World Series

The World Series thus far is garnering record low television ratings. I haven't watched an inning. My interest dried up when the Twins lost.

Kenny Rogers is in trouble for doctoring the ball. He probably is guilty. Anytime you get an old pitcher with a devastating sinker, he's probably doing something fishy.

Some of those old guys get by with what they can. Joe Neikro comes to mind. The crafty 45-year-old knuckleballer was busted in 1987 for having an emery board in his pocket which he said he used to file his nails.

Gaylord Perry was notorious. He even wrote a book while he was still pitching about how he "used to" doctor the ball with Vaseline, K-Y jelly, or slippery elm. He pitched into his mid-forties, still driving opposing managers nuts by hinting that he was cheating.

Twins TV commentator and former pitcher Bert Blyleven made the startling charge one broadcast two years ago that Nolan Ryan doctored the ball. Ryan had a 100-mph fastball. He didn't need to cheat. But his curveball had unusual bite.

Blyleven hinted that Ryan cut the ball with his belt buckle when he was in the stretch position.

The most infamous cheating scandal involved the legendary 1951 New York Giants. They won something like seventeen games in a row near the end of the season to force a playoff with the Brooklyn Dodgers, which they won on Bobby Thomson's famous home run.

Several Giant players now allege that they had people in the bullpen relaying the opposing catchers signs to the batters so they knew what was coming, a curve or a fastball.

Thomson himself denies that he knew what poor Ralph Branca was going to throw him. Branca himself doesn't care. "He hit what I threw," he says philosophically.

The Giants catcher at the time, Wes Westrum, was from Clearbrook, Minnesota. He went to his grave a couple of years ago without revealing whether the cheating went on.

Baseball is funny. Some cheating is acceptable. Stealing signs from third base coaches is fair game. For some reason, stealing catchers' signs is not, unless the runner on second base does it. Stealing bases, of course, is competely legitimate.

Batters who look back at the catcher to try to get the sign to the pitcher will get the next pitch in their ear, no questions asked. So, they don't do it.

Sandy Koufax, probably the greatest pitcher ever, gave away his pitches. Batters knew exactly what he was going to throw due to some tics he had which nobody to this day has revealed. Perhaps he stuck his tongue out when he was throwing a curve.

Trouble was, nobody could hit him even if they knew what was coming. When Mickey Mantle saw his first pitch from Koufax in a World Series game, he turned to the umpire and said, "How in the **** am I supposed to hit that?"