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So those great 1990s Braves teams were doctoring baseballs? Awesome!

Sep 21, 2011, 2:30 PM EDT

leo mazzone braves phone

Maybe this is fun, b.s. banter. Maybe there’s truth to it. Maybe everyone did it. Maybe only the Braves did.  But former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone was on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio with Evan Cohen and former Mets GM Steve Phillips today, and he seemed t admit that the Braves — or at least John Smoltz — put pine tar on the baseballs.

The subject came up on as they were all talking about the topic of cheating and gamesmanship, inspired by how the New York Giants apparently faked some injuries to slow down the St. Louis Rams offense the other day. Mazzone said that kind of stuff is not foreign to baseball and has been going on for many years.  But he got pretty specific with an example, and in a way that doesn’t exactly put John Smoltz in the best light:

Leo Mazzone: “Well, I don’t see anything wrong with it myself.  I watch football a lot, too, and I know that’s been going on for a while to slow a team down, it stops their momentum.  In baseball, as you well know, it’s been going on a long time.  I know that in my little ball bag I had firm grip and all kinds of goodies to take care of a baseball to get a little more movement on it. (laughs)”

Evan Cohen: “So that’s why the Braves kicked the Mets ass for all these years?”

Steve Phillips: “Wait a minute!  How come our pitchers were pitching with nice bright white shiny baseballs and your guys had pine tar and scuffs all over them?”

Mazzone: “Well, you had pine tar, that’s for sure, because when you were in the postseason and it got called, one time Smoltzy had it on his shoes and I said, ‘John, you can’t keep bending over and touching your shoes all the time.  Let’s put it someplace else!’ (laughs)”

That extended into a conversation about bat corking and the kinds of edges hitters try to get, which led Mazzone to play the “oh, everyone was doing it” card. Which makes me think that, no, this was not a bunch of b.s.

So, the Braves got all the calls off the plate and they got away with putting pine tar on the baseballs.  What should I, as a man who considers himself both a Braves fan and an ethical person think about this. Hmmmm…


And if you’re not, well, I’m not sure exactly what we’re supposed to do about it now.

  1. The Common Man - Sep 21, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    We could strip them of one of the World Championships like the NCAA does. Let’s see, which one should we choose…

    • bjavie - Sep 21, 2011 at 4:21 PM

      You mean to say, “…strip them of THE one World Championship…” No need to pluralize how many WS the Braves won.

      Sorry, Craig.

      • bjavie - Sep 21, 2011 at 4:32 PM


  2. kopy - Sep 21, 2011 at 2:36 PM

    “Insert felony here”: it’s okay, everybody does it!

    • bigxrob - Sep 21, 2011 at 2:41 PM

      Followed immediately by someone referring to the straw man

      • kopy - Sep 21, 2011 at 2:53 PM

        The two aren’t far off. Illegal business practices to unfairly net your company more money at the expense of your competitors vs. cheating in a game to unfairly net your company more money at the expense of your competitors (assuming that more wins = more money). Cheating in baseball isn’t a felony, but the morality is the same in that they’re both wrong. By cheating, you could even be stealing playing time (i.e. money) from somebody more deserving.

  3. Chris Fiorentino - Sep 21, 2011 at 2:40 PM

    Makes me feel even better that Eric Gregg called all those strikes for Livan Hernandez against your Braves in 1997 and for the blown call in game 2 of the 1991 World Series…those cheaters!!!!

    • frenchysplatediscipline - Sep 21, 2011 at 4:26 PM

      Think if Javy would have left a cheeseburger at home plate, Livo still would have got those calls?

  4. bigxrob - Sep 21, 2011 at 2:40 PM

    That’s a nice toupee on cartoon Calcaterra

  5. narrabeen23 - Sep 21, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    I think it’s time we as fans ask ourselves, “Do we take sports too seriously?”

    I understand these guys make tons of money and all but sports is an entertainment business, not life or death.

    Should MLB try their damndest to stop this kind of stuff, of course, but as fans lets all have a laugh. If it was my team, I would be happy too Craig.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 21, 2011 at 2:48 PM

      I think it is time, as HBT commenters, to ask ourselves “Do we take comments too seriously?”

      I understand that there is always a literal way to read a comment. However, more often than not, the non-HB comments are written with a touch of sarcasm in them and should be taken as such.

      For instance, when I end my comment with “those cheaters!!!!” I am not pulling my hair out of my head. Nor am I even angry. I’m using sarcasm to express my opinion that while they may have cheated, it would be ridiculous to express anything other than exactly what Craig said about the issue…

      “I’m OK with it”


      “What can you do about it if you aren’t?”

      • narrabeen23 - Sep 21, 2011 at 5:10 PM

        dude, i didn’t even read your comment. good job thinking my comment was directed at you.

      • firedude7160 - Sep 21, 2011 at 6:35 PM

        Dude, I bet Chris didn’t think your comment was about him. He was simply responding to your comment. He mentioned his comment simply to better explain his point.

    • kopy - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:04 PM

      I think there’s a difference between taking sports to seriously and being opinionated on a subject. I enjoy baseball, and I plan to keep watching it. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be annoyed when players try to gain unfair advantages on a regular basis, and aren’t ashamed of it. I just wish it would stop.

      Baseball can be construed as an entertainment business, but that line is blurred when monetary compensation is directly related to success on both an individual and team level.

      • firedude7160 - Sep 21, 2011 at 6:41 PM

        I would have to agree with your ending statement. Yes, to the fans, it is entertainment. But it is not like it is the WWE. The players are not trying to keep to a script, they are trying to win games and championships. So while we find it entertaining, to them it is a job. All be it a really fun job, but a job none the less

  6. paint771 - Sep 21, 2011 at 2:44 PM

    As a Blue Jays fan, I was kind of cheesed off when I realized the sign-stealing controversy was likely wildly overblown (half your team doesn’t hit below .250 and you don’t sign guys on risky 50-million contracts if they all know what’s coming). When the Yankees first accused the Jays of cheating, my first thought was clearly they weren’t cheating enough (just like the Jays to be maddeningly inconsistent and only lukewarmly effective even in their cheating), and my second thought was that I couldn’t offhand think of any level of cheating short of Jeff Gilloolying the starting lineup that would get me to shed a tear for the Yankees.

    • cur68 - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:10 PM

      Well that pretty much sums my opinion on this, too (Blue Jay’s reference and all). Next.

  7. halladaysbiceps - Sep 21, 2011 at 2:45 PM

    I know Greg Maddux didn’t do it. How do I know this? Because he never really had a fastball to begin with. Now, with a power pitcher like Smoltz that needed a better grip to add a few miles an hour to his bread and butter pitch, the fastball, I can see how he might have done it.

    Doctoring the ball has been going on since the spitball era and probably before that. Clear admission of it is another thing, though.

    Was Leo on the bottle when he made these remarks?

    • okobojicat - Sep 21, 2011 at 2:51 PM

      err… you don’t doctor the ball for more MPH. You doctor it to get greater movement. Like Maddux.

      • halladaysbiceps - Sep 21, 2011 at 2:58 PM

        Better grip will give your fastball extra giddy-up as well because you have a better grip on it. Same reason pitchers use the rosin bag. Pine tar gives you an even better grip.

        Of course pine tar will give you pitches a better break too. Curveballs will have better bite, etc. But, Maddux wasn’t a guy that relied solely on these type of power breaking pitches. His movement was in the strikezone. Maddux wasn’t a hard breaking type of pitcher. That’s why I believe he didn’t do it.

      • okobojicat - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:12 PM

        No. the better grip will not give you any more speed. If anything, it will decrease your speed as you are creating more friction. Players get plenty of grip from licking their fingers or rosin bags. They don’t want pine tar on their hands for grip.

        Maddux, is in fact, a prime suspect for using stuff like this. Doctoring a ball helps breaking balls move, and also helps 2-seemers sink and zig sideways. They are both using wind resistance and spin to generate their movement. The pine tar or whatever else is going to help out curve ball pitchers and sinker-ballers just as much. You’re being an idiot (which, I know isn’t new for you) for insisting that Smoltz is more likely than Maddux for doing something like this.

        All that said, I would say that I have absolutely no reason to suspect any of them of cheating. I’m a huge Maddux fan. I want to believe he didn’t need to cheat. Mazzone being funny on the radio doesn’t really mean as much to me as a bunch of guys who played 20 years and were never really found to have cheated.

      • killabri - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:18 PM

        Biceps, the primary use of pine tar by a pitcher is to get greater movement on the pitch, and while a tighter grip may result in a slight increase in MPH, it would probably be negligible compared to the advantage they get in the movement on their pitches.

        In terms of how Smoltz would have benefited here, that famous splitter of his would have been even more nasty with pine tar on the ball. Maddux’s 2 seamer would possibly have moved more, but his changeup definitely would have, if he even bothered to use it.

      • halladaysbiceps - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:24 PM


        Have you ever thrown a baseball with dry mud on it? I know for a fact that you can add speed to the pitch with a better grip. I know because I threw a ball faster with the better grip and was told so by the guy catching me.

        I am inclined to believe that Smoltz was capable of putting stuff on the ball because he needed to. He didn’t have the command of a Maddux to put the ball on a gnat’s ass.

        Before calling me an idiot, rethink your premise and get back to me.

      • okobojicat - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:31 PM

        Yes, in fact, I have thrown a ball with dry mud, wet mud, pine tar, wet with rain water, stone dry, dry straight out of the dryer while pitching in a rain storm, wet with sweat, chalk, you name it. You don’t add stuff to a baseball to increase your grip. You get plenty of grip by licking your fingers. When you do add stuff to a ball, it decreases your speed by creating friction with your hand and also creating more friction with the air. The friction with the air will slow down the ball and also cause it to move more.


        You’re flat out wrong here. And you’re still an idiot.

      • halladaysbiceps - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:38 PM


        F*ck you! That’s all I have to say.

      • okobojicat - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:38 PM


      • halladaysbiceps - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:46 PM

        Disagree with me, fine. Call me an idiot, then you get an insult back. I won’t tolerate it.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:47 PM

        It takes a big man to goad a volatile person (sorry HB but you get worked up) into getting angry. You started this nonsense too. Fine, perhaps his comment is off base with conventional thinking about scuffing, etc…but you go around calling him an idiot and such. That is the exact same thing that he gets flak for doing. I just don’t understand the fascination of working somebody up until they get pissed and respond. I’m not saying that anybody should be placated but doing it for sport is out of line.

      • 5thbase - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:56 PM

        Hey halladaysbiceps, think of how hard you could throw if you super-glued the ball to your hand!

        Phillies fans are so stupid.

      • halladaysbiceps - Sep 21, 2011 at 4:01 PM


        Real intelligent comment. Keep yourself in the conventional box of thinking and believing everything you read about doctoring baseballs as gospel.

      • bsputnik - Sep 22, 2011 at 12:41 PM

        Expect to be called an idiot when what you are saying is factually wrong.

    • SmackSaw - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:17 PM

      ‘Cepts, I pitched for many years. Pine tar only helps breaking balls like Smoltz’s slider for instance. I have no doubt Maddox used it. He had ungodly movement on pitches no mortal man can duplicate. Gaylord Perry and Don Sutton weren’t power pitchers, they used tar all the time. Believe me, I know from experience.

    • cup0pizza - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:24 PM

      Yet another daily lesson on the reality of baseball for halladaysbiceps. Too funny.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:26 PM

        You have no room to talk about anybody.

      • halladaysbiceps - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:36 PM

        Right, cup0pizza. Your the same guy that stated on the Kershaw thread that the Phillies are trying to buy a championship. You refused to acknowledge the fact that for years the Dodgers spent millions on free agents. You also stated that Kershaw makes 1/20th of what Cliff Lee makes, failing to realize that Kershaw is young and won’t hit FA for years.

        Yeah, I don’t know what I’m talking about.

      • frenchysplatediscipline - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:51 PM

        Isn’t there a moderator that removes commenters from just trolling all day long?

        Did that already happen to biceps? How the h*ll did he get back here?

        Have some class…

      • halladaysbiceps - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:58 PM


        Who are you? Never saw you comment before, yet you have an opinion. You call me a troll because you disagree with me? Have some class? I talk baseball. There are plenty of commenters that comment here throughout the day. What’s your problem? Why call me out instead of this cup0pizza guy that is the true definition of a troll?

      • frenchysplatediscipline - Sep 21, 2011 at 4:02 PM

        bicepts –

        because of the inflammatory nature of all your responses and arguments. I thought that would have been obvious. Sometimes you make some good points, but whats the use if you are just going to be a grade A a**hole about everything. So what if people disagree with you? It’s called life. Get a f**king helmet.

        But I seem to remember you got banned from this site. How did you get back in?

      • okobojicat - Sep 21, 2011 at 4:04 PM

        @HB, @frenchy,

        Its true. If anyone on here is a troll, its cup0pizza.

        HB is not a troll. I just disagree with him lots and lots of stuff about baseball.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Sep 21, 2011 at 4:04 PM

        In this particular instance, how can anybody come down on HB while not doing likewise to the other guy above? Fair is fair.

      • halladaysbiceps - Sep 21, 2011 at 4:07 PM


        Did you read the thread? I was having a debate about doctoring baseballs, said nothing insulting, and was called an idiot. I responded in kind. An eye for an eye.

        As far as my ban months back, don’t worry about how I got back in. Don’t worry about my comments and stick to the baseball topics at hands. Just because you disagree with me, don’t make a federal offense out of it bringing up the term “ban”.

      • frenchysplatediscipline - Sep 21, 2011 at 4:21 PM

        biceps – I read the thread.

        Ever think that maybe you invite the animosity with your personality? Try backing off and not taking things so personal.

        And I seem to remember you getting banned for some pretty specific comments. Not sure how that equates to what cup0pizza said.

        And I’m done with this conversation. You can continue to post and inflame the situation – I get it. But there will be no more responses from me. I have said my piece.

        (oh, and $20 says that he comes back with some form of post calling me a chicken or maybe saying he won – predictable and pathetic)

        I (like many others here who comment – and even people who just read) just wish you were banned for good…

      • skids003 - Sep 28, 2011 at 8:10 AM

        You guys need to read “The Physics of Baseball.” That will answer your argument.

    • Clinton Manitoba - Sep 21, 2011 at 4:13 PM

      HB: Mom, please go on HBT and give me a thumbs up. No matter how many times I click it will only give me one. People on there are proving me wrong and I cant stand it!!

      HB Mom: There, there sweetie. I will give you a thumbs up just like I used to.

      HB: Not that thumbs up, I mean, later yes, but I need a thumbs up to show someone agrees with me.

      HB Mom: I just got another horse slaughtered, you know Sally, that mare you couldn’t keep your hands off. She will make some mighty fine sandwiches.

      HB: Mom, I gotta run, someone just disagreed with me again. I have to throw a piss pants fit. Love ya.

      • halladaysbiceps - Sep 21, 2011 at 4:16 PM

        How long did it take you to come up with that little bit? A week?

      • Clinton Manitoba - Sep 21, 2011 at 4:23 PM

        How long does it take for you to get called out on your bullshit?

        You make “trolls”. The stupid shit that you write is the reason someone will come on here and say something back that would otherwise never be said anywhere else, online or in person.

        “F*ck you! That’s all I have to say.” – halladaysbiceps

    • Clinton Manitoba - Sep 21, 2011 at 4:30 PM

      I don’t think you know who I am. I am Clinton Manitoba of the Blue Birds.
      I hit the game winning home run in the Northeastern Inter-County Farm League World Series.

      So change your pissy pants, bring that bucket of tar, and try to strike me out.

  8. philliesblow - Sep 21, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    So now we know where Kenny Rogers got the idea from in 2006

    • Loren - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:06 PM

      It seemed like when Kenny Rogers was caught, there really was a sense that it was just common practice to use pine tar when it was cold. Like the pitchers didn’t really consider it cheating, but just doing what they had to in order to get a normal grip on the ball.

      • umrguy42 - Sep 21, 2011 at 4:20 PM

        Obviously, the Tigers pitchers in the WS that year had too much pine tar – extra movement would explain all the E1s :p

  9. Jonny 5 - Sep 21, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    I love stories like this.I heard a caller the other day say he was positive that Joe Carter was already struck out by Mitch Williams in 1993 when he hit that WS home run. He claims it was a bad call the whole time, and that’s the first I ever heard that. It does spark some curiosity to be honest.

    • cur68 - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:17 PM

      You philly phans! Still mad about that, eh? That homer remains the greatest moment in Blue Jay’s history. All the sweeter for doing it against the Phillies, too. They didn’t need no help from any umpire either. Just Mitchy-poo and his meatball pitching was good enough.

      Don’t worry though. You lot are having the last laugh. Or the latest laugh, whatever. Stealing the Jay’s Cy Young pitcher off them and stacking a rotation to get you into the post season must be pretty sweet right now, eh?

      • Jonny 5 - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:27 PM

        LOL!!! Hells yes sir.

      • paint771 - Sep 21, 2011 at 4:08 PM

        I am a Blue Jays fan living in Philadelphia, and as bittersweet as the Halladay thing was, I have to say one of my great joys is showing up to Citizen’s Bank Park wearing my Halladay Blue Jays jersey, and getting confused grunts and offended-then-not-sure head-scratching from the natives. Particularly great last year when the Blue Jays came to town. People weren’t sure if they should punch me in the face or buy me a beer.

        But if we’re reliving early 90s glory days, can I just say f*ck the Braves? Our Man in White > Your Pine Tar!

      • cur68 - Sep 21, 2011 at 7:00 PM

        paint, I just broke a rule and gave you a thumbs up. I never touch those stupid thumb things but I gotta support anyone who’d show up to a home Phillie’s game in Beaver Men’s Halladay Jersey. You are a loss to Beaver Land. Come back soon.

  10. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 21, 2011 at 2:58 PM

    Doctored baseballs + corked bats + everyone on ‘roids = we can start letting people into the hall of fame again, right? Smoltz is a pitching Barry Bonds, so let’s call it a wash and stick to the on-field stuff to make our determinations…

    • b7p19 - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:09 PM

      Don’t agree 100% with your Smoltz = Bonds logic, but bravo on your main point.

  11. killabri - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    Did anyone else think back to that craft Indians righty Eddie Harris telling Charlie Sheen that, one day, he too would use Vagisil to get 2 to 3 more inches on his breaking ball?

    • frenchysplatediscipline - Sep 21, 2011 at 4:05 PM

      I sure did!

      And sometimes if the umps are watchin me real close, I just rub a little jalapeno inside my noes and get it runnin’…

      Thanks killabri… Think I’ll watch that again tonight instead of watching Derek Lowe kill all the good feelings from yesterday.

  12. frenchysplatediscipline - Sep 21, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    As a Braves fan, what else can Craig say? STONE THEM ALL! I’LL NEVER WATCH THAT TEAM AGAIN?

    Why? As a Braves fan myself I have no opinion on it one way or another. And it’s not just because I have a 29 jersey hanging in my closet either. I have no opinion when I hear about corked bats or doctored balls ever.

    Isn’t Gaylord Perry in the Hall?

    And if anything keeps Sosa out of the HOF, it will be the steroid allegations… not the fact that he was caught with a corked bat.

  13. sdelmonte - Sep 21, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    The bottom line: athletes cheat. They do it in every sport (expect, maybe, on occasion, pro golf). They fake injuries and put on shows to get fouls. They steal signs. They scuff balls and drink horse tonic. They do whatever they can till they get caught and they play dumb.

    Do you find this unethical? Immoral? That’s your right. But unless you are ready to say “I refuse to watch” and leave all sports behind, you have to accept it for what it is. Does all the cheating make me happy? Not really. And I have often said that if any kids I have don’t grow up sports fans, it might not be a bad thing. But it is what it is.

  14. tuftsb - Sep 21, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    I put pine tar on the brim of my hat. It helped you get a better grip on the ball when it was cold and also when you worked up a good sweat.

    It din’t add velocity, just better control and action on the breaking pitches.

    • cur68 - Sep 21, 2011 at 7:08 PM

      Bob, I can’t tell if I’ve lost or gain respect for you. Let me think….hmmmm…. I seem to be completely unsurprised to find out an MLB pitcher doctored a ball; leaves me unmoved either way. An MLB pitcher admitting he doctored a ball, now that impresses me. A hat tip to Bob, then.

  15. kathybaseball - Sep 21, 2011 at 5:02 PM

    Funny Leo didn’t have anything to say back then, when he was riding their coattails and collecting big paychecks thanks to Smoltz/Glavine/Maddux!

  16. steveohho - Sep 21, 2011 at 5:03 PM

    From my memory, the wide strike zone that showed up especially when Maddux pitched helped the Braves just as much as anything else.

    • frenchysplatediscipline - Sep 21, 2011 at 5:32 PM

      I don’t think you are correct steveohho. Maddux may have gotten the benefit of the calls sometimes, but he was generally on the black. Maybe that is just me defending him, but I really don;t remember coming away from his starts with the feeling that he got a lot of cheap calls.

      Now Glavine however… That man is headed for the HOF on a career of questionable outside calls.

      I remember watching those games in the 90’s with my dad and laughing with incredulity at our good fortune when the hitter would turn around and argue that he would need a telephone pole to hit that called 3rd strike.

  17. theolgoaler - Sep 21, 2011 at 8:35 PM

    Lessee… pitchers are allowed to use a “rosin bag” (containing what, exactly?) to improve their grip on the baseball. Pitchers are NOT permitted to use “pine tar” to improve their grip on the baseball. Why the difference? Rosin is light-colored; pine-tar is dark-colored. Can’t “deface” the ball, chaps! (Sez so right in the rulebook!)

    Given the way balls are thrown out of play these days, methinks it is a bit more difficult for “scuffballers” to play their trade… once a ball’s been hit in the field of play, it seems it’s thrown out of play at the next stoppage.

    Pitchers will try to find an “edge”, as will batters. “Cupped” bats are legal, “corked” bats aren’t… unless you can hide it well! ‘Twas ever thus… the only surprise is that Mazzone “admitted” malfeasance. Bob Gibson scared the hell out of hitters by buzzing them in on the hands. Live with it!

  18. schmedley69 - Sep 21, 2011 at 9:27 PM

    Just think of it this way, Craig: If Ric Flair was a pitcher, would he doctor the baseball? Of course he would. It’s better to cheat and win than lose and cry about being cheated.

  19. ricofoy - Sep 22, 2011 at 4:50 PM

    I’m waiting for the denial from Smoltz… “Leo misremembered”

  20. materialman80 - Sep 27, 2011 at 3:09 PM

    If you cheat and beat somebody at something, anything, you didn’t really beat them. If you don’t get caught and win a race, a game, a championship, how do feel inside? I could never make peace with myself and I wonder how folks like Bonds, Clements and others do.

  21. chew1985 - Sep 28, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    It wasn’t enough that the umps would give Greg Maddux strike calls on pitches 6 inches out of the strike zone just because he hit the catcher’s glove. Baseball needs a real Commissioner. There’s nobody left in the MLB executive offices that cares about the integrity of the game. Nothing will be done about this. Move along, folks

  22. alan3008 - May 6, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    I guess that will be one more player in the HOF that cheated nothing new there. Pete Rose didn’t cheat when he played and is not in the HOF. That is BS. Put Rose in the HOF for what he did as a PLAYER, not as a manager.

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