Sign stealing

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In baseball, sign stealing is the observing through legal and illegal methods which signs the opposing catcher is relaying to the pitcher. These signs can tell the opposing team what the pitcher will throw next, giving their hitter an advantage.[1]

Legality[edit]

Stealing signs is not a violation of Major League Baseball's (MLB) rulebook, depending on how the signs were stolen.[2][3] According to the unwritten rules of baseball, stealing signs as they are given by the third base coach, or by a baserunner on second base watching the catcher's signals is acceptable, but a batter peeking in to see the signs is a violation; it is up to the defensive team to protect their signs so they are not stolen.[4][5] The signs the catcher sends to the pitcher to relay the next pitch are considered more "sacred" than the signs a third base coach relays to the batter.[6]

At the December 1961 Winter Meetings, the National League banned the use of a "mechanical device" to steal signs.[7] The use of electronic equipment is not specifically forbidden by MLB rules, though in 2001, Sandy Alderson while serving as executive vice president for baseball operations of MLB, issued a memorandum stating that teams cannot use electronic equipment to communicate with each other during games, especially for the purpose of stealing signs.[8] Before the 2019 season, Rob Manfred, the commissioner of baseball, instituted specific prohibitions on where teams could position cameras and how instant replay officials can communicate with managers in an effort to reduce illicit sign stealing.[9][10]

Notable incidents[edit]

The oldest recorded instance of a team attempting to steal signs dates back to 1876, when the Hartford Dark Blues hid a person in a shack to tip off their hitters when the pitcher would throw a curveball.[1] In 1897, George Stallings, the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, had Morgan Murphy, a backup catcher, hide in a clubhouse beyond center field with a pair of binoculars and a telegraph that he used to alert Stallings to what pitch the opposing catcher was calling.[11] In 1900, Pearce Chiles, a coach for the Phillies, was caught standing on a box with electric wires that relayed to him via code what pitch was coming, which he relayed to the batters by stomping on the ground.[12] Del Baker, Joey Amalfitano, and Joe Nossek were considered to be among baseball's best sign stealers.[6][13][14]

In 2001, members of the 1951 New York Giants admitted to stealing signs against the Brooklyn Dodgers using a telescope to win the National League that season.[15] Bobby Thomson, who hit the "Shot Heard 'Round the World", denied being tipped off to that pitch.[16] In 2017, the Boston Red Sox were caught stealing signs against the New York Yankees and relaying them using an Apple Watch, which was not allowed to be in the dugout.[17] After the 2019 season, Mike Fiers alleged that the 2017 Houston Astros used technology to illicitly steal their opponents' signs and relay it to their hitters.[18] MLB and the Astros opened an investigation into this sign stealing allegation.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "'Everybody tries to cheat a little': The weird and wild history of MLB sign-stealing – The Athletic". Theathletic.com. October 18, 2018. Archived from the original on November 17, 2019. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  2. ^ Baccellieri, Emma (November 13, 2019). "Astros sign stealing is nothing new in MLB history". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on November 17, 2019. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  3. ^ "Kurkjian: Sign language". ESPN. August 12, 2004. Archived from the original on January 3, 2019. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  4. ^ Costello, Brian (July 17, 2005). "Goin' Through The Motions – Third-Base Coaches Rarely Mean What They Sign". New York Post. Archived from the original on November 17, 2019. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
  5. ^ "Baseball's unwritten rules". ESPN. May 31, 2001. Archived from the original on November 17, 2019. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  6. ^ a b Lemire, Joe (May 19, 2010). "Joe Lemire: The hidden art of stealing signs". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on November 17, 2019. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
  7. ^ Young, Dick (April 1, 1982). "Majors Ban Mechanical Pilfering of Enemy Signs". Daily News. New York. p. 134. Archived from the original on November 18, 2019. Retrieved November 17, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ "Red Sox crossed a line, and baseball's response must be firm – The Athletic". Theathletic.com. September 5, 2017. Archived from the original on November 17, 2019. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  9. ^ Verducci, Tom (February 19, 2019). "MLB, Rob Manfred to pass rules designed to limit sign stealing". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on November 17, 2019. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  10. ^ Bogage, Jacob (February 20, 2019). "MLB aims to crack down on the game's tradition of sign stealing". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on August 16, 2019. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  11. ^ Steven Goldman (September 7, 2017). "The Red Sox's sign-stealing scheme was less nefarious than stupid". Slate. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  12. ^ "The shocking history of sign stealing in baseball". Yahoo!. September 6, 2017. Archived from the original on December 4, 2018. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  13. ^ Kernan, Kevin (February 11, 2001). "There Is Spying in Baseball". New York Post. Archived from the original on November 17, 2019. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  14. ^ Merkin, Scott (September 14, 2004). "Stealing signs as an art form". Major League Baseball. Archived from the original on November 18, 2019. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
  15. ^ "ESPN Classic – Hitters knew pitches in stretch drive". ESPN. February 1, 2001. Archived from the original on January 23, 2018. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  16. ^ Li, David K. (July 29, 2002). "'51 Giants Come Clean – Admit to Sign-Stealing Scheme". New York Post. Archived from the original on November 17, 2019. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  17. ^ Michael S. Schmidt. "Boston Red Sox Used Apple Watches to Steal Signs Against Yankees". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 16, 2019. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  18. ^ Tyler Kepner. "After Reports of Astros' Cheating, M.L.B. Is Left to Restore Trust". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 17, 2019. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  19. ^ "Baseball investigates Houston Astros' alleged video theft of signs". NBC News. Archived from the original on November 17, 2019. Retrieved November 17, 2019.

Further reading[edit]