This series is guest blogged by Doug Logan.
Doug Logan is an Adjunct Professor of Sports Management, at New York University.
He was the CEO for USATF from 2008 until September 2010.
He was also the CEO, President and Commissioner for Major League Soccer from 1995 to 1999. To read more about his background and involvement in Track, Soccer, Rugby and the Music industry, read my Freelap Friday Five Interview
This is his 46th article. Click here for his entire series.
SHIN SPLINTS 2014
Pine Tar Capers
People cheat all the time.
It is almost a sacramental rite to cheat when one is pouring a cup of soda-fountain soft drink. Pour it to the top…watch the foam go down…take a sip…fill it to the top again. Grocery shoppers feel no compunction about eating a grape or two at the produce bins, or a couple of kalamatas when breezing by the olive vats. Who among us has not had a couple of bites of our salad, waiting on line to be weighed out by the clerk?
I am writing this essay on April 15th, National Day of Cheating. Every year those who calculate and file their own return create works of fiction worthy of a Pulitzer Prize. How many miles did the family Honda travel for business purposes? How about that den we have that is a “dedicated” home office? Those dozen or so receipts we have from expensive restaurants must have been for business dinners and certainly not family outings. Hemmingway would have been impressed.
Your own friends and family would not recognize the personality who is described in your LinkedIn bio. Your neighbors, after reading your resume, would go “Who’s he?” People duck into the front of a line at a movie theater all the time. I know some who hang a handicapped parking tag on their car who could run a marathon. A lot of ladies who use a wheelchair at the airport would trample you at a sale at Macy’s.
It’s no different in baseball.
I have always been amused by a baseball tradition known as the “vicinity play”. It goes something like this. When a potential double-play ball is hit, the runner at second is deemed out if the fielder is “in the vicinity” of second base when he makes his pivot and throws to first. Yet, if a base-runner misses touching a base as he rounds the infield, he has no such dispensation. Why one circumstance merits the equivalence of a Plenary Indulgence and the other does not is a mystery to me.
Stealing signals, whether from a catcher, or a base-coach, or a manager in the dugout, has always been a respected art-form. The former is forbidden by the rules, yet, almost every team at one time or another has had a spotter in the stands, armed with binoculars and a radio. A runner on second base is not allowed to telegraph the catcher’s signs to the batter, but they are allowed to do so regularly if their communication is discreet.
Cheating in baseball has its own rules.
This brings us to the Pine Tar Incident. On July 24, 1983, in a game between the Royals and the Yankees, George Brett of the Royals hit a two run home run to give his team the lead. Billy Martin, the lunatic Yankee manager, requested that the umpires inspect his bat. The umpires ruled that the amount of pine tar on Brett’s bat exceeded the rules, nullified the home run and called him out. Brett had a complete meltdown and charged the umpires. The Yankees went on to win that game, but the ump’s call was overruled by the league, and the game restarted at a later date. The Royals went on to win the restarted game.
Pine tar is one of those odious substances connected with baseball [others include spit tobacco juice and sunflower seeds]. And, it played a role in a game last week between those same Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Last Thursday Yankee pitcher, Michael Pineda, earned his first MLB win since July 2011. He pitched six innings allowing only four hits while striking out seven as the Yankees won 4-1.
However, every player on the field and every viewer on TV could see that Pineda had a palm-full of probable pine tar. He was obviously “doctoring” the ball, which violated the rules. In today’s era of powerful telephoto lenses, very little gets by an observant TV producer. After the game the umpires said they never got a complaint from the Red Sox so there was nothing they could do.
So, the Yankee pitcher was cheating and the Red Sox did not care. Why? Here’s the answer. It was a cold night in Yankee Stadium. When the weather gets cold, the ball gets slick and it is hard for the pitcher to control it. Batters are scared to death on those kinds of night; scared of getting hit in the head by an errant pitch. So, they are complicit in the cheating, hoping that a pitcher who uses a little of the mastic will be able to throw the ball where he is aiming.
This brings me to a great George Steinbrenner story.
Years ago, in a similar Yankees versus Red Sox game, it became apparent that the Boston pitcher was using pine tar on the ball. It was so blatant that it became a topic of conversation on the NESN [New England Sports Network] broadcast of the game. George Steinbrenner, Yankees owner and ever the meddler, called down to the dugout on the private phone line he had installed to torture his field manager.
Buck Showalter, the Yankee manager at the time [and currently the skipper of the Baltimore Orioles], answered the phone and immediately Steinbrenner started screaming. “You have to be the dumbest man in North America! Everybody in the stadium knows the Boston pitcher is cheating. What are you going to do about it?”
Showalter calmly responded, “Boss, have you looked at the score?”
Steinbrenner said. “Yeah, we’re winning by three runs.”
Showalter paused and then asked, “Who would you rather have, their cheater or our cheater?”
Click! Steinbrenner hung up.