku Zasshi. 1988 Feb;42(6):1013-22. Japanese.
PMID: 3398288

Life expectancy of major league baseball umpires.
Cohen RS, Kamps CA, Kokoska S, Segal EM, Tucker JB.
Phys Sportsmed. 2000 May;28(5):83-9. doi: 10.3810/psm.2000.05.904.
PMID: 20086642

Umpire needed
Pope A.
BMJ. 1999 May 8;318(7193):1280A.
PMID: 10231267

Quiet eye gaze behavior of expert, and near-expert, baseball plate umpires.
Millslagle DG, Hines BB, Smith MS.
Percept Mot Skills. 2013 Feb;116(1):69-77.
PMID: 23829135

Visual gaze behavior of near-expert and expert fast pitch softball umpires calling a pitch.
Millslagle DG, Smith MS, Hines BB.
J Strength Cond Res. 2013 May;27(5):1188-95. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318269ab15.
PMID: 22836605

Contextual influences on baseball ball-strike decisions in umpires, players, and controls.
MacMahon C, Starkes JL.
J Sports Sci. 2008 May;26(7):751-60. doi: 10.1080/02640410701813050.
PMID: 18409106

Magnitude of stress experienced by baseball and softball umpires.
Rainey DW.
Percept Mot Skills. 1994 Aug;79(1 Pt 1):255-8.
PMID: 7991318



Who is this ball player?
Fox K.
HDA Now. 2013 Summer:27-8.
PMID: 24079151

Balls, Strikes, and VIPs.
Kao A.
Virtual Mentor. 2001 May 1;3(5). doi:pii: virtualmentor.2001.3.5.dykn1-0105. 10.1001/virtualmentor.2001.3.5.dykn1-0105.
PMID: 23273008

Hitting is contagious: experience and action induction.
Gray R, Beilock SL.
J Exp Psychol Appl. 2011 Mar;17(1):49-59. doi: 10.1037/a0022846.
PMID: 21443380

Visual search strategies of baseball batters: eye movements during the preparatory phase of batting.
Kato T, Fukuda T.
Percept Mot Skills. 2002 Apr;94(2):380-6.
PMID: 12027326

Ending batting slumps in baseball: a qualitative investigation.
Prapavessis H, Grove JR.
Aust J Sci Med Sport. 1995 Mar;27(1):14-9.
PMID: 7780772

First-rib stress fractures related to hitting in two baseball teammates.
Young EJ, Curtis RJ.
Clin J Sport Med. 2008 May;18(3):300-1. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e31816ffbd4.
PMID: 18469578

Thrown a curve.
Makaryus AN, Henry SA, Rutkin B, Boxt L.
Am J Med. 2007 May;120(5):420-1.
PMID: 17466652

You Can’t Think and Hit at the Same Time: Neural Correlates of Baseball Pitch Classification.
Sherwin J, Muraskin J, Sajda P.
Front Neurosci. 2012;6:177. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2012.00177. eCollection 2012.
PMID: 23267311

The effect of fastball backspin rate on baseball hitting accuracy.
Higuchi T, Morohoshi J, Nagami T, Nakata H, Kanosue K.
J Appl Biomech. 2013 Jun;29(3):279-84. Epub 2012 Aug 22.
PMID: 22923374

Transitions between central and peripheral vision create spatial/temporal distortions: a hypothesis concerning the perceived break of the curveball.
Shapiro A, Lu ZL, Huang CB, Knight E, Ennis R.
PLoS One. 2010 Oct 13;5(10):e13296. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013296.
PMID: 20967247

Hitting what one wants to hit and missing what one wants to miss.
Regan D, Gray R.
Vision Res. 2001;41(25-26):3321-9. Review.
PMID: 11718776

Expert baseball batters have greater sensitivity in making swing decisions.
Gray R.
Res Q Exerc Sport. 2010 Sep;81(3):373-8.
PMID: 20949857

How baseball players prepare to bat: tactical knowledge as a mediator of expert performance in baseball.
McPherson S, MacMahon C.
J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2008 Dec;30(6):755-78.
PMID: 19164840

A triarchical model of batting abilities: applying psychological statistics to baseball.
Kaufman JC.
Percept Mot Skills. 1997 Aug;85(1):299-304.
PMID: 9293591


The effects of extended play on professional baseball pitchers.
Murray TA, Cook TD, Werner SL, Schlegel TF, Hawkins RJ.
Am J Sports Med. 2001 Mar-Apr;29(2):137-42.
PMID: 11292037

Assessing pitcher and catcher influences on base stealing in Major League Baseball.
Loughin TM, Bargen JL.
J Sports Sci. 2008 Jan 1;26(1):15-20.
PMID: 17852677

Effect of three different between-inning recovery methods on baseball pitching performance.
Warren CD, Brown LE, Landers MR, Stahura KA.
J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Mar;25(3):683-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318208adfe.
PMID: 21311344

A biomechanical comparison of the fastball and curveball in adolescent baseball pitchers.
Nissen CW, Westwell M, Ounpuu S, Patel M, Solomito M, Tate J.
Am J Sports Med. 2009 Aug;37(8):1492-8. doi: 10.1177/0363546509333264. Epub 2009 May 15.
PMID: 19448049

The impact of pitch counts and days of rest on performance among major-league baseball pitchers.
Bradbury JC, Forman SL.
J Strength Cond Res. 2012 May;26(5):1181-7. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31824e16fe.
PMID: 22344048

Lefties are still a little shorter.
Abel EL, Kruger ML.
Percept Mot Skills. 2007 Apr;104(2):405-6.
PMID: 17566429

Do right-handers live longer? An updated assessment of baseball player data.
Hicks RA, Johnson C, Cuevas T, Deharo D, Bautista J.
Percept Mot Skills. 1994 Jun;78(3 Pt 2):1243-7.
PMID: 7936949

Left-handed major-league baseball players and longevity re-examined.
Abel EL, Kruger ML.
Percept Mot Skills. 2004 Dec;99(3 Pt 1):990-2.
PMID: 15648498

Analysis of data from Reichler’s (1979) The Baseball Encyclopedia: right-handed pitchers are taller and heavier than left-handed pitchers.
Fudin R, Renninger L, Hirshon J.
Percept Mot Skills. 1994 Jun;78(3 Pt 1):1043-8.
PMID: 8084677



Controlled variables: psychology as the center fielder views it.
Marken RS.
Am J Psychol. 2001 Summer;114(2):259-81.
PMID: 11430151

How baseball outfielders determine where to run to catch fly balls.
McBeath MK, Shaffer DM, Kaiser MK.
Science. 1995 Apr 28;268(5210):569-73.
PMID: 7725104

People favour imperfect catching by assuming a stable world.
López-Moliner J, Keil MS.
PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e35705. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035705. Epub 2012 Apr 25.
PMID: 22558205

Catching balls: how to get the hand to the right place at the right time.
Peper L, Bootsma RJ, Mestre DR, Bakker FC.
J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1994 Jun;20(3):591-612.
PMID: 8027714

Catching of balls unexpectedly thrown or fired by cannon.
Kenward B, Nilsson D.
Percept Mot Skills. 2011 Aug;113(1):171-87.
PMID: 21987918

Catching fly balls: a new model steps up to the plate.
Cipra B.
Science. 1995 Apr 28;268(5210):502.
PMID: 7725094

On catching fly balls.
Jacobs TM, Lawrence MD, Hong K, Giordano N Jr, Giordano N Sr.
Science. 1996 Jul 12;273(5272):257-8; author reply 258-60.
PMID: 8668999

I Lost It in the Lights: The Effects of Predictable and Variable Intermittent Vision on Unimanual Catching.
Lyons J, Fontaine R, Elliot D.
J Mot Behav. 1997 Jun;29(2):113-118.
PMID: 12453788

Catch this!
Gauldin D.
J Perinat Educ. 2002 Winter;11(1):49.
PMID: 17273288


Temper, temperature, and temptation: heat-related retaliation in baseball.
Larrick RP, Timmerman TA, Carton AM, Abrevaya J.
Psychol Sci. 2011 Apr;22(4):423-8. doi: 10.1177/0956797611399292. Epub 2011 Feb 24.
PMID: 21350182

Impact of Yankee Stadium Bat Day on blunt trauma in northern New York City.
Bernstein SL, Rennie WP, Alagappan K.
Ann Emerg Med. 1994 Mar;23(3):555-9.
PMID: 8135433


Longevity of major league baseball players.
Abel EL, Kruger ML.
Res Sports Med. 2005 Jan-Mar;13(1):1-5.
PMID: 16389882

Major League Baseball Players’ Life Expectancies.
Saint Onge JM, Rogers RG, Krueger PM.
Soc Sci Q. 2008 Jul 17;89(3):817-830.
PMID: 19756205 [PubMed] Free PMC Article
Soc Sci Q. 2008 Jul 17;89(3):817-830.
Compared to 20-year-old U.S. males, MLB players can expect almost five additional years of life. Height, weight, handedness, and player ratings are unassociated with the risk of death in this population of highly active and successful adults. Career length is inversely associated with the risk of death, likely because those who play longer gain additional incomes, physical fitness, and training.
Our results indicate improvements in life expectancies with time for all age groups and indicate possible improvements in longevity in the general U.S. population.

The longevity of Baseball Hall of Famers compared to other players.
Abel EL, Kruger ML.
Death Stud. 2005 Dec;29(10):959-63.
PMID: 16265814
The authors compared the longevity of all baseball players alive at the time of their induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame with age-matched controls who were likewise alive at the time of the Hall of Famer’s induction, and also matched them for career length, player position, and body-mass index, to assess if fame in sports is associated with increased longevity. Median post-induction survival for Hall of Famers was 5 years shorter than for noninducted players (18 vs. 23 years, respectively). In a second analysis, significantly more Hall of Famers died of cardiovascular or stroke causes than other players for whom cause of death was known. Baseball fame may have a hitherto unrecognized price.

Symbolic significance of initials on longevity.
Abel EL, Kruger ML.
Percept Mot Skills. 2007 Feb;104(1):179-82.
PMID: 17450979
The longevities of deceased major league baseball players who died prior to 1950 (N=3835) and whose initials formed acronyms, words, or names with “positive” or “negative” affect, as rated a priori by two judges, were compared with those for a group of neutral controls matched for birth year and career length, using the Berkeley standardized mortality tables. Players (n=11) with positive initials, e.g., A.C.E., lived a mean of 13 years longer than players (n=30) with negative initials, e.g., D.E.D., or players with neutral initials (n=864). These results corroborated a previous study and suggest positive name symbols are associated with increased longevity in this sample.

Another look at baseball player initials and longevity.
Smith G.
Percept Mot Skills. 2011 Feb;112(1):211-6.
PMID: 21466094
Abel and Kruger (2007) reported that Major League Baseball players whose names have positive initials (such as ACE or GOD) live an average of 13 years longer than do players with negative initials (such as ASS or BAD) or players with neutral initials (such as GHR or TSW). However, this conclusion is based on a very small sample, selective initials, and a flawed statistical test. There is no statistically significant relationship between initials and longevity for Major League Baseball players when a correct test is applied to independently selected initials.

The “birthday blues” in a sample of major league baseball players’ suicides.
Lester D.
Percept Mot Skills. 2005 Oct;101(2):382.
PMID: 16383067

Seasonality of birth in the majors, 1880-1999.
Abel EL, Kruger ML.
Soc Biol. 2005 Spring-Summer;52(1-2):47-55.
PMID: 17619630
We examined two alternative explanations, one demographic, the other sociological, for the uneven distribution of birth months of Major League baseball (MLB) players active between 1880 and 1999. Beginning in 1900, players born between August and October were significantly overrepresented, and this uneven distribution was almost identical for the next five 20-year periods. During the last 20-year period (1980-1999), the disparity in birth months became even more pronounced. Ethnicity, handedness, player position, accomplishment (winning an award), and career length were not significantly related to birth month. Prior to 1980, the distribution of births for MLB players did not differ significantly from the distribution for the general population, but after 1980, it did. We concluded that up until 1980, the uneven distribution of birth months in MLB originated in the demographic seasonality-related excess number of births in August and September in the United States. Beginning in the 1980s, this seasonality pattern was institutionally reinforced by the growing influence of Little League and related junior baseball leagues and their reliance on the August 1 birth date for age grouping.

Mortality salience of birthdays on day of death in the Major Leagues.
Abel EL, Kruger ML.
Death Stud. 2009 Feb;33(2):175-84. doi: 10.1080/07481180802138936.
PMID: 19143110
The authors assessed the relationship of mortality salience, as represented by birthdays, on the day of death. Preliminary studies considered the role of possible artifacts such as seasonality of birth and death, and time units for evaluation. On the basis of terror management theory’s concept of “mortality salience,” the authors hypothesized that famous people, in this case Major League Baseball (MLB) players, would be more likely to die on or after their birthdays than would be expected by chance (the “birthday blues”), and that the greater their fame, as represented by induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the greater the concentration of deaths shortly after birthdays. The results supported the hypothesis. Theoretical underpinnings of these results and practical implications were discussed.

Birth month and suicide among major league baseball players.
Abel EL, Kruger ML.
Percept Mot Skills. 2005 Aug;101(1):21-4.
PMID: 16350605

Do right-handers live longer? An updated assessment of baseball player data.
Hicks RA, Johnson C, Cuevas T, Deharo D, Bautista J.
Percept Mot Skills. 1994 Jun;78(3 Pt 2):1243-7.
PMID: 7936949

Body type and performance of elite cuban baseball players.
Carvajal W, Ríos A, Echevarría I, Martínez M, Miñoso J, Rodríguez D.
MEDICC Rev. 2009 Apr;11(2):15-20.
PMID: 21483313 [PubMed] Free Article

Major league baseball performances of players who were later suicides or homicide victims.
Lester D, Topp R.
Percept Mot Skills. 1989 Aug;69(1):272.
PMID: 2780186


Batting last as a home advantage factor in men’s NCAA tournament baseball.
Bray SR, Obara J, Kwan M.
J Sports Sci. 2005 Jul;23(7):681-6.
PMID: 16195017

Human face structure correlates with professional baseball performance: insights from professional Japanese baseball players.
Tsujimura H, Banissy MJ.
Biol Lett. 2013 Apr 10;9(3):20130140. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0140. Print 2013.
PMID: 23576779

Home advantage in retractable-roof baseball stadia.
Romanowich P.
Percept Mot Skills. 2012 Oct;115(2):559-66.
PMID: 23265018

Measuring circadian advantage in Major League Baseball: a 10-year retrospective study.
Winter WC, Hammond WR, Green NH, Zhang Z, Bliwise DL.
Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2009 Sep;4(3):394-401.
PMID: 19953826

A major league loss.
Cloud J.
Time. 2003 Mar 3;161(9):60.
PMID: 12632674

Batting last as a home advantage factor in men’s NCAA tournament baseball.
Bray SR, Obara J, Kwan M.
J Sports Sci. 2005 Jul;23(7):681-6.
PMID: 16195017

Evidence of a reduced home advantage when a team moves to a new stadium.
Pollard R.
J Sports Sci. 2002 Dec;20(12):969-73.
PMID: 12477006



Use of smokeless tobacco in the 1986 World Series.
Jones RB.
N Engl J Med. 1987 Apr 9;316(15):952.
PMID: 3821849

Prevalence of spit tobacco use across studies of professional baseball players.
Greene JC, Walsh MM, Letendre MA.
J Calif Dent Assoc. 1998 May;26(5):358-64. Review.
PMID: 10528568

A program to help major league baseball players quit using spit tobacco.
Greene JC, Walsh MM, Masouredis C.
J Am Dent Assoc. 1994 May;125(5):559-68.
PMID: 8195497

Toxicological deaths of major league baseball players.
Boren S, Erickson TB.
J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1998;36(7):737-42.
PMID: 9865245


Psychology and “the Babe”.
Fuchs AH.
J Hist Behav Sci. 1998 Spring;34(2):153-65.
PMID: 9580977

High-speed video analysis of head-first and feet-first sliding techniques in collegiate baseball players.
Hosey RG, Mattacola CG, Shapiro R.
Clin J Sport Med. 2003 Jul;13(4):242-4.

Major league baseball players get dental coverage.
[No authors listed]
J Am Dent Assoc. 1969 Apr;78(4):737.
PMID: 5251266

Major league dreams.
Hallberg J.
Minn Med. 2000 Jun;83(6):12-6.
PMID: 10881568

A replay of the baseball data.
Coren S, Halpern DF.
Percept Mot Skills. 1993 Apr;76(2):403-6.
PMID: 8483647

What can major league baseball teach us about healthcare?
[No authors listed]
J Neurosci Nurs. 2012 Feb;44(1):1. doi: 10.1097/JNN.0b013e31823fdcec.
PMID: 22210298

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I am a science writer at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, author of fiction and popular science books, an artist, and a professional musician who performs on the viola da gamba and Medieval and Renaissance stringed instruments. I edit manuscripts of all types and teach the full range of scientific communication skills. I am doing theoretical work in this subject - see for example

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