OBSERVATIONS: The 1948 World Series champion Cleveland Indians stole signs, too

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave as the snow piles up and I wonder if spring training really starts this week.

—As a life-long Cleveland Indians fanatic, it pains me somewhat to relate this story. . .but, here goes.

The 1948 team was the last Indians team to win the World Series and, uh, they had Houston Astros-type help. Yep, they were illigal sign-stealers.

Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller used a 2 1/2-feet long telescope on board the USS Alabama to spot incoming Japanese aircraft during World War II. And he brought it home.

During the ’48 season he and fellow Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Lemon came up with the scam. . .use the telescope in the center field scoreboard to steal the opposing catcher’s signs and relay the pitch to the hitters.

Feller and Lemon took turns manning the ‘scope and Lemon said years later, “It was so powerful I could see the dirt under the catcher’s fingernails.”

Feller, too, years later, admitted the skullduggery and said, “I still have that telescope at home.” It should be in The Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter, Iowa.

And another story about the 1948 team:

The Indians and Boston Red Sox finished their regular season in a tie, necessitating a one-game playoff. A coin flip determined that the game would be played in Fenway Park.

Indians shortstop/manager Lou Boudreau decided to pitch rookie left handed knuckleball pitcher Gene Bearden on one day of rest.

Bearden pitched a complete-game 8-3 victory, his 20th win, sending Cleveland to the World Series.

It was years later that Bearden revealed he survived the game with a magic elixir. Between every inning, athletic training Harold Weisman pulled a bottle out of his black bag and gave Bearden two or three sips.

What was it? “Brandy,” said Bearden. He never revealed the brand, but he could have made it famous.

—QUOTE: From former Philadelphia Phillies manager Nick Leyva on baseball broadcasters: “I’m going to Radio Shack to buy one of those headsets like the broadcasters use. It seems as soon as you put them on you get 100 times smarter.” (Wonder if he ever threatened to buy a laptop so he would be as smart as baseball writers?”

—QUOTE: From former Pittsburgh Pirates manager Jim Leyland on his 1989 team during a clubhouse meeting: “You are a bunch of losers. All you are about is your own stats. You’re worse than a watered-down expansion team. You’ve given up. You’ve got no pride, no dignity, no guts.” (The Pirates, residing then in the National League East, lost 89 games, but the Phillies lost 95. Wonder what Leyland would have said about the Phillies?)

—There are rumors filtering that some big-time basketball schools are thinking about ‘opting out’ of their conference tournaments. They fear that close proximity to other teams will spike the COVID-19 virus and knock them out of the NCAA tournament.

If that’s the case and some do it, their conferences should level some kind of sanctions on them, like barring them from future conference tournaments when the pandemic ceases. Or make them play with four men on the floor. Or have the referees calls fouls on them and none on the other team.

—QUOTE: From Joe Grzenda, who spent 11 years making long bus trips in the minors: “I’d like to stay in baseball long enough to buy a bus — then set fire to it.” (Grzenda spent six years in the majors with six teams, made 219 appearances, was 14-and-13 and barely made enough money to buy a Volkswagen bus.)

—Former Cincinnati Reds trying to hang on: Billy Hamilton signed a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians, with an invitation to the big league camp in spring training. And Jay Bruce signed the same kind of deal with the New York Yankees.

A friend wants to know, “When will the Reds quit signing players from The Unable to Participate List who arrive in Goodyear in a Goodwill Industries truck?”

—QUOTE: From former Pittsburgh manager Danny Murtaugh after winning the 1960 World Series: “The night we won the World Series I was understandably feeling my oats. I asked my wife how many great managers she thought there were in baseball. Glaring at me, she said, ‘I think there is one less than you think there are.’” (Wives certainly know how to hurt a guy.)

—Most underrated college coach in America: Ohio State’s Chris Holtmann. The Buckeyes’ offense is more fun than a nudist burlap sack race.

Nobody expected much out of the Buckeyes this year, especially in the barroom brawl that is Big Ten basketball this year.

The Buckeyes are No. 4 in the land behind Gonzaga, Baylor and Michigan. Unfortunately for OSU, Michigan might be better. Both are NCAA-bound and. . .who knows?

—Popular Mechanics published what it considered The 25 Best College Basketball Arenas. So, of course I went searching for UD Arena, a venue praised by many as one of the best, if not THE best, in the country.

No such luck. Say, what? Not even in the Top 25? Perusing the list became a laugh riot, especially when I came to Fordham’s Hill Gym at No. 9. That place shouldn’t make the Top 100 high school gyms.

It became clear as I ran my finger down the list that the guy who came up with this list has to be 93 years old and has never seen a basketball game in his life.

The Top Four are all ancient: 1. Hinkle Fieldhouse (Butler), best known as the site for the filming of Hoosiers). 2. The Palestra (Philadelphia), a place Ben Franklin saw his first basketball game. 3. Payne Whitney Gym (Yale), a place that needs a bunch of Yale locks to padlock the place permanently. 4. Memorial Gym (Vanderbilt), a place that is more of an elevated stage than a basketball floor and players can literally break a leg falling off the court.

Some others on the list which shows how Popular Mechanics was looking for the Model-T Ford of basketball arenas: Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke), Williams Arena (Minnesota), 
Allen Fieldhouse (Kansas), Lavietes Pavilion (Harvard), Edward C. Christi Jr., Arena (West Point).

How did Sinclair Community College’s Building 8 gym not make this list?

—After a year away due to the CORONA-19 pandemic, minor-league baseball is back. And what better fun than to peruse some hilarious nicknames of minor league teams.

My favorite: The Modesto Nuts of the Low-A California League. A close second is the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels of the Low-A Florida State League.

Some others:

TRIPLE A: Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Rail Riders, Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, Gwinnett Stripers, El Paso Chihuahuas, Sugar Land Skeeters.

DOUBLE A: Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Wichita Wind Surge, Corpus Christi Hooks, Amarillo Sod Poodles, Midland Rock Hounds, Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Hartford Yard Goats, New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Portland Sea Dogs.

Akron Rubber Ducks, Richmond Flying Squirrels, Rocket City Trash Pandas, Montgomery Biscuits, Jersey Shore Blueclaws, Greensboro Grasshoppers, Hickory Crawdads, Hillsboro Hops. Tri-City Dust Devils, Down East Wood Ducks, Fayetteville Woodpeckers, Kannapolis Cannon Ballers, Columbia Fireflies.

CLASS A: Jupiter Hammerheads, Clearwater Thrashers, Visalia Rawhides.

MIDWEST ADVANCE-A, of which the Dayton Dragons are members: Tincaps, Loons, Captains, Lugnuts, White Caps, Snappers, Timber Rattlers.

INDEPENDENT LEAGUES: Florence Y’alls, Santa Cruz Seaweeds, Bakersfield Train Robbers, Gastonia Honey Hunters, Savannah Bananas, Colorado Springs Snow Sox, New Jersey Jackals, White Sands Pupfish, Winnipeg Goldeyes, New York Boulders, Sioux Falls Canaries.

2 thoughts on “OBSERVATIONS: The 1948 World Series champion Cleveland Indians stole signs, too”

  1. Too bad it’s the Indians looking for a new nickname; the Browns could be the Bulldogs. It would fit in well with the Dawg Pound. How about Bullfrogs to replace the Indians moniker? When a player hits a HR, he could do the “Bullfrog Hop”.

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