Former Cy Young Award winner Jack McDowell added more nasty history to the sign-stealing scandal on Friday by going back to the 1980s and implicating former Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa, who is now a member of the Hall of Fame.
McDowell, who debuted as a major league pitcher for the White Sox in 1987 but never played for La Russa, said the manager was responsible for installing a camera-aided sign-stealing system at old Comiskey Park.
In a Friday interview with the Mac Attack on WFNZ-AM in Charlotte, N.C., McDowell said, “The Gatorade sign out in center had a light; there was a toggle switch in the manager’s office and camera zoomed in on the catcher.
“I’m gonna whistle-blow this now because I’m getting tired of this crap. There was that — Tony La Russa is the one who put it in. ... He’s still in the game making half a million, you know? No one is going to go after that. It’s just, this stuff is getting old where they target certain guys and let other people off the hook.”
La Russa was the White Sox manager from midway through the 1979 season until the end of the 1986 season.
La Russa, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014, was not pleased with McDowell’s comments.
“My question is this: Was he ever on our team?” La Russa said via the San Jose Mercury News. “He was never on our team.”
When La Russa was informed McDowell didn’t claim to have played for him, he said: “He can talk all he wants. He doesn’t know how we played the game. He should talk to our teammates. That’s what he should do.”
Last November, La Russa was hired by the Los Angeles Angels as senior adviser for baseball operations.
“I’ve admired Tony for a very long time,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler said at the time of La Russa’s hiring. “As our paths have crossed over the years, Tony and I discussed the potential of working together and we’re excited to finally get that opportunity. Adding his knowledge and experience will be an invaluable piece to the success and continued development of our baseball operations efforts both on and off the field.”
La Russa, 75, is the third winningest manager in baseball history with 2,728 victories, and won three World Series titles, one with the Oakland Athletics (1989) and two with the St. Louis Cardinals (2006, 2011). Since retiring as a manager in 2011, he has worked in front offices of the Arizona Diamondbacks (2014-17) and Boston Red Sox (2018-19).
Managers A.J. Hinch of the Houston Astros, Alex Cora of the Boston Red Sox and Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets have been fired since baseball commissioner Rob Manfred released what was discovered during the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in the 2017 season, when they went on to win the World Series.
McDowell, the American League Cy Young Award winner in 1993 with the White Sox, added in the interview: “I’ve never said anything about the old system we had because once we got to new Comiskey [in 1991], I didn’t know if there was one or not. There were rumors that we had one, but it wasn’t as out there as the first one was where they forced the pitcher who was pitching the next day to go in there and flip on the toggle switch and stuff.”
McDowell, who turned 54 on Thursday, is currently a coach at Queens University in Charlotte. He went 127-87 with a 3.85 ERA over 12 major league seasons from 1987-99.
The three-time All-Star won 20 games in 1992 for the White Sox and 22 in 1993. The right-hander also pitched for the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Angels.
—Field Level Media