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In baseball, left-handed players have a big advantage over their right-handed competitors. Especially when batting against a right handed pitcher. Left-handed pitchers are able to counter this advantage, so a good baseball team usually wants to have several left-handed pitchers. The slang term for such a pitcher is a southpaw, derived from the fact that a traditionally oriented baseball field would have the pitcher facing west, and thus would have the south to his left[1]. That term has spread to be used in general for left-handed people, particularly in sports. Generally there is considered to be an advantage for southpaws, because they are different from the more common right-handed opponents.

This appears in fiction as well, where left-handedness is used a defining characteristic, and is treated as a slight positive. For left-handedness being a sign of evil see A Sinister Clue.

For example, left-handed sword fighters able to take advantage of right-handed fighters--a lefty's attacks come from an unusual angle compared to what those used to fighting righties are used to, making them more difficult to parry. Truth In Television for baseball, of course (and most baseball movies have references to southpaws, as do baseball episodes of TV series), hence the name of the trope: The Southpaw.

See also: I Am Not Left-Handed

Examples of The Southpaw include:


Anime and Manga

  • Rurouni Kenshin's Saitou Hajime. Since all Japanese sword technique is taught strictly right-handed, the switch could be very useful in the context of kenjutsu.
  • Akiyama Mio of K-On! is a left-handed bass musician.
    • And tends to be fascinated by other left hand objects.
  • Bleach: Uryu Ishida is left handed given his bow always materializes in his right hand, and Word of God states that he's indeed left-handed. It's also noticed when he's sewing.
    • Uryuu Ishida's father, Ryuuken, has a small bow he uses one-handed; it's always used with his left hand.
  • The ability to box left-handed is a rare and (sometimes) major advantage in Hajime no Ippo. The ability to switch between southpaw and a conventional stance at will is even better.
  • Fooly Cooly: Haruko and, supposedly, Naota's brother are southpaws, as pointed out in the DVD commentary. Apparently it has something to do with their coolness, according to the director's opinion.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00's Graham Aker, naturally its applied to his mobile suit controls, all of them are configured with its main weapon in the left hand and the shield on the right arm.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, main character Nanoha Takamachi noticeably wields Raising Heart in her left hand. In addition, whenever she's shown using a writing utensil, she's holding it in her left hand.
    • According to the movie, the late Alicia Testarossa was also left-handed. The fact that her clone/sister Fate was right-handed was a key indication that she was her own person rather than just a copy, which lead to her mother rejecting her.
  • The Fourth Raikage from Naruto was left handed before he lost his left arm.
  • Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist is not naturally left-handed, but had to learn how to write with his left because... y'know, though he tends to fight more with his right arm.
  • Zoro, Vivi, Shanks (until he lost his left arm), Tom (who can be seen using his left hand to hold chopsticks), Rayleigh, and many other characters (especially swordsmen) from One Piece are left-handed.
  • Kallen Stadtfeld/Kouzuki from Code Geass is another left-handed mecha pilot, but it may not look that way at first since her Ace Custom Guren has a literal Right Hand of Doom. However, it's because she's left-handed that the radiant wave is on the Guren's right arm: the radiant arm is large and awkward, meaning it can't be used for normal manipulation, and for that reason it's equipped on the pilot's non-dominant side.
  • Raphael from Angel Sanctuary is left-handed.

Comic Books

  • Hellboy has a big right hand made out of stone, which isn't really useful for doing anything other than punching things, which makes him left-handed out of necessity. Conveniently, Ron Perlman who portrays him in the films is also left-handed.
  • Over time Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern, developed into this, until it has become Canon that "he always was left-handed".
    • Also from Green Lantern, Sinestro is sometimes shown as left-handed (meant as a pun on his name rather than deliberately being A Sinister Clue).

Film

  • In Little Big League, the kid manager shows his expert knowledge by correctly identifying a subversion of this effect. (A case when instead of pinch hitting for the left handed batter against the left-handed pitcher, he keeps the left-handed batter in the game). This situation comes up again in the climactic scene when the southpaw heroic batter is matched up against the southpaw Randy Johnson, The Big Unit, for the final out, and flies out to lose the game, as he statistically should when southpaw batter goes up against southpaw pitcher. Additionally, the catch that ends the game is made by another southpaw, Ken Griffey Jr.
  • Rocky was a left-handed boxer, which led (in his backstory) to opponents refusing to face him out of fear that it would mess with their mechanics. He defeats the world champion by learning to fight righty for most of the fight, and then switch to his natural stance and go for the KO... which of course occured in maximum Narm mode.
  • Ofelia in Pan's Labyrinth is left-handed. It doesn't give her any specific talents, but it is a clue to her otherworldly origins, as left-handedness was once attributed to changelings.
  • In The Princess Bride, both the Man in Black and Inigo Montoya fight left-handed in their duel as a way of handicapping themselves to give their opponent more of a fight. Eventually they both drop the act and fight better with their right hand.
  • John McClane is a left hander. As is Bruce Willis, who portrays him. Video game adaptations tend to forget this for some reason.

Literature

  • A Song of Ice and Fire
    • Arya Stark. When her dominant hand is revealed to her fencing master, he reacts favorably because fighting left-handed will reverse her stance and movements, which will help confuse her opponents. Of course, her left-handedness might also be A Sinister Clue about her future.
    • Quorin Halfhand learned to fight with his left hand after getting several fingers of his swordhand chopped off.
    • Jaime Lannister is forced to start learning to fight left-handed after losing his right hand.
  • In Harry Turtledove's Tales of the Fox series, the main character is left-handed, and he remarks that it makes it easier to get around enemy shields for a couple of reasons.
  • In the Emberverse novels Rudi Mackenzie's right arm is wounded and has to learn to use his left arm as his sword arm. When practicing with youths in the Free Republic of Richland they complain that he has an unfair advantage as a southpaw. His mentor responds "Yah hey, if someone attacks you using different moves, or if they're a leftie you're just going to say you're taking your bat and ball and going home 'cause it ain't fair? Christ, Weiss, I've known you were a dumb little punk for years, but do you have to show it off in front of strangers?"
  • In The Silmarillion, Maedhros learns to wield to his sword with his left-hand after a Life or Limb Decision. He becomes even more deadly afterwards (though this is probably for psychological reasons than anything physical.)
  • Alanna from the Tortall Universe deliberately practices at using her sword left-handed after her right arm is injured during training to become a knight. She keeps up the ambidextrous sword usage even after she's healed, which becomes a Chekhov's Skill in a duel against the Big Bad.
  • Caramon Majere of the Dragonlance novels fights left-handed. Not much comes of it, but the narration mentions it occasionally.
  • Major Perigord Habile Sinistra of The Long Patrol is left-pawed, and mentions it while taunting the Painted Ones. In a later book, Lord Brocktree, there is a minor character named Southpaw, though it's never touched upon whether or not he's actually left-pawed.
  • Orm, the main character from The Long Ships, is left-handed as a result of rowing a starboard oar on a slave galley for five years. It is commented upon when he duels, that this makes shieldwork more difficult both for him and the right-handed man he's fighting.

Live Action TV

  • Dharma and Greg - Greg's father trained his naturally right-handed son to switch so he'd have an advantage in baseball. When Greg points this can actually be psychologically unhealthy to do to a child, his father seems a little sheepish: "Sorry, son... Won't do it again."
  • Mcgee in NCIS always uses his sidearm with his left hand.
  • If you ever closely watch any Jim Henson productions, like The Muppet Show or Fraggle Rock, you'll notice a lot of the characters are left-handed. This is due to most of their puppeteers being right-handed, which they use to control the head of the puppet. Their left hand is used to control the hands, hence why so many Muppets are left-handed. It also doubles as a Shout-Out, since Henson himself was left-handed.
  • Astute viewers noticed that on Babylon 5, Sheridan and Garibaldi had their communicators on their right wrists, while everyone else had them on their left wrists. When asked why this was, series creator J. Michael Straczynski explained that this is because both actors are left-handed.
  • On Home Improvement, both Tim and Al are left-handed. They dedicated one episode to showcasing tools designed for use by lefties.

Music

  • The Peter Paul And Mary song "Right Field" is about a Little League baseball player who never has anything to do in right field because "Little leagues never have lefties that pull."
  • Freddie Mercury played guitar right-handed on "Crazy Little Thing Called Love".

Video Games

  • Although this never really becomes terribly relevant to the gameplay or plot, Link in most The Legend of Zelda games is left-handed, and anyone who depicts him with his sword in his right hand will be subject to much backlash from the fans.
    • Like the Wii version of Twilight Princess. It was originally designed for the Game Cube, where Link was a lefty as usual, but the Wii version used motion controls and it was felt that Link's dominant hand should match most players'. To program this in a hurry, the entire game was flipped left-to-right so that Link would be right-handed, even though his handedness does not affect gameplay at all. Real life lefties were not pleased by the lack of a Lefty Flip option.
    • Skyward Sword also portrays Link as a righty because of motion controls; in fact, it's the first game since the original where the official art depicts him as right-handed. Holding the Wii remote in your left hand hardly affects gameplay at all, though.
    • The Wii U tech demo for The Legend of Zelda also has Link as a righty. Being a tech demo, there's no reason for this outside of pure intent so it seems Link's status as a right-handed wielder may be official from Skyward Sword onwards.
    • Currently, Word of God is that Link is, in fact, ambidextrous. The majority of his incarnations simply seem to prefer the left hand, however.
      • Fridge Brilliance? An ambidexterous person choosing to fight with his left hand would be greatly advantaged against right-handed opponents and would bypass the need for more training through Confusion Fu. This, however, does not explain why he also systematically favours his left hand with the slingshot, bow, hookshot, and all other weapons in his "left-handed" incarnations.
      • Probably played with by Link being a Legacy Character. In the real world (which may or may not be representative of Link's world), certain families have a genetic predisposition to left-handedness. This does not, however, necessarily mean that every member of that family line is left-handed.
  • Sheva Alomar is the first left-handed Resident Evil character. This is so the camera would be in a more advantageous position during split screen co-op. Dom from Gears of War is a lefty for similar reasons.
  • Luciana in Yggdra Union. This is one of the handful of ways we're given tell her and her twin sister Aegina apart, other than slight differences in their hairstyles and the colors of their armor.
  • Cid Highwind from Final Fantasy VII is the only left-handed member of the group, unless you count Barret. Sephiroth is an example of A Sinister Clue.
  • Final Fantasy II has no less than four southpaws--Leon, Ricard, Leila, and Scott.
  • Also from Final Fantasy is Kain Highwind, though like Link, his dominant hand is somewhat inconsistent; his original artwork shows him as right-handed, but he equips weapons to his left hand in-game. The DS version inverts this; the artwork shows him as a lefty, but he equips weapons to his right hand now! He is generally considered to be left-handed, and he fights this way is Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy (though his artwork shows him right-handed to resemble his original art). There's Golbez and Palom.
  • Kokoro from Remember 11
  • Raphael Sorel, first introduced in Soul Calibur II, is one of only two left-handed fighters in the entire series (and it's heavily implied he personally trained the other one). It's also on the fence whether he is completely insane, in addition to being irredeemably evil, despite having unintentionally saved the world.
    • This is probably because the two of them fence, and this is the only way they can face the audience when controlled by the player instead of having their backs to them.
      • Except they do hold their backs to the camera, when on the Player 2 side. In fact, so does virtually every character.
  • Katakura Kojuro from Sengoku Basara is the only left-handed character in the series. He is also one of the most superior swordsmen in terms of sheer skill and technique, and mostly relies on Diagonal Cuts from the opposite side than would be expected from a right-handed fighter. But despite how rare it was for samurai back then, no one ever comments on this.
  • Luke fon Fabre in Tales of the Abyss is left-handed (which implies that Asch is too, though he wields his sword with his right hand, and thus his sword hangs perpendicularly from his back, rather than at his side as most conventional designs go. It isn't a major plot point, but it does make for a touching moment at the end of the game, where Cool Old Guy/Colonel Badass Jade offers his own left hand for Luke to shake, despite being right-handed himself, out of respect for the personal growth Luke experiences throughout the game.
    • It's also because, in Japan, shaking ones left hand is considered to be a greater sign of trust since that's the one you hold your shield in. Jade is not only recognising Luke's development, but also indicating that he trusts Luke enough to let his guard down in front of him.
    • Luke is "mirrored" from Asch due to being his replica--his hair sweeps in the opposite direction from Asch's, too, so it's only natural that they have opposite dominant hands.
    • Asch is in fact also left handed, he just trained himself to use his right hand for everything including eating, writing, and sword play because it let him interact with the world better and gives him the advantage of being ambidextrous.
  • Tales of Vesperia has a few, with a total of three people who swordfight using their left. Yuri being one, though he is just ambidextrous with a preference for his left. Schwann does, and by extension, probably Raven is left-handed as does Gauche.
  • Aika from Skies of Arcadia wields her boomerang with her left hand.
  • Chrono Trigger: Crono is left-handed.
  • Punch Out: Soda Popinski is a lefty. It's not purely cosmetic, however; dodging his attacks becomes that much trickier.
  • Amongst the four protagonists in Wild Arms 3, Jet is the only one that uses his ARM in his left hand. He does however, cast spells from his right hand and since he's essentially a living reincarnation of a past Filgaia and hence are able to do...stuff with his right hand, he might just have been conditioned.
  • Guybrush Threepwood, The Hero of the Monkey Island series, is a weird example. He appears right handed on the cover of the first game, yet the same game provides us this picture. (Guybrush always fights in the same direction, so he does not have an Ambidextrous Sprite.) Guybrush is right handed in the Curse of Monkey Island and the left handed again in the Tales of Monkey Island. (But not in the cover.) Could he be ambidextrous?
  • Patrick Galloway in Clive Barker's Undying is notable as one of the few FPS protagonists to hold most, if not all of his weapons in his left hand during gameplay.
  • In Under Night In-Birth, Lady of War Orie wields her Royal Rapier with her left hand; Yuzuriha, the local Iaijutsu Practitioner, is this as well, holding the sheath of her huge sword with her right hand, and drawing with her left.
  • In Eternal Fighter Zero, Mai Kawasumi, also an Iaijutsu Practitioner, is a lefty: She holds the sheath of her sword with her right hand, so, she can use her left hand to draw and attack.

Webcomics

Western Animation

  • A Double Subversion occurs in The Simpsons episode "Homer at Bat" where, at the company softball championship, Mr. Burns (correctly, according to this trope) sends Homer (a right-handed batter) to pinch hit against a left-handed pitcher. Made clearly ridiculous by the fact that the batter Homer replaced was major leaguer Darryl Strawberry though Homer wins the game for his team anyway since the pitcher hits him with the ball with the bases loaded.
    • Then there's Ned Flanders, who specifically opens the Leftorium, a shop for left handers. When he's in danger of going out of business, Homer calls up every left handed person he knows (and then some) to call up to Ned and buy stuff.
  • Doug, in Nickelodeon's Doug, was left-handed. It was occasionally a plot point, such as when his friends couldn't figure out why he was such a poor beet-ball player until they realized they had been trying to make him bat right-handed.
    • It's shows up again in another episode where his much-beloved journal goes missing. No one can read it partly because of his poor handwriting and also because being a lefty he drags his hand through everything he writes leaving it a smudged mess.
  • Tiana, from The Princess and the Frog, is meant to be left-handed, as a Shout-Out to her voice actress, Anika Noni Rose. (Close viewing, however, reveals that she's more ambidextrous than anything else.)
  • Mulan is left-handed (but she uses her right hand to hold a sword).
  • William Murderface in Metalocalypse is possibly this, he signed his contract with his left hand, as did The Pete Best that had been there. Also: both Ofdensen and Melmord fenced with their left hands.
  • Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon.
  • Let's not forget Chuckie from Rugrats. After finding out, his father goes on a shopping spree at a left-handed store, the gag being that a baby wouldn't have much use for a left-handed steam iron, whisk or shoehorn.
  • Ed from Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy.
  • Francine from American Dad was revealed to be one, but in Catholic school, she was raised to believe that lefties are bad people.

Real Life

  • The word sinister comes from the Latin meaning "left-handed." It came to be corrupted to mean wicked or evil. In the Middle Ages it was believed that when a person was writing with their left hand they were possessed by the Devil. (This was uncommon, particularly as there were fewer literate people). Left-handed people were therefore considered to be evil.
  • Historical aversions include the Greek Phalanx and Roman Legions. Both of these forces required soldiers to fight right-handed. However, this was because unit maneuvers required men to cover their left neighbor's vulnerable right sword hand with their shield. If sword and shield were reversed, the cooperative ability would not exist. There are a few rumors of an attempt in Roman times to field an entirely left-handed legion, so that it would be reversed for every soldier.
  • For similar reasons to baseball, left-handed cricketers are very useful both with the bat and with the ball: for example, it is generally a good idea for a batting partnership to consist of a right-hander and a left-hander, to put bowlers off their line and tire the fielders when the batsmen cross.
  • This advantage is also often attributed (rightly or wrongly) to southpaw players of tennis and other racquet-based games.
  • Averted in golf, though. Since golf is (if you'll excuse the terms) Player Versus Environment rather than Player Versus Player, and the slopes of most golf courses are designed for right-handers, there are relatively few left-handed golfers at the highest level (although Phil Mickelson and Mike Weir are two relatively recent left-handed major winners).
  • Left-handed auto racers benefit greatly from keeping their dominant hand on the wheel while shifting gears. Averted by the more modern Formula One steering-wheel controls: now they use the left hand to shift down and the right hand to shift up.
  • In late antiquity/early medieval warfare, a common trick (the Saxons and maybe the Normans made good use of this) was to fight as though left handed, thus minimizing the enemies' shields and throwing them off.
  • Left-handed bowlers can be seen as having a significant advantage over right-handed bowlers. Since most bowlers bowl right-handed, they're all throwing their ball along roughly the same path as each other, which can throw off the oil pattern significantly. Left-handed bowlers generally have fresh oil, since few people bowl along the left side of the lane, and are thus able to get a much more consistent shot.
  • One defence used in medieval castles was to make spiral staircases twist clockwise so that a right handed defender's body was shielded by the centre wall. This made left handed troops a valuable resource when trying to storm such castles.
  • This trope also aplies to fencing, lefties are MUCH harder to hit if you're used to fighting righties due to the fact that you have to hit the opposite side of their body.
    • Same goes for swordplay; in general you are encouraged to fight from your good side for the obvious advantages in free fights (but also because it is a pain to fight from your weak side - or to re-train your good side when you started learning on the wrong side.). Once you get used to how to attack a right handed opponent on his left (vulnerable) shoulder when your opening position has the sword on your left shoulder it is no big deal anymore. (However most lefties also learn to do at least the basic moves also from the right side. Which is of high advantage when your opponent finally got used to you being a leftie and adjusts his attacks... so you can attack him from the right. (still, learning from the other side IS a pain. Which, however, pays off.)
  • There exists a beer company in Colorado named "Left Hand". They produce sinister brews.
  • The United States Marines have found that shooting a bolt action rifle southpaw allows a sniper to shoot slightly faster; the bolt on the M 40 A 3 is on the right, meaning that a right-handed shooter would have to remove his hand from the grip and trigger, work the bolt, and return to firing position. A left-handed shooter can keep his eye on target and his left hand by the trigger and work the bolt with his right hand: as the firing hand does not leave the trigger, the interval between firing is reduced.
  • A large number of players in the NHL learn to shoot left-handed even if they aren't natural lefties. If they find themselves in a situation sprinting or otherwise only holding their stick with one hand, it ends up being in their dominant right giving them more control. More importantly though, is shooting angles. Generally left-handed shooters will play the left wing and righties will play the right wing although it's not a hard rule and sometimes a coach will flip them depending on how he wants a play set up.
    • It's also just a good idea to be able to handle both directions since sticks frequently break in the middle of play. If that happens your option is skate to the bench and grab one from a teammate so you can get back in quickly and it's not always going to face the way yours normally does.
    • Most goalies catch with their left hand and hold their stick in their right but some do the opposite and the opposing team generally has to use a different scoring strategy against them because the types of shot a left-winger might normally take on the blocker side won't be as effective if the goalie has his glove on that side (and vice-versa).

You seem a helpful trope page. I hate to leave you. But there's something you don't know... I Am Not Left-Handed.

Notes

  1. This prevents a setting sun from getting in the batter's, catcher's, or umpire's eyes, which would make their jobs much harder and be potentially dangerous. Pitchers will never have this problem because the grandstand where fans sit behind home plate are high enough to block the sun before it becomes a problem
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