Except for catching Warren Spahn's 1961 no-hitter, Lau's playing career was relatively
uneventful; he gained his notoriety as the most respected batting coach of his time.
He was a lifetime .180 hitter until 1962, when he radically changed his batting style
to win a job with the Orioles. He adopted a contact hitter's stance, straight out
of the 19th century: feet wide apart, bat held almost parallel to the ground. He
had two hits in an inning he entered as a pinch hitter on June 23 and doubled four
times in a game on July 13, 1962, tying a ML record. His average jumped to .294.
Slow afoot, with a weak arm, he caught less and pinch hit more each season. After
1966 arm surgery, he only pinch hit. At a team party in August 1966, he saved MVP
Frank Robinson from drowning after a swimming pool accident.
Lau taught his hitting
technique to the Orioles, A's, Royals, Yankees, and White Sox. His book How to
Hit .300 supplanted Ted Williams 's The Science of Hitting as the "Bible of Batting." Most of the Royals adopted
his spray-hitting style: Hal McRae, George Brett, Amos Otis, and Willie Wilson all
used the Lau approach during their most successful seasons. In 1983 Lau voluntarily
gave up his spot on the White Sox coaching staff to enable scout Loren Babe, who
was dying of lung cancer, to qualify for his ten-year pension. Babe died in February
1984. Lau died from cancer of the colon in March.
FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY
»May 24, 1962: The Tigers score their first four runs on homers, then score the winner on a passed ball in the 11th to beat the Orioles, 5–4. Charlie Lau misses a Hoyt Wilhelm knuckler to allow Dick McAuliffe to score. Jim Bunning pitches the first nine innings for Detroit and is accused by O's manager Billy Hitchcock of notching the ball with his belt buckle.
»June 14, 1962: Join the club. The Orioles Charlie Lau ties an American League record with three passed balls in the 8th inning, and a total of 4, but Baltimore beats Boston 7–4. Lau now shares the team (and AL) record with Myron Ginsberg and Gus Triandos for most passed balls in inning, all catching Hoyt Wilhelm. The 20th century mark is four in an inning, set by the Giants Ray Katt in 1954. No surprise who was on the mound then—Wilhelm.
»July 13, 1962:
Orioles C Charley Lau hits four doubles in a 10–3 victory over Cleveland to tie a ML record. Charlie's average jumps to .294.
»June 23, 1964: Charlie Lau ties a major-league record with two pinch hits in the 8th inning of Baltimore's 9–8 win over the Yankees. The O's, losing score seven runs in the inning after two are out. Yanks manager Yogi Berra is criticized by some of his players for lifting starter Bill Sheldon, who was leading 7–2, having allowed just two solo shots by Boog Powell. Rookie reliever Pete Mickelson cannot hold the lead as the O's move into first place.
»March 18, 1984: White Sox coach Charlie Lau, renowned hitting instructor, dies at the age of 50 after a long bout with cancer. Lau, whose ML average was .255, earned his fame as the Royals batting coach from 1971-78, where his star pupil was George Brett.