Retired star McDowell says La Russa swiped signs in '80s


New York (AFP)

Three-time World Series champion manager Tony La Russa used a camera-aided system to steal signs from opposing Major League Baseball teams in the late 1980s, retired star Jack McDowell claimed Friday.

McDowell told Charlotte radio station WFNZ that the Chicago White Sox had a system established by La Russa that could steal signs from rivals set up at Comiskey Park, the team's home ballpark.

"We had a system in the old Comiskey Park in the late 1980s," McDowell said. "The Gatorade sign out in center had a light. There was a toggle switch in the manager's office and (a) camera zoomed in on the catcher."

The accusation comes at the end of a week that saw high-tech signal stealing become a bombshell MLB scandal leading to the dismissal of three major league managers over four days.

La Russa, inducted unanimously to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014, retired in 2011 after guiding the St. Louis Cardinals to the World Series title and now, at 75, serves as an advisor to the Los Angeles Angels.

McDowell never played under La Russa when he managed the White Sox, the club firing La Russa during the 1986 campaign before McDowell arrived late in the 1987 season. He pitched for Chicago through 1994, giving him plenty of time to learn about any system that might have been in place.

"I'm going to whistle-blow this now because I'm getting tired of this crap," McDowell said. "Tony La Russa is the one who put it in... He's still in the game making half a million (dollars), 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."

McDowell, 53, was a three-time All-Star whose career lasted from 1987 to 1999. He was voted the American League Cy Young Award winner in 1993 while with the White Sox and later pitched for the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Angels.

- Pitchers passed along signals -

McDowell claimed the scheduled starting pitcher for the following day's game would sit in the White Sox manager's office, watch the opposing catcher's signals as shown from the camera and use the light in the Gatorade sign to signal White Sox batters until Chicago moved into a new ballpark in 1991.

"I've never said anything about the old system we had because once we got to new Comiskey, I didn't know if there was one or not," McDowell said. "There were rumors we had one, but it wasn't as out there as the first one was."

Active players from the 2017 Houston Astros, who are at the heart of the sign-stealing scandal, have yet to feel any punishment but members of the club in other roles have been disciplined or left before such moves could be made to them.

On Monday, MLB unveiled the results of an investigation into allegations of cheating through camera aided signal stealing by the 2017 World Series champion Astros.

The plot had high-tech cameras in the outfield swipe the signs, relay the information to a monitor near the Astros dugout and then have players signal the batter at the plate, banging on a trash can if an off-speed pitch was coming.

Such information gave Astros hitters a huge edge against visiting pitchers in a season where they won 101 games, the most in a campaign since 1998.

MLB imposed one-year bans on Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow who were promptly fired by the club.

MLB also fined the Astros $5 million and removed their top two picks in the 2020 and 2021 MLB Draft of new talent.

Boston manager Alex Cora, a coach on the 2017 Astros, parted ways with the Red Sox on Tuesday as that club awaits the results on a sign-steal probe by MLB upon their 2018 World Series championship campaign.

On Thursday, the New York Mets parted ways with manager Carlos Beltran, the only 2017 Astros player specifically named in the report as part of the sign stealing scandal.