Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sign Stealing (from the Book of Baseball Codes by Jason Turnbow)

One day Bob Turley, a right-handed pitcher, was watching the game.  Talking to himself he would say what the pitch was that was about to be thrown.  Mickey Mantle overheard him, and inquired about what it was exactly that Turley was doing.  Once Mantle found out, word quickly spread among the team's hitters about Turley's skills. Turley once estimated he "probably called the pitch on half the home runs (Mantle) hit."

Turley's relay system was simple-he'd whistle whenever a pitche was different from the last one. Hitters would start every at-bat looking for a curveball, and if a fastball was coming, so was Turley's whistle. He'd then stay silent until something else was called. The pitcher was so good that when he went on the disabled list in 1961, manager Ralph Houk would not let him go home, instead keeping him with the team to decipher pitches.  (Roger Maris, in fact, hit his 61st home run of 1961 on a pitch he knew was coming because third base coach Frank Crosetti, doing his best Turley imitation, whistled in advance of a fastball.)

Eventually other teams caught on. One time, with Mickey Mantle at the plate, Detroit pitcher Jim Bunning turned to Turley in the first-base coach's box and told him that another whistle would result in a potentially painful consequence for the hitter.  Sure enough, Turley whistled on Bunning's first pitch, a fastball which Mantle let go.  With Bunning's next pitch he knocked down Mantle.  The on-deck batter was Yogi Berra.  When it was Yogi's turn to bat, Berra turned toward the mound, cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, "Jim, he's whistling, but I ain't listening!"

(Classic Yogi from a book with classic stories such as the aforementioned.)

Kevin Marquez