Baccellieri: Astros’ sign-stealing is nothing new in baseball history

From Emma Baccellieri at Sports Illustrated on November 13, 2019:

For the 1959 MLB All-Star Game, NBC showed off the latest in sports broadcasting tech. Their 80-inch camera lens, set up in the centerfield bleachers, gave such a fantastic close-up of the plate that it put “the catcher practically into the living room so the viewers can clearly see,” wrote the Associated Press. It was such a hit that the network tried it again at one of its next nationally televised games—Yankees-Red Sox, the following Sunday. And this was where the trouble started.

Broadcasters Mel Allen and Phil Rizzuto realized that their new close-up shots of the catcher opened up a whole new dimension of the game for viewers. They “called the pitches in advance. One finger, they explained, called for a fastball; two fingers, a curve; wiggling all fingers, a change of pace. They were always right.”

Commissioner Ford Frick hated it, so he banned it. The camera hadn’t done any trouble here. But it could. It created all sorts of new possibilities for baseball’s decades-long tradition of sign stealing. So Frick banned networks from using the lens in centerfield.

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Originally published: November 13, 2019. Last Updated: November 13, 2019.