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Wednesday, May 15, 2002
Updated: May 16, 3:45 PM ET
Readers: Biggest cheaters in baseball

From the Page 2 mailbag

Earlier this week, Page 2 presented our list of the 10 biggest cheaters in baseball history, and we asked you to send us your choices.

After going through more than 600 e-mails, here is how Page 2 readers ranked their picks. Be sure to vote in the poll at right to crown the No. 1 cheater of all time.

1. 1919 Chicago White Sox (76 letters)
'Shoeless' Joe Jackson
Whether he profited or not, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson is forever linked to some of the biggest cheaters ever.
How on Earth could you forget the mob-tainted 1919 White Sox?

All of the incidents of cheating you mentioned were by individual players with one exception. However, all of the acts of cheating you mentioned are or were widely practiced (or so some of the athletes claimed) by others; they just happened to get caught.

What you failed to mention is the most damaging of all cheating incidents. Of all the incidents of cheating in baseball, the most infamous, far-reaching and hurtful to the sport was the 1919 Black Sox World Series scandal. How did you forget about that? Cheating on a scale that makes all the petty incidents you mention sound pathetic.

Corked bats -- hey, the batter still has to make contact. Loaded balls -- the pitcher still has to get the ball in the strike zone or get the batter to swing. There is a certain amount of skill involved in all those cheating practices.

But the 1919 mob buyoff -- that is just reprehensible in every way shape and form. None of the cheaters you mentioned are banned forever from baseball -- the 1919 Black Sox have several people who will forever be remembered as just what they were ... cheaters.
Jared
Mesa, Ariz.

Eight guys should be the named the biggest cheaters of all time: Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Lefty Williams, Buck Weaver, Chick Gandil, Swede Risberg, Happy Felsch, and Fred McMullin.

People will forever debate if Jackson, and to a lesser extent, Buck Weaver, were ever involved. They both got money from the gamblers, so they're just as guilty.

All the other cheaters on your list are wrong for doing what they did, but those acts all pale in comparison with what the 1919 White Sox did.

Some will say that it is more of a scandal than cheating, but nothing could be further from the truth. They cheated the game, they cheated themselves out of longer careers and recognition in the Hall of Fame, they cheated their manager, Kid Gleason, and, most importantly, they cheated the fans.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, the Black Sox played "with the faith of 50 million people -- with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe."
Dan Seed
Boston

I'm just wondering how you could leave off the infamous "Black Sox" of 1919 with Shoeless Joe Jackson. Granted, they did not cheat to win, but they most definitely cheated. They purposely threw away every baseball players' dream for money. I consider throwing The Series cheating. That decision now leaves one of the greatest outfielders of all-time excluded from the Hall of Fame.
Chris Schwartz
Andover, Mass.

2. Albert Belle (43 letters)
Albert Belle
Albert Belle doesn't have many sympathizers.
Albert Belle was the dirtiest cheating baseball player in my lifetime, the corked bat incident being one example, and his kamikaze baserunning another. While Pete Rose pounded catchers trying to tag him out, Belle did the same to second basemen out of spite.

Few baseball players are universally regarded as generally unlikable characters, and while Ty Cobb and Hack Wilson might be at the top of that list, Albert Belle takes No. 3. And he wasn't half the ballplayer either of those other two were, even with his dirty play.

My real question is which was more corked -- his bat or his brain?
Howard Lapin
Edwardsville, Ill.

Hands down Albert Belle.

It's been eight years since "Batgate," and the man still refuses to live up to what he did. Not only is he a cheater, he was a pathetic one at that.
Katie Cook
Doylestown, Ohio

Albert Belle has to be the biggest cheater in baseball, by far. I'm not saying that all his bats were corked, but I would say that his word is certainly not as reliable as Omar's, and my suspicion is that most of his bats were corked. It's one thing to throw a spitter when you have other pitches, but when all you're using is illegal bats, then you haven't accomplished much on your own. Not to mention the reflection of your skills that it is.
Phil
Athens, Ga.

3. Mike Scott (34 letters)
Mike Scott
A few "adjustments" made Mike Scott unhittable during the mid-1980s.
While attending a game at the Astrodome in 1986, my dad, several thousand other fans and I witnessed the following: the umpire going out to investigate the opposing manager's complaints that Scott was scuffing the ball. As the ump approached the mound, Scott sticks his hand in his back pocket, then pulls it out, raising both hands as if to say, "See, nothing in there, ump."

What the ump missed but anyone sitting close to the field saw was a small white emery board fall to the back of the mound when Scott pulled his back pocket inside out. None of us said a word, and as Scott chatted up the ump, second baseman Billy Doran calmly sauntered over to the mound, bent to check his shoelaces and walked off with the board.
Travis Baker
Brooklyn, N.Y.

How could you not mention Mike Scott? His "awesome" splitter that he "discovered" before the 1986 season was caused by ball that was scuffed by more sandpaper than Bob Vila's workshop.

It's too bad he couldn't have pitched more games of the 1986 National League Championship Series -- the Astros would have had a chance.
Mike
Latham, N.Y.

Scott made a few "adjustments" to his delivery in 1986, and this mediocre hurler just happened to win the Cy Young Award, throw a no-hitter and lead his team to a division title, all in the same year. He brought a whole new meaning to the term "cut fastball."
Sush Reddy
Kansas City, Mo.

4. The Bossard family (29 letters)
As groundskeepers, they tilted the playing field against whole teams that the Sox were up against. Pitchers have always been known to try something on the ball and hitters are always looking at ways to get more or better hits, but to change the playing field from regulation size, shape or condition is to prostitute the game.
Barbara Quante
Connersville, Ind.

Because of the Bossard family's ingenuity, their respective teams have benefited from their groundskeeping tactics for 80 years and running. Groundskeeping can win a team several games a season, so you do the math. Keep up the good work, Rog.
Corey Bossard
Chicago

The Bossard Family!! Why you ask? Because I am a Bossard, of course. And an honor at that ... the greatest groundskeepers to grace the great game of baseball.

Go Sox!

P.S. Cheaters rule.
Jodie Bossard
Cary, Ill.

You may think you know about all of our tricks, but you don't.
Todd Bossard
Houston

Along with the other Bossards in No. 7, don't forget the Cleveland Indians' contingent of cheaters, Emil's other two sons -- Harold Bossard and Marshall Bossard.
Shirley Bossard
Chicago

5. Gaylord Perry (25 letters)
Hands down it had to be Gaylord Perry. He so reminds me of Harris, the pitcher, in the movie "Major League." Perry doctored every ball he threw ... besides anyone who threw that slow couldn't win that many games without a little help.
Van Giacoia
Hampton Bays, N.Y.

He was a surgeon when it came to doctoring baseballs. Throughout his career he continued to improve on his methods to "cheat." Perry did not have velocity, so he relied on ball movement. The irony is that everyone knew what he was doing but could not catch him.
Bob Brown
Columbia, S.C.

I'm not saying he was the biggest cheater necessarily, but where the heck is Gaylord Perry on this list? I remember those spit and Vaseline balls like it was yesterday!

I've even been to his house it North Carolina back when I was a kid. You knew it was his house because your hand slipped off the door knob when you tried to open it. ...
Jason Loyer
Fairfax, Va.

6. Pete Rose (24 letters)
Pete Rose
Nobody should be suprised at Pete Rose's admission.
How can you leave Pete Rose off of your list? The man was banned for life for betting on baseball, and apparently bet on just about every single Reds game.

Given the longevity of his gambling history and the fact that betting on baseball is the worst thing a ballplayer can do in terms of damaging the integrity of the game, I think Rose should sit atop your list. He's in a class of classless-ness all by himself.
John
Boston

Pete Rose. Nos. 1 to 9, no contest. No. 10, The Black Sox.

Truly amazing, a list of the 21 biggest baseball cheaters that does not mention any of the Black Sox or Pete Rose. Instead, we get players randomly caught at everyday minor rule violations (or non-violations, in several cases). It's as if you took a list of 21 guys who got speeding tickets this morning and called it the 10 worst drivers in history.

Did any of these guys:

  • End Ray Fosse's effective playing career ... in an All-Star Game ... and boast about it?

  • Sell millions of dollars of overpriced souvenirs ... and boast about it?

  • Have an orthopedic injury named after him?

  • Serve a 30-day suspension for shoving an umpire? (And that's just the longest punishment in a career filled with aggressive violence beyond the rules of the game.)

  • Make $15,000 of illegal bets per day, including on every game but one in which his team played one season?

  • Put themselves in the lineup ahead of clearly better-qualified players and thereby cost his team a pennant?

  • Agree to be permanently ineligible for baseball positions ... and then spend 12 years slanderously and implausibly denying the charges he ducked in court and formal hearings?

    The five months in prison for tax evasion do not indicate baseball cheating, but they add credibility to the idea that Rose is a crook and a liar, and therefore some of the more sensational baseball cheating stories not on the above list are true.
    Aaron Brown
    New York

    7. Kent Hrbek (21 letters)
    In Game 2 of the '91 World Series, Kent Hrbek blatantly pulls Ron Gant off first base and applies the tag, while first base umpire Vince McMahon calls Gant out. Hrbek, with his back to the ump, used an elegant maneuver involving his hip, thigh and glove to get sufficient leverage to pull Gant off, making it appear to the ump behind him that Gant's momentum carried him off, but making his intentions obvious to viewers who got a perfect angle from the third base line camera.

    The cheat proved costly for the Braves, who lost the game by one run and lost the series in seven games.
    Brett Fuller
    Athens, Ga.

    8. John McGraw (18 letters)
    In an era of dirty baseball, he was the dirtiest player on the dirtiest team. He hid balls in the outfield, spiked opposing players, watered down the base paths, grew the infield grass to deaden bunts.

    But what really seals the deal for McGraw is the riot he started in Boston in 1894 when he got into a fight with the opposing third baseman. That riot destroyed 170 neighboring buildings. If that's not the dirtiest-win-at-all-costs player of all time, I don't know who is.
    Matt Geiszler
    San Diego

    9. Joe Niekro (15 letters)
    I have only witnessed one instance that I can remember (my TV was off for the pine tar incident), and that was Joe Niekro's little "accident" on the mound. I was only 12 at the time, but when I saw the file fly out of his pocket, I knew Niekro was going to get the MLB equivalent of a "grounding."

    As for his comments, really ... who has ever been seen filing his nails during a game? Not only is he a certified cheater at the game, but he's been caught lying, too.
    Geoff Tebbetts
    Matsuyama, Japan

    10. Ty Cobb (14 letters)
    I think this is another category made for Ty Cobb. How many extra stolen bases did he get because fielders were afraid of the sharpened spikes?

    In addition, he also bet on baseball, so he might have thrown games. Ty Cobb is a necessary addition to any "bad" sports list.
    Scott Hettinger
    Philadelphia

    Others receiving votes
  • Whitey Ford
  • Billy Martin
  • Bill Veeck
  • George Brett
  • Chris Sabo
  • Howard Johnson
  • 1951 Giants
  • Bucky Dent