The great American game of baseball!! Home runs, triple plays, and the World Series, make viewing this sport a great pastime. Fans, over generations of time, have come to hold special individual memories of baseball. It’s sealed in their minds; baseball IS the greatest sport of all time. Remembering, all is in the eye of the beholder, can it be that baseball history can define itself by years of great team lineups, talented athletes, extravagant game plays and greatest cheaters???
Who would have thought that in all baseball has provided for its fans, a set of stats dedicated to cheaters would fit in? No one would think that there would be a way that great athletes would conjure up or develop ways to improve their stats, career or even their place in baseball history. It is proven, however, that Hall of Fame greats and record breakers in the field of ball playing would actually be at the head of such schemes–no matter the severity of the scheme. Cheaters have been recognized throughout this sport since almost at its beginnings.
The most notable offenders and cheating title holders would be: John McGraw, Gaylord Perry, Ty Cobb, Mike Scott, Ken Hrbeck, Joe Niekro, Pete Rose, and Albert Belle. Later, and to add some variety to this interesting topic, one of the many baseball scandals include the 1919 Chicago White Sox sellout.
John McGraw was a Hall of Fame great who had a reputation for holding base runners by their belt loops and would even go as far as blocking and tripping runners. He was not afraid to try this stunt with runners larger than his 155lb frame.
Gaylord Perry, Hall of Fame inductee, had the infamous “spitter” ball or “Vaseline ball”. While compiling his 314-265 record, this pitcher would stand on his mound and touch his sleeve or cap. At these times, he would “load up” his ball, or appear to “load up” his ball in order to psych out the batter at the plate, enhancing the hopes for a strikeout. Because of this naughty habit, this great athlete was one of the few pitchers in the sport to get reprimanded. In 1982 he was suspended from baseball for doctoring the ball.
Ty Cobb, or otherwise known as the “Georgia Peach”, was not a Hall of Famer, but held dozens of the league’s records. However, despite the records, the major reason that this athlete was able to steal bases on occasion without fail was because fielders would fear the wrath of his sharpened spikes. Cobb had a nasty habit of using his pointed spikes as weapons on the base paths.
Mike Scott, also a holder of dozens of major league statistics, had a habit of using emery boards not for the nails on his hands but to shave a little bit here and there on the ball. Altering the ball in this way allowed many of the hitters to be potential strikeout victims.
Kent Hrbek was a charismatic player who helped his team reach two World Series. In 1991, his charisma was not enough to save him when in a play, a member of the opposing team landed on his base. Lo and behold, Hrbek in an orchestrated maneuver he thought to be covert bumped the fellow off the base. He tagged the guy out. What Hrbek did not know, was that there were cameras running at certain angles poised to catch him in the act. Hrbek himself found out what it was like to be OUT!
Joe Niekro was no stranger to the emery board, ball-shaving fix. Even though Niekro claimed the emery board in his pocket was to file his fingernails so he could keep his knuckleball skills in check, it wasn’t until 1987 he was caught cheating. An umps’ eye caught an emery board flying out of Niekro’s pocket and Niekro got suspended for 10 days, no doubt giving the pitcher sufficient time to keep a neat set of nails.
Pete Rose was a gambler. At times in the world of sports, inside information has benefited players or fans alike. One small fact could swing a bet one way or another, but no one would think that a player would bet on his own team. It would not only be ethically incorrect, but a detrimental career move if caught. Hall of Fame inductee Pete Rose made such a career-crippling move by placing bets on the outcomes of his own teams’ games!
In the unholy name of baseball cheating, there was Albert Belle. He was known to have “his own kind” of special bat; one that could have been known to hold more cork than a million bottles of champagne. In 1994, Belle was suspended for seven games in an occurrence where Albert’s bat was confiscated by an umpire after suspicions of bat tampering were made known to him.
Last, but probably forever in the name of baseball, not least, it would only seem fair to mention one event that has come to be known as one of baseball’s greater scandals. Most times, individual team members could be blamed for tampering with this great sport. But for the sake of keeping any more skeletons from coming out of closets, it can be safe to discuss this topic: The 1919 Chicago White Sox Sellout. Imagine a crowd of fans that grow to the tune of around 43,000 strong. Fans driving from far and wide. Fans waiting to see their team rise to victory in The World Series. Hopes for the true fan gets crushed when it is discovered that eight players of one team were paid off to lose to the other team. Then insult adds to injury; it becomes clear that the event was due to a master mob plan. The eight players involved get suspended, and later are banned from baseball for life. The White Sox reputation suffers for many years to come.
With all that said, throughout baseball’s history of cheaters and scandal, there is only one phrase that can sum up the result of the intentions of those trying to reinvent the rules of baseball for personal gain and that phrase is – “Cheaters NEVER prosper.”