A Little Extra Help Never Hurt

Using technology to gain an edge in professional sports isn’t something teams are above. Especially with sports like baseball, finding ways to cheat to win isn’t uncommon. How teams have utilized technology they had at the time has impacted the sports landscape significantly.

How much cheating things have impacted filling out a March Madness bracket. What is known is teams will often get away with things for years before a former player or individual spills the beans. Once caught, punishment is difficult because many leagues will not vacate the result of games, and players’ unions make it difficult for players to be punished outside the scope of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The shot he knew was coming

New York Giants outfielder Bobby Thomson hit one of the more memorable home runs in Major League Baseball history in 1951. Thomson’s home run came in the third game of a three-game playoff for the National League pennant against the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Giants rallied from 13.5 games back in mid-August to tie the Dodgers for the best record in the league.

Since there was no formal playoff then, the two teams played a tiebreaker to go to the World Series. The Giants won game one 3-1, and the Dodgers won the second game 10-0. In Game 3, Thomson hit a three-run walk-off home run off Ralph Branca to propel the Giants to the World Series, losing four games to two.

However, a stain was later put on the Giants’ improbable come back and Thomson’s home run. It was revealed that New York was stealing signs for the second half of the season, using a telescope in the Giants’ clubhouse behind the center field fence. Members of the Giants would relay the signals to the dugout via a buzzer wire. While Thomson denied knowing what pitch was coming, the Giants stealing signs wasn’t in doubt.

Astros set the league on fire

The 2017 Houston Astros team was touted by many as one of the great jobs of rebuilding a franchise through the draft and tanking. However, lurking between the surface of the franchise’s first World Series title was a major cheating scandal. Former Houston pitcher Mike Fiers spilled the beans on the scandal that lit the baseball world aflame.

Fiers told the media that Houston put a video camera in center field to film the opposing catcher’s signals. Players and staffers in the dugout would then use a signal, such as banging on the trash can to signal what pitch would be coming next. Following an investigation by MLB, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch was suspended for the 2020 season.

As a franchise, Houston was punished by being fined $5 million and losing their first and second round draft picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts. The league cut a deal with the players for the immunity, and any players involved in the scandal saw no punishment.

Cardinals have some computer issues

While the St. Louis Cardinals have long been one of the gold standards for success in the National League, they’ve had their share of issues as well. In 2017, former executive Christopher Correa got St. Louis in hot water. Correa was in trouble for hacking the Astros’ email system and scouting database.

While the Cardinals say Correa wasn’t authorized to do what he did, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred held the team responsible. St. Louis was stripped of two draft picks in the 2017 draft and ordered to give the Astros $2 million as compensation.

Let’s just burn those tapes

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has always been far ahead of his competitors in the NFL. How he gained that edge drew some questions in 2007. The Patriots were accused by one of his former assistants and then New York Jets coach Eric Mangini of taping their sideline during a game in 2007. NFL security did confiscate the camera used during the game in question on Sept. 10, 2007 for review. At the time videotaping opposing coaches in the NFL wasn’t illegal per se, but there were areas where that taping had to occur. Where New England got in trouble was doing it from its own sideline. As a result of what the league found during its investigation, Belichick drew a $500,000 fine, while New England got hit for $250,000. The Patriots were also stripped of their first round pick for 2008.


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