Sullying the game is nothing new

Originally Published: March 29, 2005
By Rob Neyer | ESPN Insider
"Cheating is baseball's oldest profession. No other game is so rich in skullduggery, so suited to it or so proud of it."
    – Thomas Boswell

We'll never know when the first baseball player cheated. But considering what happens in friendly poker games and family Monopoly games, it's likely the first cheating occurred the first time somebody thought to keep score. But the first well-known cheating probably can be found late in the 19th century. As Robert Creamer wrote about 1890s superstar John McGraw – who later, of course, gained even more fame as manager of the New York Giants – "he did grab base runners' belts to slow down as they passed, stood in their way deliberately to make them run around him, stepped on their feet as he took throws at the bag." Or, as McGraw himself wrote, his teams' creed was a simple one: "Win by any means."

With only one umpire on the field, baseball in this era was something like "Rollerball" (the James Caan version), but with metal spikes on the shoes instead of the gloves. While various leagues experimented with two umpires in various seasons, it wasn't until 1912 that both the American and National League mandated two arbiters for every game; finally, one umpire could follow the ball and the other could monitor the baserunners and fielders.