AMERICA’S “FAVORITE” PASTIME—CHEATING AT BASEBALL, PART 2


For this installment of the blog, I will offer the observations of Bill Brennan, a major league umpire, who wrote about cheating in August of 1920.

“Many were the tricks resorted to by managers in years gone by that would give their team some advantage or assist some poor fielder to field his position or a weak hitter to hit better. However, with the advancement of baseball, some of those old-time tricks which were very crude would be impossible to get by with now and would not be attempted.”

“One of the most brazen tricks or schemes ever resorted to in tipping of signals to the batter was perpetrated by the old Philadelphia club and they were finally caught at it. They had a man stationed in the club house in center field. He had a pair of powerful field glasses and could easily see the catcher’s signals. An electric wire was strung from his place in the window of the club house under the ground to third base under the coacher’s box. If the catcher signaled for a fast ball the ‘buzzer’ would buzz once. The coacher would tip the batter off to what was coming by using some phrase as ‘All right, Joe’ or ‘Let’s go, Joe.’ It is not necessary to state that while the Phillies were at home, they did some great hitting until the scheme was detected.”


“I once knew a manager of a minor league club which had a third baseman whose arm was weak and he was a poor fielder of hard-hit balls, but was a great hitter. The manager would have the ground in front of third base soaked with water overnight and covered with a canvas, so that the next day the ground would be soft. This would prevent balls from taking quick bounds and would enable the player to play close in, giving him an advantage in throwing to first.”

“It was very common in the olden days for managers to fix the grounds to help their own players. One manager had several very fast runners, but weak hitters on his club, although they were good bunters. The manager had the base lines to first and third base banked high so when a ball was bunted and once hit the line it invariably would roll fair. He went to the extreme in banking the lines and many protests resulted in them being cut down.”

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© 2020 by Alan D. Gaff