Passan: The shocking history of sign-stealing in baseball

From Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports on September 5, 2017, with mention of longtime SABR member Joe Dittmar:

Around the league, everyone noticed the twitch in Pearce Chiles’ leg. It was odd enough that Chiles, the third-base coach for the Philadelphia Phillies, convulsed only at the team’s home park, Baker Bowl, where he stood in the same spot, atop a puddle in the coach’s box that was there even when it didn’t rain. On Sept. 17, 1900, in the first game of a doubleheader, Cincinnati Reds shortstop Tommy Corcoran tired of the tic and decided to do something about it.

Corcoran scurried toward Chiles and started kicking at the ground, harder and harder, enough that the livid Phillies’ groundskeeper told him to stop. Corcoran didn’t, and eventually he hit paydirt: a wooden box. He pulled the top off it and found a mess of wires. His suspicions were dead-on: Someone in the stadium was stealing opponents’ signals and feeding them to Chiles through electrical pulses into the box. One buzz for a fastball, two jolts for a curveball, three twitches for a changeup. Chiles then verbally fed the pitch to the batter.

This story, told wonderfully by Joe Dittmar in The Baseball Research Journal, resonated on Tuesday, when a New York Times report revealed teams are still engaging in completely ridiculous schemes to try and steal signs. The New York Yankees accused the Boston Red Sox of using an Apple Watch in an attempt to relay pitch calls to runners on second base, which they would pass along to hitters at the plate. Major League Baseball confirmed the Yankees’ findings. Meanwhile, the Red Sox filed a counterclaim with the league accusing the Yankees of using an in-house TV feed to do the same.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: September 6, 2017. Last Updated: September 6, 2017.