Written by Joe Kleinsasser Wednesday, 13 June 2007 10:51How is it that we wink or look the other way concerning some aspects of cheating in baseball while we act shocked and appalled on other occasions?
A story on ESPN.com about the biggest cheaters in baseball noted that “this could also be called the worst cheaters because the best cheaters are the ones we don’t know about who still haven’t been caught.”
Is there a difference between cheating, being unethical or using unorthodox methods not covered by the rulebook to gain an advantage?
Back in the early 1960s, the Los Angeles Dodgers had a base-stealing whiz named Maury Wills. Teams would have their groundskeepers keep the infield soaked, almost mud-like, in an effort to keep Wills from stealing bases.
Perhaps it was easier doing that than improving the throwing of their catchers or the pick-off move of their pitchers.
Of course, the reason for making the infield slower was to gain a competitive advantage. It would affect the speedy Wills far more than their own players.
Some teams used to keep the infield watered down to help their sinkerball pitcher. Others are known to have kept the baselines raised so that bunts would stay fair. It may not be fair, but at least the conditions are the same for both teams.
Using corked bats is as old as some of the hot dogs served at stadium concession stands.
In 1994, Albert Belle’s bat was confiscated by umpires and put in the umpires’ locker room for further checking under the suspicion the bat was corked. During the game, an Indians teammate sneaked into the umps room through the ceiling and replaced the illegal bat with an identical but legal bat.
On one occasion, Minnesota Twins pitcher Joe Niekro was on the mound in Anaheim throwing a slider that broke the law of physics.
When the plate umpire visited the mound to have a look, an emery board flew out of Niekro’s pocket. He also happened to be carrying a small piece of sandpaper “contoured to fit the finger,” according to second-base ump Steve Palermo.
Niekro, playing the part of a professional wrestler, denied any wrongdoing, arguing that as a knuckleballer, he needed the emery board to file his fingernails.
As for the sandpaper, Niekro explained that when he sweats a lot, the emery board gets wet, so he uses the paper for small blisters.
I have read that Emil Bossard, groundskeeper for the Cleveland Indians in the 1920s and 1930s, would move Cleveland’s portable fences back 12 to 15 feet when the Yankees visited, taking away their power advantage.
When Chuck Tanner was Chicago White Sox manager in the early ’70s, the White Sox played Oakland during their dynasty. Tanner told groundskeeper Roger Bossard to make sure Billy North didn’t steal a base. Wilbur Wood walked North on four pitches. Bossard said, “Everyone knows he’s going to steal. He took a step and a half, but we had doctored the baseline, and he fell to his knees. Our catcher threw to first and tagged him out. Me and my dad had a big smile. But they still beat us by eight runs.”
To the victor go the spoils. With all the fame and fortune that goes to the victor, is it any wonder that many subscribe to the motto that goes, “If you aren’t cheating, then you aren’t trying?”
As one blogger wrote, “Political dirty tricks, financial shenanigans, fraud and deception outside the lines is mirrored by players and teams seeking to avoid a level playing field. You may want a better mousetrap, but remember, rats will do anything to get the cheese.”
My memory isn’t all that hot, but can someone tell me if the Hillsboro High School girls have ever had this much athletic success in a single year? Congratulations are in order to the Trojans for winning another state Class 3A high school track and field meet.
HHS also won a state title in basketball and finished third in volleyball, not to mention making a good showing in other sports.