Jan 31, 2001: Did Giants play fair?
Submitted by BTGrimes on Thu, 01/31/2013 - 9:00am
Did Giants steal the pennant?
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - Bobby Thomson's dramatic walk-off home run to win the 1951 pennant is immortalized by New York Giants radio play-by-play announcer Russ Hodges screaming, "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" But, the Wall Street Journal reported on this date in 2001 what had been rumored for years - the Giants dramatic comeback that season was aided by espionage.
Journal reporter and author of The Echoing Green, Joshua Prager, quoted Monte Irvin, Sal Yvars and pitcher Al Gettel of the Giants as saying that for about the last ten weeks of the regular season they had a scheme to steal the opposing catcher's signs.
The Giants clubhouse in the old Polo Grounds was in centerfield. The story goes that manager Leo Durocher had a player peer through an opening in the clubhouse wall with a telescope at the catcher's signals almost 500 feet away. An electrician sitting next to the spy activated a buzzer in the Giants bullpen before each pitch; one buzz meant fastball, two buzzes meant curve.
Giant utility player Sal Yvars is quoted in Dave Anderson's book Pennant Races as telling Giant batters, "Watch me in the bullpen. I'll have a baseball in my hand. If I hold on to the ball, it's a fastball. If I toss the ball in the air, it's a breaking ball." The Associated Press quoted Gettel as saying "Every hitter knew what was coming, made a big difference."
The Giants were 13½ games behind the Dodgers on August 11, 1951. They miraculously erased the deficit and tied the Dodgers on the last day of the season, forcing a best of three playoff. Bobby Thomson's home run in the bottom of the ninth of game three sent the Giants to the World Series and the Dodgers home.
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