Two long-time baseball fans (and players of a “certain” skill level) air their views on current baseball happenings and trends. With 2014 season now underway, we’re fully-armed with cogent comments on what’s happening in the major and minor leagues, observations on how the game’s past impacts its present and how what’s going on in the present might impact baseball’s future. Welcome!
This past Wednesday night I was watching the Yankees play the Red Sox and witnessed one of the dumbest things I had ever seen on a ball field. Michael Pineda 'hid' pine tar in plain sight on the side of his neck. Amazingly it was seen by the Red Sox bench and by hundreds of thousands of TV viewers. It was so obvious that I would imagine many people in the stands, except maybe those in the bleachers saw it too.
He got suspended for one game for cheating and another nine games for being an idiot. In fairness to Pineda, perhaps he believed them when his team mates and former managers claimed that umpires were blind.
I believe the most recent case in which a pitcher got caught for doing that was Tampa Bay Devil Rays reliever Joel Peralta in June 2012. He was found with "a significant amount of pine tar" in his glove.
Jim and Gaylord Perry
In 1986 Mike Scott was found to possess an emery board for the purpose of scratching the baseball. Emery has been used since the early 1900's. The infielders often concealed pieces of emery paper in their gloves. In those days a fielder often left his glove on the field when he went in to bat. If a kindly opponent picked it up to hand it to him he might discover the implement.
In 1980 Rick Honeycutt was found to have a thumbtack in his glove after he accidentally cut himself with it. Gaylord Perry was famous for applying generous dabs of vaseline to baseballs. His brother Jim did likewise. Atlanta's Niekro was known to load them up too.
In the ’60s Whitey Ford used his wedding ring to cut the ball or got his catcher Elston Howard to slice it for him with a buckle on his shin guard. Ford sometimes put mud on the baseball or made up a concoction of turpentine, resin, and baby oil to throw a "gunk ball".
Brooklyn's Preacher Roe admitted he had thrown spitballs, which were banned in 1920. Burleigh Grimes was the last hurler who legally spit on baseballs. Chicago's "Hitless Wonders" would not have won nearly as many games if Ed Walsh had not been loading them up.
Some hitters look to get an edge as well. In 1994 Albert Belle's bat was confiscated by umpire Dave Phillips. It contained cork. Billy Hatcher had been caught doing the same thing five years before. Craig Nettles put super balls in his bat. Not leaving anything to chance, Amos Otis used cork and super balls.
Two hundred miles away I can hear fellow blogger Honest John Trembath yelling, "Say it ain't so, Norm!" as he reads that Norm Cash admitted he would not have had such an amazing year at the plate in ’61 if he had not put cork in his Louisville Slugger.
That has to be the greatest instance I can call to mind where a player demonstrably benefited from cheating, perhaps excepting Sammy Sosa and company. Norm went 41, 132, .361 that year. Take a look at his numbers for other years. He hit .243 in ’62.
The 1950 New York Giants admitted that they had stolen signs all year. The sad sack St. Louis Browns were doing that way back in 1905.
Lots of groundskeepers have helped their teams, some by causing groundballs to roll fair if their team had speedy batters or foul if they were less fleet-footed. Got a team full of base stealers coming to town? Water down those basepaths. Oh, a team loaded with heavy hitters is coming in? Do what the Cleveland Indians did. Move your fences back 12 to 15 feet when the Yankees are coming.
The Comiskey Park infield used to be known as 'Bossard's Swamp' because the groundskeeper kept it hosed down for sinkerball pitcher Dick Donovan, Tommy John, and Joel Horlen.
When he played for the Baltimore Orioles third baseman John McGraw used to grab runners by the belt to slow them down. Or he might trip them, or just stand in their way.
They didn't start using two umpires until 1910 so it was easier. Heck some players used to run straight from first to third if the umpire was looking the other way.
Of course you could just plain throw the game. As far back as 1877 four Providence Grays were accused of taking it easy. They almost never lost until somebody waved a lot of big bills in front of their noses. Then they went 1-10. Hal Chase was suspended by his manager, choir boy Christy Mathewson in 1917 for lying down. Some Chicago White Sox may have taken it easy in the 1919 World Series as well. I think I read something about that.
We’re in the middle of trying to decide whether or not to keep the blog going. Obviously, it’s a very long discussion.
But in the meantime, I want to post this:
What kind of a knucklehead does something this blatant – especially when there has been something previous and recent.
Michael Pineda obviously needs to work on his cheating skills. Perhaps he should discuss it with iconic former Yankee, Whitey Ford, who – if you don’t remember – for nearly his whole career used a rasp cut into his wedding band to scuff up a ball. No one ever discovered what he was doing, until he “confessed” a number of years later.