Major League Baseball would have preferred to end the week on a quiet note, having seen three managers lose their jobs since Monday in the fallout of the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal. Former Cy Young Award winner Jack McDowell had different plans, however.
McDowell dished on the sign-stealing mechanism the Chicago White Sox had in place at Comiskey Field in the late '80s during an interview with the Mac Attack on WFNZ-AM in Charlotte, as first noted by Sporting News. "Gatorade sign out in right-center had a light, there was a toggle switch in the manager's office and a camera zoomed in on the catcher," McDowell said. "I'm going to whistleblow this now because I'm getting tired of this crap."
McDowell alleged that Tony La Russa was the one who had the system installed. (He then noted La Russa later oversaw an Oakland Athletics team that featured numerous high-profile performance-enhancing drug users, but "remains in the game making half a million.") La Russa managed the White Sox from midway through 1979 until midway through the 1986 season. McDowell, for his part, did not reach the majors until 1987.
McDowell's accusation shouldn't come as a surprise -- there are certain to be similar revelations in the coming months -- in part because sign-stealing schemes are nothing new, in America or elsewhere.
On Thursday, veteran writer Jim Allen detailed a few instances of underhanded behavior in Japan. One involved a staff member using a scoreboard light to indicate whether the incoming pitch was to be a fastball (one flash) or breaking ball (two flashes). "Later," Allen relays, the same team "used a radio signal to trigger a buzzer that Koji Yamamoto and Sachio Kinugasa and players like that would have concealed in their sliding pants."
Everything old is new again in baseball -- even the cheating methods.