If you're anything like me, every single high school paper that you turned in started with the words: "Webster's Dictionary defines _______ as..." In keeping with this tradition, and because nostalgia's my favorite fragrance, I would like to submit for you the definition of cheating, updated for our modern times.
Wikipedia defines "cheating" as an act of deception, fraud, trickery, imposture, or imposition that characteristically is employed to create an unfair advantage, usually in one's own interest, and often at the expense of others. Luckily for all of the youngster's in the world looking to get into this popular activity, Wikipedia lists numerous examples of cheating but unfortunately for young baseball fans, the baseball related examples are rudimentary at best. Since the media and Congress have mercifully given the national pastime a pass when it comes to cheating, I feel that it's my duty to present this list of true facts, you know, for the children.
The 1919 Black Sox scandal is baseball's most infamous gambling case, yet hardly the first. Before this incident, eight players had been banned for similar offenses, the first occurring back in 1865 when three players for the New York Mutuals where banned for consorting with known gamblers. Ball players were not the only ones singled out for this dubious honor. The banned list also includes an umpire, a manager, a coach, an owner, and a team physician. While never banned, even the New York Mutuals' Assistant to the Traveling Secretary was once implicated in a controversial wardrobe scandal.
In 1920, Benny Kauff of the New York Giants was banned for stealing a car. While not exactly cheating, the precedent was set for the near banning of A's designated runner Herb Washington in 1975. Washington played in 105 games and stole 31 bases without ever batting or playing in the field. Luckily for A's fans, his lack of actually playing the game made it difficult to ban him from playing the game.
Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were once banned from the game for fraternizing with known gamblers. They had served as greeters at an Atlantic City casino in 1983, a decade after they had both retired. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn was best known as the man who tried to uphold the reserve clause when it was challenged by Curt Flood and The Spiders From Mars.
Babe Ruth cheated on his own autobiography. It was ghost written by his BFF, Ford Frick.
In 1950, Ford Frick ordered Giants second baseman Eddie Stanky to stop performing the Stanky Maneuver. Stanky would try to distract opposing batters by jumping up and down and wildly waving his arms in the air. One baseball executive noted: "He cannot hit, he cannot throw, and he cannot outrun his grandmother. But if there's a way to beat the other team, he'll find it."
Jim's advice of the week: If you happen to be using a corked bat because you a have an inferiority complex brought about by playing in the shadow of your Hall of Fame brother, and that bat happens to break after connecting with a pitch, remember... running to collect the broken pieces of the bat rather than running out the ground ball will only make you look more guilty.
Hall of Famer John McGraw was famous for blocking and tripping runners as they ran the bases. He stood his own, despite weighing in at just 155 lbs.
Rick Honeycutt once cut his face while wiping sweat from his brow. He had forgotten that he had a thumbtack taped to finger.
The 1966 White Sox stored their game balls in two different rooms. One room was kept dry and the other used a humidifier to keep an ample amount of moisture in the balls. The team would use the drier balls when they were hitting and the balls from the humidifier room when they were pitching. The idea was that these balls would be heavier and softer and therefore they would not travel as far. Coincidentally, the manager of the 1966 White Sox was the aforementioned Eddie Stanky.
Jason Grimsley, the inaugural winner of MLB's Stanky Award (honoring the year's most notorious rule breaker), became famous by crawling through clubhouse air vents in order to gain access to the room where umpires had been storing Albert Belle's (alleged) cork filled bat, and switching it with another (allegedly) cork-free model. Had the ill conceived award not been retired shortly following Grimsley's win, he may have been a repeat winner in 2006.
Jim's link of the week: Fragments From Steroids! The Musical
As you are probably aware, cheating in baseball has once again become an above the fold story. After being scandal free for decades, Kenny Roger's (alleged) use of a foreign substance on his pitching hand has tarnished baseball's long held reputation as a sport who's competitive integrity is above reproach. Aside, of course, from the baseless Steinbrenner-driven allegations against Indians pitcher Eddie Harris, back in the 80's.
All hope is not lost for young baseball fans. There's one man that they can look up to. On June 12, 1970, Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis decided that he was going to make a statement. He wanted to prove that performance enhancing drugs should not be tolerated and what better way to make his point than by loading himself up with performance decreasing drugs. LSD, specifically. When the purple haze cleared, he had pitched a no hitter and became a role model to millions of kids who feel that steroids are for sissies.
"Say it ain't so, Joe. Say it ain't so."
"Yes kid, I'm afraid it is."
"Well, I never would've thought it."
--Chicago Herald and Examiner (9/30/1920)
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This weekly collection of news, facts & absurdities will keep you up to date with aspects of the game that you never knew existed.
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Wally Berger is the only starter (out of eighteen) from the 1934 All-Star Game who is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame.