It is against overwhelming odds, then, that Tyrone Everett, a wispy, cherub-faced southpaw from Philadelphia, has moved near the top of world junior lightweight rankings. "We knew we were taking a chance," says Trainer Jimmy Arthur, referring to his refusal to turn Everett around. "But we figured Tyrone was so young-looking, people would think they could beat him." At that, the fast, hard-punching Everett has had to scramble to get fights, journeying to San Francisco, Honolulu and Caracas to take on hometown favorites, and has repeatedly had to accept the short end of the purse. Despite this, Everett won 34 straight before losing a highly controversial decision to WBC champion Alfredo Escalera in a November title match.
Lefthanders in boxing are shunned even by one another. It is an antipathy that Everett himself expressed one afternoon before a workout in Philadelphia's Juniper Street gym. "The problem is you don't see other southpaws much and they look funny," he said. "You see that left hand coming around at you and you can't get away in time. It just looks strange."
Everett was not speaking hypothetically. The only time he was ever knocked down was in a bout with Mexico's Luis Madrid (whom he later kayoed). At the time Madrid was fighting from a southpaw stance.
Platooning. Pinch-hitting. Late-inning relievers. Switch hitters. The player who can be said to set baseball's endless lefty-righty machinations in motion is the left-handed batter, known familiarly as BL. He benefits from the fact that the majority of pitchers are righthanders; their natural curve deliveries come in to him but tail away from right-handed batters. He also has that step and a half head start to first base. The fact that many of the old ball parks had cozy right-field walls enhanced the careers of Ruth, Speaker and Gehrig, all left-handed. And that explains why many left-handed batters—Cobb was one—are not true southpaws at all, but natural righties whose dads simply loved them enough to make them BL.
Baseball's true lefthanders, the ones deserving of the designation southpaw, are those who throw lefty, pitchers in particular. The southpaw pitcher benefits from unorthodoxy against everybody and, because his pitches appear to arrive from the first-base dugout, he is especially effective against those dreaded left-handed batters. His ability to "neutralize" BL makes a good left-handed pitcher found gold.
The left-handed pitcher's unorthodoxy also makes him the subject of slurs and slander. Southpaws, it is claimed, are congenitally unable to throw overhand but are given instead to sneaky sidearm deliveries. They are said to be "cute" and "cunning" and endowed with a lot of "stuff." The legendary John McGraw purportedly cracked that if you split open a southpaw's head, all that would fall out would be bases on balls.
While pitchers clearly get most of the unflattering attention, there is also room for miscellaneous lefthanders like Outfielder Babe Herman, who caught fly balls with his head, doubled into a double play, etc. And there is a certain undeniable thoroughness in the fact that baseball effectively bans lefthanders from no fewer than four positions, accepting as gospel that they are simply unequipped to play them.
In the case of catcher, one of the forbidden positions, the anti-lefty arguments vary suspiciously, but the chief one seems to be that the southpaw's throw to second would be impeded when right-handed batters are at the plate—and, well, aren't the majority of batters right-handed? Yet it would logically follow that a left-handed catcher might come in handy now and then when a left-handed batter is up. One might as well forget it. A left-handed catcher named Jack Clements logged 17 years in the majors in the late 19th century, but there has been none since 1958, when Dale Long inconclusively worked two games behind the plate for the Chicago Cubs.
The other proscribed positions are second base, third base and shortstop, leaving first the only spot in the infield where sinistrals are welcome. The chief argument is that lefthanders have to pivot the wrong way to make the throw to first. Yet lefthanders Willie Keeler and George Sisler played some games at third base on their way to the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. Ex-big-league First Baseman Frank Torre, a lefty now playing shortstop for a Rawlings softball team in St. Louis, firmly believes that lefthanders can handle that position, too.
Could it be that southpaws really are daffy? And that they are better athletes? There is a limit to what researchers in laterality, the field of hand preference, really know about their subject. They are sure that handedness has something to do with heredity. And they know that sinistrals and dextrals do have certain more or less significant differences.