Harvey Dorfman, psychologist to top baseball stars, dies at 75
Thursday, March 3, 2011; 7:07 PM
Harvey Dorfman, 75, who sharpened minds and beefed up egos in baseball's major leagues as a sports psychologist to the game's top athletes, died Feb. 28 at his home in Brevard, N.C. The family declined to provide a cause of death.
Mr. Dorfman, who once said his specialty involved "anything above the neck, including breathing," counseled many of baseball's most successful hitters and pitchers. He wrote seminal books on the mental aspects of baseball.
Among his list of star clients, he advised American League MVP Alex Rodriguez, sluggers Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, and Cy Young Award-winning pitchers Roy Halladay, Greg Maddux and Bob Welch.
When Halladay won his first Cy Young Award with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2003, he singled out Mr. Dorfman for his success.
Many athletes credited Mr. Dorfman with helping them master the one organ that cannot be obviously flexed or exercised: the brain.
He trained baseball players to focus on each swing or throw. He told them to concentrate on strikes instead of outs, hits instead of home runs.
"I'm not a shrink; I'm a stretch," Mr. Dorfman told skeptics. "I don't diminish - I expand."
He became one of baseball's most popular and revered sports psychologists by following a circuitous path.
In the mid-1970s, he was a prep school teacher in Vermont and sports columnist for a local newspaper when he befriended minor-league short stop Roy Smalley.
A few years later, when Smalley was called up to the majors, he introduced Mr. Dorfman to Karl Kuehl, a coach for the Minnesota Twins.
Mr. Dorfman began speaking to players about their mental strengths and weaknesses from the perspective of a former college athlete.
"I sensed there was this hunger, it was suppressed," Mr. Dorfman told Men's Journal in 2009. "I knew I was onto something."