Stealing Signs is Nothing New! “Tommy the Cork” Exposes Phillies’ Scheme!

Stealing Signs is Nothing New! “Tommy the Cork” Exposes Phillies’ Scheme!

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“Tommy the Cork” Corcoran Exposes Sign Stealing Scheme! Phillies Caught “Red” Handed!

Sign Stealing is nothing new. Recently, the Yankees accused the Red Sox of using an Apple watch in an attempt to relay pitch signs to hitters. Confronted with the charge, the Red Sox admitted their trainers received signals from video replay personnel and then relayed the information to their players. Meanwhile, the Red Sox filed a counterclaim accusing the Yankees of using a camera from its YES television network to steal signs, an assertion the Yankees denied.

A little research into the “art of sign stealing” reveals that it is just about as old as the game itself. Let’s go back and take a look at an incident that occurred long ago in a game between the Phillies and the Cincinnati Reds at the Baker Bowl. Prior to this game, everyone around the league had noticed that Phillies’ third base coach, Pearce Chiles, had a rather obvious twitch in his leg. But the strange thing was that it only seemed to occur during home games at the Baker Bowl. On the road his leg seemed to be fine. Hmmm…

On Sept. 17, 1900, 117 years ago this week, in the first game of a doubleheader, Reds shortstop Tommy Corcoran became suspicious that something was amiss with Chiles’ unusual “twitch.” He decided to take the matter into his own hands. Here’s what happened next:

“Corcoran scurried toward Chiles and started kicking at the ground, harder and harder, enough that the livid Phillies’ groundskeeper told him to stop. Corcoran didn’t, and eventually he hit pay dirt: a wooden box. He pulled the top off it and found a mess of wires. His suspicions were dead-on: Someone in the stadium was stealing opponents’ signals and feeding them to Chiles through electrical pulses into the coaches’ box. One buzz for a fastball, two jolts for a curveball, three twitches for a changeup. Chiles then verbally fed the pitch to the batter.”

Corcoran had unearthed some sort of electronic buzzer system that was shocking the Phillies’ third base coach. He then conveyed the signs to the batter.It was later confirmed that an obscure Phillies catcher, Morgan Murphy, had positioned himself behind an outfield sign and had been using a telescope to steals signs. He then sent signals by wire to Chiles.

Aha! The Phillies had been caught “red” handed! (pun intended!) Chiles and his bogus “twitch” had been exposed!

In the featured photo, we see “Tommy the Cork” Corcoran, who exposed the Phillies sign-stealing scheme.

Apparently the league took no punitive measures against the Phillies, and it’s unlikely that the current episode will result in anything other than slaps on the wrist. How little has changed in over 100 years.The game of baseball goes on, generation to generation…

Over an 18-season career, “Tommy the Cork” Corcoran batted .256, with 34 home runs, 1,135 RBIs, 387 stolen bases 1,184 runs, and 2,256 hits. After retiring as a player, Corcoran became an umpire, including one season in the short-lived Federal League.

Gary Livacari

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Photo Credits: All from Google search

Information: Excerpts edited from the Tommy Corcoran Wikipedia page.

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I'm a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

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