In a sport so endearingly perverse that a hitter who fails in seven out of 10 trips to the plate is considered something of a star, there's only so much a coach can do.
Enter John Herbold. A coach at California's storied Long Beach Polytechnic High School, Herbold began using devices like the "screwbat" above—engineered to teach hitters not to roll their wrists when swinging—in 1962. (Highly useful factoid: Many of the tools and techniques Herbold employed were first dreamed up by the celebrated MLB hitting instructor, Kenny Meyers.) In 1963, Poly won the American Legion National Championship and, LIFE magazine wrote in a July 1966 article, "its teams have been winning titles ever since."
Herbold [LIFE noted] credits his heretical training techniques for the wins but he believes the devices also get his players thinking. Herbold . . . encourages this by making players digest a thick manual on the sport, pass periodic tests, write a term paper on baseball and, on the fingers of their gloves, print the letters t-h-i-n-k.
Ben Cosgrove is the editor of LIFE.com. Picture This is his occasional feature for The Stacks. (Photo Credit: Ralph Crane—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)