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Black Jacked

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White Sox’s pitcher of the 1990s dings the White Sox for cheating ... before he joined the team

Jack McDowell makes the pitch
Let’s do the time warp again: Bet you never saw this one coming ... McDowell calls out the White Sox for cheating.
Photo by: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

As if this week wasn’t weird enough, Jack McDowell came out on Thursday with a claim that Tony La Russa installed a sign-stealing system at Comiskey Park when he managed the White Sox in the 1980s.

McDowell offered no incriminating evidence of players or coaches directly employing the system, which involved a center field camera zoomed in on the catcher’s signals and a flashing light on the Gatorade sign in center field, shading toward right.

It is my responsibility to inform our readership that no, in fact, McDowell did not play under La Russa for the White Sox, and in fact never had cause to meet him, as he was drafted in 1987, close to a year after La Russa had been fired by the club. So while Black Jack asserts that La Russa “was the one who put it in,” he quickly moves on to drag La Russa for being the head of the first “team with all the people doing steroids,” so the whole thing starts to seem more like latent early-1990s Oakland A’s (La Russa’s new club)-White Sox stuff than a true whistleblowing.

Pros for McDowell’s story:

  • Has the details of a camera system, however quickly summarized and vague.
  • Played for the White Sox, although he never batted.

Cons against McDowell’s story:

  • No details of perpetrators during his time with the White Sox.
  • Played in just 30 games during the “late 80s” time frame cited.
  • No one ever noticed a random flashing light at/near the out-of-town scoreboard in the past?
  • Flashing light would be approximately 450 feet from home plate and presumably somewhat useless for day games.
  • McDowell comes across a bit half-cocked with the whole “I’m tired of this” angle, which presumes someone was waiting for Black Jack to weigh in. Black Jack is one of my favorite all-time White Sox, but comes across a bit attention-whorey here.

There’s no reason to believe, or to not believe, McDowell on this story. Frankly, the whole saga, of a lousy team more than 30 years ago, seems like a “huh?” moment.

The whole sign-stealing scandal seems to be entering a “I was there, too!” phase, where ancillary characters begin to weigh in as authorities. Don’t expect the weirdness to abate any time soon.