The Yankees, My Tweet, C-4, And Shamwow

The reaction by most who saw the photo I posted on Twitter on Thursday seemed to be: “Are you sure that isn’t Vince, the ‘Sham-Wow’ Guy?

Apparently that was not the reaction from Major League Baseball.

Writing in The New York Daily News, Anthony McCarron reports that MLB was to contact the Yanks today about the possibility that their version of infamous infomercial pitchman and battery defendant Vince “Fettucine, Linguine, Martini, Bikini” Shlomi may have violated the ominous sounding “baseball operations bulletin C-4“:

Major League Baseball officials will call the Yankees Saturday to remind them of baseball operations bulletin C-4, which forbids team staff from communicating pitch types and pitch speed to players via hand signals, an MLB spokesman said.

This is NOT Vince and he is NOT trying to sell you four Slap-Chops

McCarron identifies the signaler as Brett Weber, a former minor league pitcher who was hired by the Yankees more than two years ago to pitch batting practice, then run the radar gun and compile offensive and defensive charts during the game.

Apparently sequences like this – which I finally captured on camera during Thursday’s season opener at Yankee Stadium – may be ‘C-4 Transgressions’:

That’s Weber on the left (behind, as another wag suggested, Mother Teresa) and Alex Rodriguez on the right, more or less in the on-deck circle. He is not looking to see if Cameron Diaz is in the seats.

I sit more or less between them. Weber has, since at least the start of the 2010 season, been seated about dead center behind the plate, four or five rows from the backstop. I have not watched him through an entire game to be certain of this, but it is my impression that the signaling is heaviest early in a game, and that not it is not done to all players (and no jokes about how that’s because Weber “can’t do this all day”). I can say without fear of contradiction that this is no coincidence. I have seen Rodriguez look for the signal, nod, look away, and the signal stop.

Last year, on at least one occasion, the Yankee employee had some sort of card or card-shaped object with which he also gestured towards the players in the on-deck circle. I do recall at least one occasion last season in which I did not see Weber at the game. I can’t speak to 2009; my seats that year were about seven rows back and more or less lined up with the on-deck circle.

While McCarron concludes that Weber is signaling pitch speed to the players, and more to the dugout than to the batter in the on-deck circle, my sense was that these signals were more likely to indicate the type and location of the pitch, and specifically to the next hitter. But I’m just drawing a conclusion.

As odd looking as this has always been, it has struck me as being something less than cheating and I wasn’t looking to portray it as such. As I wrote earlier, I noticed this last year and made a few desultory attempts to capture the images, but none had been to my satisfaction until Thursday – so it was not as if I was trying to catch the Yankees at anything, and, obviously I’ve been in no hurry to do so. The same information – pitch type and speed – is flashed on the gigantic centerfield scoreboard more or less simultaneously with Weber’s gesture. McCarron explains:

Some Yankee hitters waiting on-deck look for pitch speed from that employee instead of on the scoreboard – where it is shown in most every ballpark, including the Stadium – believing the staffer is more accurate.

The thing that amplifies this strange saga is history. In the ’70s and ’80s the Yankees and MLB were frequently at odds over an “Eye In The Sky” – an innovation by the late George Steinbrenner in which a Yankee employee (beginning, I believe, with Gene Michael, and lasting so long that the last one may have been Buck Showalter) worked from the press box level and was in communication with the dugout during games, relaying goodness knows what. The Commissioner’s Office frowned on this and monitored it regularly.

Still, two other things surprise me more than anything else about this tempest-in-a-teapot. First, it went on all last year and nobody noticed? Based on relative seat location, the signals should be visible on television, although the players looking into the crowd would not necessarily have attracted any attention.
More importantly: At Yankee Stadium, it’s a shock to consider that the club surrendered the income from the seat. That, friends, costs at least $500 a game.


  1. Brian

    If I remember correctly, ESPN ran a story on this (the Yankees specifically) a few years ago and the team openly admitted to it. Again, just from my memory, the hand signals were for pitch speed because, like you said, the scoreboard is usually inaccurate.

  2. Brian

    Follow up: Buster Olney article from seven years ago:

    “Jeter watched videotape constantly, before and during games, but he was less interested in his swing than in the pitch location. And he cared more about timing the pitches than about the particular strengths of the pitcher. As he stood in the on-deck circle, he would make eye contact with the Yankees’ employee who sat in the stands and operated a radar gun. Jeter would guess how hard the pitcher was throwing — holding up two fingers if he thought the pitcher was throwing 92 mph, for example. Using this sign language, the radar gun operator might respond with three fingers if the pitcher was throwing 93 mph, and Jeter would nod.”

  3. D. P. O'Connell

    Give it up Keith. I think the front office ought to ban you from setting foot inside Yankee stadium ever again.

  4. Joanee

    Why does anything you say that sounds even moderately negative about the Yanks incur malice from both your fans and theirs? Rhetorical question. Sort of.

    • Kristen

      Hear, hear! All Keith did was talk about something he’s been noticing for over a year. And has been called a “snitch”, “a real jerk” and “Typical liberal asshole” in return. Jeesh.

      • Leesa

        Hey, if Keith could fly, they’d call him an elitist. If he could walk on water, they’d say he couldn’t swim. There are those who live only to denigrate others. I figure we either ignore them, or let Keith have batting practice. 🙂

  5. Nick

    The seat might cost $500 a game, or about $40,000 a year, but teams, the Yankees in particular, are willing to spend much more than that if they believe it will earn them a few wins.

  6. DT

    I see Keith’s loyalty to the Yankees is equal to his loyalty to America. He seems to openly loathe the things he pretends to love. Typical liberal asshole.

    • Janie B

      You sir are the asshole. Mr. Olbermann, like every good reporter, reported what he saw, what he’s been seeing for quite awhile now. It is not his fault that MLB considers it cheating. As he has said many times before, he is a fan of baseball and a customer of the Yankees. You probably won’t understand the difference between the two given that you are a typical conservative idiot.

  7. qualityshows

    Great things about baseball always include the little games around the game. Very cool post. I was once part “owner” of a minor league team and there were a lot of funny lower-level versions of this. Part of what makes baseball such a great sport.

  8. Phil Perspective

    Cathy(and all the other haters):
    Did you see the comments before you? This has been going on for years. It’s only a story because of who KO is, and the guy looking like the Shamwow guy.

  9. Phil Perspective

    I thought KO’s first allegiance was to the Mets? If I had KO’s money, I’d have season tickets to both even though I am a Mets fan, as I am also a baseball fan. Alas, I don’t have KO’s money.

  10. BenDover

    Keep up the GREAT work Keith. If it were not for you ferreting out the lies and exaggerations of the Bush Crime Family we might have Senator John “A Vote For Me is a Vote for 4 More Years of George Bush” McSame in the White House. I loved the comments above, especially from the Cheney-wipes who referred to you as a “typical liberal” cheneyhole. Apparently the mindless minions of the Fox Fiction Channel gallery of misinformed people simply can’t stop listening to you. You’d think they would learn eventualy – oh, wait – how can they learn when they think Glenn Beck is the smartest man in America? Good on ya, Keith. Keep pissing off the conservatives. Like lemmings they are all headed for a cliff.

  11. Pingback: The Yankees, My Tweet, C-4, And Shamwow « Baseball Nerd | Yankees News Source
  12. Leesa

    Funny you mentioned Mother Theresa… because that was my first thought when I saw the person sitting in the foreground. I have to say, I’m glad you’ll be at Current TV later this spring – you are sorely missed, and it will be nice to have you on a non-corporate channel. Enjoy the game! 🙂

  13. Clarice

    Fiction of the book aside, This tale reminds me just a bit of Sparky Lyle’s hysterical novel “The Year I Owned the Yankees.” The spring in Tommy John’s elbow that could be adjusted prn; and the infamous(?) phones in the outfielder’s gloves! One would think that with the tech tools we have now, a simple thing like “hand signals” would be obsolete… Thanks for this story!

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  15. scout yost

    Could we keep politics out of baseball (sports), please? KO noticed; so what? Should the Giants continue to pretend about steroids? Sports do not divide into liberal and conservative. Grow up!

  16. Ryan

    Although I do not agree with Keith on anything politically he is one of the best baseball minds out there. I keep hoping he decides to come back and do sports and maybe MLB Network hire him. Love his work on baseball.

  17. Patricia Powell Couvillion

    I am still learning here, but it seems to me that the Yankees are a wonderful ball club! They obviously have produced some of the finest players in the history of America’s favorite pastime. There is really no need for them to try to do anything wrong, because they do so many things right! They need take no chances even dabbling in suspicious behavior. Real champions don’t need to do that. Yesterday, I was asked by my funeral insurance salesman if I had Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and after studying about him recently, I had to say, “No, but I really do like that guy!” One thing that shocked me, as I continue to study this sport, is that Alex Rodriguez was spitting all over the field. (I know baseball guys spit, and recall that from long ago.) However, he was littering…spitting what appeared to be sunflower seed shells. Is that right? What dexterity, I thought, that he can shell them in his mouth and spit out the casing without “batting” an eye! But, is this a good place to do that? Yankee Stadium is so beautiful, and as you point out, so expensive! Native Americans believe spitting on the ground is spitting on your mother (Earth). Why do the players always have to have a mouthful of something? First it was bubble gum, back in the Topps card days, then it was a chaw of tobacco…and I would wonder how the players did not slip in all that brown spit! Is it legal to spit stuff all over the field? Better yet, is it nice? ;o) Remember, I am just becoming a fan, so forgive me if I have crossed a base line!

  18. Patricia Powell Couvillion

    Wait, Keith! I am an expert on spiritual things, with a masters in ministry from Seattle U…and I was taught catechesis in Rome by Mother Teresa…true! SO let me field that last question. Ryan asks if that is Mother Teresa taking in a Yank’s game. Ryan, she has been dead for years physically. She spent most of her time pulling the poor and dying from the streets of Calcutta. However, I think she has Sisters of Charity still in New York…and she could be watching from Heaven. Those seats are priced out of this world! Wheeeeeeee! ;o)

  19. Patricia Powell Couvillion

    P.S. The first thing Mother Teresa said…when she got up to the podium at this marble church in Rome…after the prayer…was to ask the people to stop making love in the streets of Italy. No kidding! I had all my students with me and it was shocking.

  20. Pingback: Opening Day Update! NY Yankees deny pitching coach was flashing signs to the hitters during 6-3 win over the Detroit Tigers. | cre8tive YouTH*ink
  21. SportsFAn8888

    This is the tip of the iceberg.

    What is a bigger scandal is the
    strike zone conveniently shrinks for
    the home team at Yankee stadiun.
    It has been documented on TV broadcasts over the years.

    Nothing has been done about it and it taints
    baseball big time.

  22. Patricia Powell Couvillion

    Make that Missionaries of Charity…Mother Teresa’s order in NYC! I knew Mother Teresa…and that gal in the stands is no Mother Teresa! Uh oh, my lessons in baseball are getting a little frightening now. 😮

  23. vermanq

    Many Yankees fans, but not all, will admit they are not baseball fans. They make no effort to understand the game within the game, to appreciate the skill and positive qualities in opposing players and teams. Thanks Keith for keeping this beautiful game in perspective. It’s supposed to be fun!

  24. Kiko Jones


    Call Yankee fans loud, obnoxious, smug, entitled, or any of the other numerous, worn out clichés that litter the field of discussion in this regard. Whatever. But to say “many Yankees fans, but not all, will admit they are not baseball fans. They make no effort to understand the game within the game, to appreciate the skill and positive qualities in opposing players and teams” is just Yankee-hating hogwash. We have our share of knuckleheads like any baseball fanbase. Maybe there’s more of them because the Yankees have such a large following. But to make such a bold statement implies that you are not acquainted with any Yankee fans except, perhaps, a small sample size of knuckleheads. Or actively consume the Pinstripe-averse Kool Aid. I would direct you to the numerous Yankee-related blogs in which opposing teams and players are discussed to an almost exasperating nerd-like degree, but you’ve obviously made up your mind already, so I won’t bother.

  25. Pingback: You say “psychotic”, we say “loyal and paying fans”. | Toeing the Rubber
  26. Pingback: Exclusive: Yanks, Marlins Talk A-Rod Trade (Updated) « Baseball Nerd

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