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The Use of Psychology in Professional Baseball: The Pioneering Work of David F. Tracy

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NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture 11.2 (2003) 36-43 Recently the psychological aspects of baseball have begun to receive much attention from those involved in preparing professional baseball players. One reason for the increased interest in psychology is that the game's mental aspects are often considered an important element in determining whether professional ballplayers perform to their potential. According to George Gmelch one way most baseball organizations assess a player's mental abilities is through psychological testing. One of the first examples in which a baseball player's mental abilities were assessed occurred at Columbia University in 1920. Babe Ruth was brought to a Columbia University psychology laboratory so that researchers could try to determine what physical and psychological abilities made him one of the greatest home run hitters in baseball. The researchers assessed various measures, including Ruth's reaction time, attention span, memory, learning and coordination. The results of Ruth's psychological tests gained media attention and were printed on the front page of the New York Times. A second example of psychology applied to baseball is Coleman Griffith's work with the Chicago Cubs in 1938, when he was hired as a consultant to conduct a psychological analysis of the Cubs team. Griffith was given filming and laboratory equipment to observe the players. During his research he analyzed each player psychologically and produced a report. After completing his work he was offered a full-time consulting position with the Cubs but did not accept the position. Although these historical examples of psychology applied to baseball are documented in the literature, they did not seem to make the psychologist or the mental skills specialist an integral part of baseball culture. Thus little is known about when and how psychologists began to educate professional baseball players, coaches, and management about the mental aspects of baseball. To aid this understanding, this article will describe David F. Tracy's work during the 1950 baseball season. Specifically it will provide a description of how Tracy was hired and the impact his hiring had on local and national media as well as a discussion of his work with the St. Louis Browns. We will consider the impact of Tracy's work on the medical and athletic community and will discuss the role of sport psychology in the culture of professional baseball today. According to Tracy he began to receive attention from the media about his use of psychology with professional athletes while speaking at a New York City psychology meeting during the summer of 1949. At this meeting Tracy presented information on his psychological work with semipro baseball players. He explained the performance improvement made by these athletes as they implemented psychological skills into training and competition. Tracy also suggested that he could help other professional baseball players and teams enhance their performance through the use of psychological skills. Subsequently a media report was released stating that Tracy offered his services to the St. Louis Browns. Tracy met with Browns president Bill Dewitt at the December 1949 winter baseball meetings. Subsequently the club owner hired Tracy to be the Browns psychologist. According to Borst Dewitt hired Tracy because the team's athletic trainer convinced them that the psychological elements of athletics were important. The St. Louis Browns management believed that if psychologists were used by other industries they might also be of help to professional baseball teams. After the Browns hired Tracy, the media began to publish stories on the work that Tracy would be doing with the team. Although Tracy used various psychological interventions, hypnosis was the one most often discussed by the local and national media. Most articles viewed his hiring as the first time a psychologist had been hired to work with a Major League baseball team. As Tracy began his work with the Browns athletes, he suggested that there was a definite place for a psychologist working in the sports world. He stated:

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... Louis Browns (Kornspan & MacCracken, 2003), the use of hypnosis wirh arhletes during rhe 1950s and 1960s (Kornspan, 2009a), and rhe work of A C. Puni in applying psychology to sport in Russia in the 1950s and 1960s (Ryba, Srambulova, & Wrisberg, 2005). ...
... Another example of psycholot,ry applied to sport during this period was the work of David F. Tracy (Kornspan & MacCracken, 2003 (Kornspan, 2009a). ...
... During rhis period, individuals who were consulting wirh athleres demonsrrated an awareness of how cheir performance enhancement work might benefit from rhe cross-ferrilizarion of ideas in ocher performance domains. For example, David Tracy, who worked wirh rhe managemenr of rhe Sr. Louis Browns in rhe 19 50s, believed that because psychological techniques were already being used ro enhance performance in other indusrries, applying rhese rechniques to spore would be also prove successful (Kornspan & MacCracken, 2003). Addirionally, Dororhy Yares, who applied psychology wirh boxers in rhe early 1940s, wenr on to apply psychological rcchniques to help aviarors achieve relaxation when flying combar missions during World War II (Winter, 1981). ...
... ("You will win" Insists Hypnotist as He puts Soccer Players to Sleep", 1949 (Kornspan & MacCracken, 2003). Tracy used various psychological techniques with the Browns including the teaching of relaxation, hypnosis, and autosuggestion. ...
... Tracy used various psychological techniques with the Browns including the teaching of relaxation, hypnosis, and autosuggestion. The main goal Tracy had in teaching these techniques to the baseball players Enhancing Sport Performance 9 was to help them play more relaxed (Kornspan & MacCracken, 2003). It appears that Tracy's work with the St. Louis Browns provided much attention to the use of psychological techniques to sport performance. ...
... In January of 1950 one of Tracy's main responsibilities was to raise awareness for what he would be doing with the Browns (Kornspan & MacCracken, 2003). In addition to providing lectures at Carnegie Hall in New York, Tracy also began lecturing on radio and television about what he would be doing with the Browns. ...
Article
Self hypnosis and mental imagery are two sides of a coin, specially in case of modern sports. Hypnosis of oneself and mental imagery are totally immersive multi-sensory procedure that associates with numerous senses to create as a mental image and process it in absent of external stimuli. In the sport situation, imagery has been with a state in which person imagine while effecting abilities to deal with the future duty or improve performance capacity. Scientific analyses have stated that imagery increases performance in motor stimuli. Routines mental practice play an important role in sports and games, not only for the acquisition of motor skills, but also for preparation and sport injuries rehabilitation. Imagery techniques in sport are used for different purposes, as outlined by the process of self hypnosis and Model of Imagery Use in Sports, to improve skill acquisition, motivation, and sport confidence and to reduce anxiety.. Clinical sport hypnosis can help athletes acquire certain cognitive, psychological, behavioral and affective qualities so that their physical and mental capabilities are improved. According Wikipedia, sports hypnosis is defined as the use of hypnotherapy with athletes in order to improve sporting performance. Others define sport hypnosis as a form of mental training which can contribute to enhancing athletic performance. . It has been shown that different forms and functions of imagery prove to be effective for the above-mentioned functions depending on the characteristics of different sports and the expertise level of athletes. The present study reviews systematically the findings of other reports on various aspects of mental imagery and self hypnosis in the field of sports.
Chapter
The chapter provides a brief global history of sport psychology from the 1890s to present.
Article
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This paper is the second of two essays designed to acquaint English-speaking readers with the work of Avksenty Tcezarevich Puni (1898–1986), one of the fathers of Russian sport psychology. In our previous essay “The Russian origins of sport psychology: a translation of an early work of A. Tc. Puni” (Ryba, Stambulova, & Wrisberg, 200538. Ryba , T. V. , Stambulova , N. B. and Wrisberg , C. A. 2005. The Russian origins of sport psychology: A translation of an early work of A. Tc. Puni. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 17: 157–169. [CSA] [Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®]View all references), we discussed Puni's innovative ideas of psychological preparation of athletes based on his classic paper “Psychological preparation of athletes for a competition” that was published in 1963. In that essay, we grounded Puni's pioneering work within the specific socio-political and historical context of his era by providing a brief overview of his life (including extensive explanatory footnotes) in pre- and post-Socialist Revolution Russia. In this paper, we attempt to further historicize the work of Puni on the psychological preparation of athletes by discussing his ground-breaking model of Psychological Preparation for a Competition (PPC) and contrasting that work with the activity of sport psychology consultants taking place in North America during the same time period (i.e., 1960s and 1970s). In a concluding section, we will discuss some of the lessons sport psychology consultants have learned in the decades since Puni developed his model and suggest some ways future models might expand on Puni's view of the provision of psychological assistance for athletes.
Article
Psychologists and baseball players were among those Americans who formed professional associations in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Psychologists used laboratory tasks to quantify mental and behavioral processes while sportswriters and baseball organizers measured individual and team performance. The most popular baseball player of the 1920s, George Herman “Babe” Ruth, possessed superior batting skills that were evident in the statistical indices of baseball performance. In 1921, he was brought to the psychological laboratory at Columbia University to perform standard laboratory tasks in an effort to discover the basis for his success in hitting home runs and to suggest the potential of tests for identifying future baseball stars. Baseball's addiction to quantitative indices of performance was thus brought together with a new science devoted to quantitative assessment and a desire to make such assessments useful. The attempt to analyze the basis of Ruth's batting skills is part of the history of applied psychology, sport psychology, and popular interest in the science of psychology. © 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Article
Examines the development of sport psychology (SP) from 1920–1940, with emphasis on the career and contributions of Coleman Griffith, and the implications of these to SP. The academic heritage of Griffith has been traced to W. Wundt, through M. Bentley, under whom he studied at Illinois. He became seriously interested in the area after 1920, and headed the 1st Athletics Laboratory, founded in the University of Illinois, in 1925. His work, mainly experimental, focused on the areas of learning athletic and psychomotor skills, and personality variables. Important lessons to be learned from his work include delineations of the functions of the field, receptivity to multiple ways of studying SP, equal emphasis on research and practice, contribution to sports and psychology, positive but realistic expectations from the field, and focus on personal growth. Though his research did not greatly impact SP, his orientation was ahead of his time. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
The use of direct hypnotic suggestion, posthypnotically produced autohypnosis, and self-hypnosis in conjunction with autogenic training and progressive relaxation in the treatment of “stage fright” in athletes is discussed. Illustrative case histories drawn from a sample of athletes participating in the 1960 Olympic Games are presented.
Naruse discussed his use of hypnosis with Japanese Olympic, amateur, and high school athletes to alleviate anxiety before performance. 36 Committee on the Medical Aspects of Sports
Naruse discussed his use of hypnosis with Japanese Olympic, amateur, and high school athletes to alleviate anxiety before performance. 36. " Committee on the Medical Aspects of Sports, " Journal of the American Medical Association 178 (1961): 151–52.
The Use of Hypnosis in Athletics in American Colleges
  • Wilfred M Mitchell
Wilfred M. Mitchell, The Use of Hypnosis in Athletics in American Colleges, Universities and High Schools (Stockton ca: University of the Pacific, 1972), pp. 42 – 49.
The Psychology of Winning Baseball: A Coaches Handbook (Englewood Cliffs nj 39. cbs Healthwatch Sports Psychology—Mental Game vs. Physical Game
  • C Brown
C. Brown, 1991); and Rick Wolff, The Psychology of Winning Baseball: A Coaches Handbook (Englewood Cliffs nj: Prentice Hall, 1986). 39. cbs Healthwatch, " Sports Psychology—Mental Game vs. Physical Game " June 2000, http://cbshealthwatch.medscape.com/cx /viewarticle/217955. 40. cbs Healthwatch.
Use of Psychology in Professional
  • Maccracken Kornspan
Kornspan and MacCracken: Use of Psychology in Professional Baseball 43 04-N2514 11/22/02 9:20 AM Page 43
The Psychologist at Bat, p. 16. 8
  • Tracy
Tracy, The Psychologist at Bat, p. 16. 8. "Browns Psychology Course No Gag," The Sporting News, January 18, 1950, p. 24.
Intimate Casebook of a Hypnotist
  • Arthur Ellen
  • Dean Jennings
Arthur Ellen and Dean Jennings, Intimate Casebook of a Hypnotist (New York: New American Library, 1968).
The Sporting News That's What the Man Says Sporting News
  • See Willard Mullins
See Willard Mullins, " Mind over Matter, " The Sporting News, January 18, 1950, p. 24; and Lou Darvas, " That's What the Man Says, " Sporting News, March 15, 1950, p. 1. 20. This is an interesting parallel to what sport psychology consultants face today.
Psychologist to Bat for Missing Stars on the Browns: Emotional Stability as a Substitute for Base Hits
Bill Borst, Still Last in the American League: The St. Louis Browns Revisited (West Bloomfield mi: Altwerger and Mandel, 1992), p. 95. 11. "Feeling Wonderful: Hypnotizing Basketball Teams of St. Francis College, Brooklyn," New Yorker, February 18, 1950, p. 20; "Homers by Hypnosis," American Magazine, April 1950, p. 101; "Tinker to Evers to Freud: St. Louis Browns Staff Psychologist," Collier's, March 11, 1950, p. 74. 12. An article by John P. Carmichael ("Psychologist to Bat for Missing Stars on the Browns: Emotional Stability as a Substitute for Base Hits," The Sporting News, January 4, 1950, p. 8), a Chicago sportswriter, was the only article found that suggested that this was not the first time a psychologist had been hired by a professional baseball team. Kornspan and MacCracken: Use of Psychology in Professional Baseball 41
Playing to Empty Park Discourages Team
  • Bob Broeg
Bob Broeg, "Browns Psychologist Starts on Fans: 'Playing to Empty Park Discourages Team,'" The Sporting News, March 1, 1950, p. 13.
Browns' Hypnotist Gives Convincing Show
  • Hy Turkin
Hy Turkin, "Browns' Hypnotist Gives Convincing Show," The Sporting News, January 18, 1950, p. 6.
Memories of a Hall of Fame Sportswriter (Champaign il: Sagamore, 1995)
  • Bob Broeg
Bob Broeg, Memories of a Hall of Fame Sportswriter (Champaign il: Sagamore, 1995), pp. 200 -201.
See the column "The Fan's Voice
See the column "The Fan's Voice," The Sporting News, March 8, 1950, p. 13.
That's What the Man Says
  • See Willard Mullins
See Willard Mullins, "Mind over Matter," The Sporting News, January 18, 1950, p. 24; and Lou Darvas, "That's What the Man Says," Sporting News, March 15, 1950, p. 1. 20. This is an interesting parallel to what sport psychology consultants face today.
sec. d, p. 2. 23. Bob Broeg, "Dr. Tracy's There-and Browns Loosen Up
  • Bob Broeg
Bob Broeg, "Tracy Gets Going on Ken Wood," St. Louis Dispatch, March 3, 1950, sec. d, p. 2. 23. Bob Broeg, "Dr. Tracy's There-and Browns Loosen Up," The Sporting News, March 15, 1950, pp. 1-2.
Browns Drop Psychologist in Retrenchment
  • Ray Gillespie
Ray Gillespie, "Browns Drop Psychologist in Retrenchment," The Sporting News, June 7, 1950, p. 9.
Browns Drop Psychologist
  • Gillespie
Gillespie, "Browns Drop Psychologist," p. 9.
Hypnosis in Athletics
  • Stephen Thomas
Stephen Thomas, "Hypnosis in Athletics," Hypnosis 1 (1955): pp. 11-14.
Hypnosis and Muscular Performance
  • Warren Johnson
Warren Johnson, "Hypnosis and Muscular Performance," Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 1 (1961): pp. 71-79 (an interesting note in this article thanked Milton Erickson, a medical doctor from Phoenix, Arizona, for reading and critiquing this article);
Naruse discussed his use of hypnosis with Japanese Olympic, amateur, and high school athletes to alleviate anxiety before performance. 36
  • Mitchell
Mitchell, Use of Hypnosis in Athletics. 35. Gosaku Naruse. "The Hypnotic Treatment of Stage Fright in Champion Athletes," International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis 13 (1965): pp. 63 -70. Naruse discussed his use of hypnosis with Japanese Olympic, amateur, and high school athletes to alleviate anxiety before performance. 36. "Committee on the Medical Aspects of Sports," Journal of the American Medical Association 178 (1961): 151-52.
The Mental Game of Baseball: A Guide to Peak Performance
Johnson, "Hypnosis and Muscular Performance." 38. Harvey A. Dorfman and Karl Kuehl, The Mental Game of Baseball: A Guide to Peak Performance, 2nd ed. (South Bend in: Diamond Communications, 1995);
The Mental Keys to Hitting
  • A Harvey
  • Dorfman
Harvey A. Dorfman, The Mental Keys to Hitting (South Bend in: Diamond Communications, 2001);
The Mental ABC's of Pitching: A Handbook for Performance Enhancement
  • A Harvey
  • Dorfman
Harvey A. Dorfman, The Mental ABC's of Pitching: A Handbook for Performance Enhancement (South Bend in: Diamond Communications, 1999);
Other books related to the psychology of baseball include Jim Richard and Chris Wheeler, Not Too High, Not Too Low: Stress Management Strategies for Professional Baseball Players and Their Fans
  • Ken Ravizza
  • Tom Hanson
Ken Ravizza and Tom Hanson, Heads Up Baseball: Playing the Game One Pitch at a Time (Indianapolis: Masters Press, 1995). Other books related to the psychology of baseball include Jim Richard and Chris Wheeler, Not Too High, Not Too Low: Stress Management Strategies for Professional Baseball Players and Their Fans (Dubuque ia: Kendall Hunt, 1991);
The Psychology of Winning Baseball: A Coaches Handbook
  • Rick Wolff
and Rick Wolff, The Psychology of Winning Baseball: A Coaches Handbook (Englewood Cliffs nj: Prentice Hall, 1986). 39. cbs Healthwatch, "Sports Psychology-Mental Game vs. Physical Game" June 2000, http://cbshealthwatch.medscape.com/cx /viewarticle/217955. 40. cbs Healthwatch.