Cheating ingrained in baseball long before alleged Cardinals hack

Wed Jun 17, 2015 4:36pm EDT
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By Steve Ginsburg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Cheating in baseball has been a tradition since the days of Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth - generations before Major League Baseball confirmed that the St. Louis Cardinals are being investigated for possibly hacking in to the computers of the Houston Astros.

The practice has been romanticized because of the many uncomplicated - and often hilarious - ways to beat the system, whether by using a telescope from the center field stands to steal a catcher's signs or filling a bat with cork to hit the ball out of the stratosphere.

The late Joe Niekro had so many ways to scuff a ball illegally that the former pitcher used to go on late-night talk shows carrying a sander and wearing a tool belt to laugh about his antics.

When he would get caught hiding an emery board on the mound - rubbing it against a baseball makes it do crazy things - it was perceived by many as a comical cat-and-mouse game with umpires.

But cheating in the 21st century may have taken a more sophisticated turn on Tuesday when news broke that the FBI and the Justice Department were probing the Cardinals for possibly breaking in to the Astros' proprietary database network.

"This is old wine in new bottles," said MLB's official historian, John Thorn. "The new bottle is digital technology. But the old wine is the impulse to cheat or stretch the rules for personal or corporate advantage."

According to the New York Times, which broke the story, St. Louis personnel might have hacked in to the Astros' system to undermine the work of Houston General Manager Jeff Luhnow, who left the Cardinals to work for the Astros after the 2011 season.

Luhnow created the same type of computer system in Houston as he had in St. Louis, and authorities believe Cardinals workers may have gone trolling into the Astros' computers and found some of the same passwords to gain access.   Continued...

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Rob Johnson looks on as Houston Astros' Chris Carter (L) hits a two-run homer off pitcher Jason Motte during the fifth inning of a MLB spring training game in Kissimmee, Florida in a March 1, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Steve Nesius/files