Former Cy Young Award winner Jack McDowell on Friday accused Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa of having a camera-aided sign-stealing system installed when he was with the Chicago White Sox in the late 1980s.
McDowell, who made his major league debut for the White Sox in 1987 and pitched for 12 seasons in the majors, never played for La Russa, who was fired during the previous season. However, in an appearance on The Mac Attack on WFNZ in Charlotte, McDowell described a system that he said was put in place by La Russa.
“We had a system in the old Comiskey Park in the late 1980s,” McDowell, who coaches at Queens University, told the radio station Friday. “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.
“I’m gonna whistle blow this now because I’m getting tired of this crap. There was that — Tony La Russa is the one who put it in. … He’s still in the game making half a million, 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.”
La Russa currently serves as a senior adviser for the Los Angeles Angels. He won three World Series titles as a manager — two with the St. Louis Cardinals and one with the Oakland Athletics — and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.
The Angels have not responded to request for comment from La Russa.
On Monday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred released the findings of an investigation that found the Houston Astros used technology to cheat during their World Series-winning 2017 season. Since then, three managers — A.J. Hinch (Astros), Alex Cora (Red Sox) and Carlos Beltran (Mets) — have lost their jobs.
McDowell alleged in the radio interview that the next day’s starting pitcher would sit in the manager’s office, watch the catcher’s signals and would alert White Sox batters with the light in the Gatorade sign.
“I’ve never said anything about the old system we had because once we got to new Comiskey [in 1991], I didn’t know if there was one or not,” said McDowell, who won the Cy Young Award in 1993. “There were rumors that we had one, but it wasn’t as out there as the first one was where they forced the pitcher who was pitching the next day had to go in there and flip on the toggle switch and stuff.”
McDowell, a three-time All-Star selection who also played for the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Angels during his career, said pitchers used to be the enforcers if they suspected foul play, but stricter MLB rules today keep that from happening.
“You know how it used to be taken care of?” McDowell said in the radio interview. “If they were stealing signs from second base, you just had the catcher call a breaking ball and then throw your fastball off someone’s neck and just say, ‘Oh, you’re gonna keep trying pick up signs, guys? What’s it going to be?’
“There’s ways to go around it. Players could police it back in the day. But now if you throw a ball six inches inside, you’re almost thrown out of the game immediately and everyone wants to fight. Back in the day, it was like, ‘You want to steal signs, yeah that helmet better be working right now.'”