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Ever see Mike Piazza block the plate? Or Derek Jeter slide hard into second? Illegal. But it happens every game. Baseball’s rules, it seems, were made to be broken. And they are, by the players, the front office, and even sometimes the fans. Like it or not, cheating has been an integral part of America’s favorite pastime since its inception. The Cheater’s Guide to Baseball will show you how cheating is really done. In this lively tour through baseball’s underhanded history, readers will learn how to cork a bat, ...
Ever see Mike Piazza block the plate? Or Derek Jeter slide hard into second? Illegal. But it happens every game. Baseball’s rules, it seems, were made to be broken. And they are, by the players, the front office, and even sometimes the fans. Like it or not, cheating has been an integral part of America’s favorite pastime since its inception. The Cheater’s Guide to Baseball will show you how cheating is really done. In this lively tour through baseball’s underhanded history, readers will learn how to cork a bat, steal signs, hurl a spitball, throw a World Series, and win at any cost!
They’ll also see the dirty little secrets of the game’s greatest manipulators: John McGraw and Ty Cobb; Billy Martin and Gaylord Perry; Graig Nettles and Sammy Sosa; and, yes, even Barry Bonds. They’ll find out how the Cleveland Indians doctored their basepaths to give new meaning to the term home field advantage. They’ll delight in a hilarious examination of the Black Sox scandal, baseball’s original sin. And, in the end, they’ll come to understand that cheating is as much a part of baseball as pine tar and pinch hitters. And it’s here to stay.
It's been said that an athlete who "ain't cheatin' ain't tryin'" and that "rules are made to be broken." Zumsteg (coauthor, Baseball Prospectus) has written a lively and challenging account of cheating as part of America's pastime, whether it's the habits of particular notables, such as Gaylord Perry and his spitball, or modern day pharmaceutical legerdemain. He also ponders such issues as whether it's cheating to try to bunt to break up a no hitter. No, it ensures that the game evolves and progresses! This one's a sure hit.
Introduction: Toward a philosophy of cheating
Is cheating wrong? Should you even read this book? Isn’t this topic so controversial and heated that you should purchase several copies of this book in case one or more suddenly combust? Or, if you’re of a moralistic bent, so that you’ll always have a copy to throw on the next bonfire?
You certainly should.
But this is a more serious question that deserves a longer and more considerate answer. While the realists among us may recognize that if cheating isn’t your game, then baseball is not your sport, many look at cheating of any kind as distasteful, and it turns them away from the national pastime.
This is unfortunate because it overlooks some of the subtlety that makes baseball and its long, fruitful relationship with cheating so interesting. For instance: Everything that’s called cheating is not cheating.
All cheating is not morally objectionable.
A particular act of cheating may not be entirely right or entirely wrong—there is a great deal of room for personal interpretation.
Where a person draws the line between cheating and not cheating tells us as much about that person as whether they draw a line at all.
For much of baseball’s history, baseball was war. A player would run over his own mother if she was blocking home plate—and not help her back up. For a long period in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there was no trick so dirty that it didn’t occur to someone. Whole stadiums colluded on elaborate cheating schemes. Visiting teams were lucky to win and luckier still if they could get out of town before the locals caught up to them.
The will of the players fueled the rough play. For much of baseball’s history, nearly every player was on a year-to-year deal, and the slightest sign of weakness meant a cut in the next year’s salary. More important, a player might more than double his salary by getting to the postseason, and each team faced each other team trying to take food off their table sixteen times a year. That kind of familiarity bred hate. The most heated team rivalries today don’t compare to the kind of brutal conflicts fought on the diamond in the 1890s, when pennants were won with pitching, defense, timely hitting, and blood.
Baseball has changed as it has cleaned itself up and become more professional. Today, only the players making the league minimum might even look at the extra money they’d receive from a World Series win and think “free car.” With more teams in each league, and with interleague play, most teams play each other for only three short series over the course of a season. A hard slide into second in one game is unlikely to be remembered when they next meet.
As baseball has evolved, it’s become a much slower, thoughtful affair. Fans watch not only the duel between pitcher and hitter, but also the positioning of the fielders as they try to move to where they think they’re most likely to be able to make a play on a batted ball. Spectators also try to anticipate what strategies might be employed by each side, from the modern substitution of pitchers to gain the best matchup to the kind of coordinated base-stealing that came out of the dead ball era. While still based on the almost unbelievable physical skills of the participants, baseball’s become smarter and more sly, and it has never forgotten its roots.
Even as we watch the more gentle game played today, we can see that baseball’s been fraught with cheating since its inception and that cheating has done much to shape the game we know.
Copyright © 2007 by Derek Zumsteg. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
Introduction: Toward a Philosophy of Cheating ix
PART I CHEATING FOR BEGINNERS 1 The Underhanded but Not Illegal John McGraw and his 1890s Orioles 3 Home field advantages: Groundskeeping 14 Cracking codes and baseball’s Midways: Stealing signs 29 Arguing with umps 49 Delaying the game for fun and profit 56 The exotic bird of cheating: The hidden ball trick 63 Billy Martin, a cheater’s cheater 69 Heckling, fan participation, and riots 82
PA R T II THE ILLEGAL BUT CUTE 111 It’s not how you swing the bat, it’s what you’ve stuffed inside 113 Doctoring the ball 134 Gaylord Perry: Greatest cheater ever 164
PA R T III THROWN OFF THE VARSITY TEAM 169 Gambling and game-fixing: The good old days 171 The worst thing ever to happen to baseball: The Black Sox scandal 182 Pete Rose: The only undeterred gambler 206 Steroids: Blame enough to go around 214
PART IV CHEATING OUR WAY INTO THE SUNSET 241
Acknowledgments 245 Notes 247 Index 254
Posted April 9, 2007
Derek Zumsteg delves into all of baseball's sordid past and shows detailed evidence and even self-admission of cheating by players throughout the decades. This book is especially relevant to today's moral quandry professional sports find themselves in. Before I had even finished reading the book, two incidents occurred in the first week of the season that are mentioned in the book. Francisco Rodriguez's rosin-gate situation and Mike Hargrove of the Mariners arguing with the umpires of a snowy game in Cleveland to suspend a game, possibly one pitch before it could become official with his team taking the loss. Zumsteg takes some very serious topics addresses them accordingly but not a page or two goes by without his trademark humor and snarkiness jumping off the page and causing you to chuckle and attract stares from people around you. Excellent book and Zumsteg is also extremely accessible via the web if you have questions, comments, etc. You can't really say that about a lot of sports writers.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.