Pandemic Baseball, Sign stealing

'If The Light Was On, It Was A Fastball'

In lieu of actual baseball, I’ll be posting snippets that were cut from The Baseball Codes as a way of amusing myself and, hopefully, you. The theme this week: Sign stealing from beyond stadium boundaries, pre-Astros era.

Emil Bossard, the Indians’ head groundskeeper from 1932-68, regularly picked up the opposition’s signs with binoculars, according to his grandson, Roger, a third-generation expert who plied his trade with the Chicago White Sox.

“There was a yellow light in the far corner of the scoreboard,” he said in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “If the light was on, it was a fastball.”

The following season, Cleveland enlisted newly-acquired catcher Birdie Tebbetts—at that point 38 years old and rarely used—to sit in an alcove behind the dugout, where he spent games listening to a “mysterious voice at the other end” of a telephone receiver call each pitch.

Tebbetts didn’t like the scheme, and later came out publicly against such tactics, but he played along, relaying the information to someone on the dugout steps, who would, in turn, move his hand from one side of his knee to the other to indicate fastball or curve.

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