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Knock me over with a feather: Mike Scott admits to scuffing baseballs

Nov 4, 2011, 10:00 AM EDT

Mike Scott

You could fill a book with the things I was wrong and deluded about in 1986, but one thing I was certain of was that Houston Astros pitcher Mike Scott was scuffing baseballs.

Yeah, people were all taken at the time with the notion that the splitter was some vexing form of sorcery, but it strained credulity that Scott — after an exceedingly pedestrian career to that point — suddenly figured out all of the secrets to pitching in 1986, doubling his strikeout rate on the back of some newfound hyper-command of his split-fingered fastball. Way more likely that he just figured out how to properly install an old nail or a thumbtack in his glove — perfect for scuffing purposes — so that it wouldn’t be detected.

Scott still hasn’t totally come clean on that, but in an interview he gave for MLB Network’s upcoming documentary about the 1986 postseason, he comes as close to a full confession as any crafty ball-doctorer ever will:

They can believe whatever they want to believe. Every ball that hits the ground has something on it. … I’ve thrown balls that were scuffed but I haven’t scuffed every ball that I’ve thrown.

I love that passive voice: “balls that were scuffed.”  It’s OK, Mike. We all know. We’ve known for 25 years. You gave us a fun, improbable 300+ strikeout season that was nice to plug into our Lance Haffner sim baseball game for our Commodore 64s and your treachery, while almost impacting the results of the 1986 season, ultimately didn’t carry the day.  We’re cool with it. Really, we are.  Now give us a big hug.

(link via Mets Blog)

  1. lazlosother - Nov 4, 2011 at 10:08 AM

    I am just sickened by this. Next we’ll find out Gaylord Perry doctored the ball.

    • 18thstreet - Nov 4, 2011 at 11:55 AM


      Now, where’s my high horse?

  2. frankvzappa - Nov 4, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    “Crisco, Bardol, Vagisil…of course if the umps are watching me real close i just rub some jalapeno up my nose, get it running…”

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 4, 2011 at 10:25 AM

      You put snot, on the ball?

      • diehardcubbiefan4life - Nov 4, 2011 at 11:58 AM

        I haven’t got an arm like you, kid. I have to put anything on it I can find. Someday you will too.

  3. Lukehart80 - Nov 4, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    I assume that everyone who has vilified Barry Bonds and other performance enhancers will add Mike Scott to their blacklist.

    • philsieg - Nov 4, 2011 at 10:28 AM

      Lukehart, you just don’t understand. Bonds was a cheater. Scott was merely being competitive.

      • Lukehart80 - Nov 4, 2011 at 10:47 AM

        Ah yes. of course, of course.

    • evanhartford - Nov 4, 2011 at 2:03 PM

      Just when I wanted to get out, THEY PULL ME RIGHT BACK IN!!!

      Craig is on his endless crusade to justify the rampant steroid abuse. Here is the latest example!

  4. nolanwiffle - Nov 4, 2011 at 10:28 AM

    My recollection at that time was that Alan Ashby was being accused of using the buckle on his shinguards to scuff the ball……and that even the Ryan Express wasn’t above resorting to the chicanery on occasion.

    But as Daddy always said, “If you ain’t cheatin’….you ain’t tryin’.”

  5. sandpiperair - Nov 4, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    Somewhere, Lenny Dykstra is saying “I knew it!!!”

    • hep3 - Nov 4, 2011 at 2:03 PM

      Are you sure Lenny can still read?

  6. thefalcon123 - Nov 4, 2011 at 10:54 AM

    I assume the Valenzuela family will now say he’s the true 1986 Cy Young Winner and Bonds/McGwire critics will ask that he be stripped of his award?

    • SmackSaw - Nov 4, 2011 at 10:59 AM

      You think Fernando was legit? LaSorda was his manager. Half the Dodger staff was doctoring the ball. Sutton and Hooton were professors.

  7. SmackSaw - Nov 4, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    Doctoring…greenies…Atomic Balm…steriods…what’s next? No, really, what’s next? I want to start marketing.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Nov 4, 2011 at 11:17 AM

      Hmm…definitely not Metamucil, that stuff will actually give the ‘runs’!

    • philsieg - Nov 4, 2011 at 11:19 AM

      Battery-powered cup vibrators. It’s the only thing left. All the other balls on the field have already been doctored.

  8. timmytwotoes - Nov 4, 2011 at 12:02 PM

    8/22/88, Andre Dawson hit a foul ball off Mike Scott down the left-field line that I caught at Wrigley Field. I was 11 years-old at the time and a pitcher in Little League. After showing the ball around and getting my congratulations from people in the seats nearby I sat down to examine my prize. There were three clear straight-line scuffs equidistant from one another on that ball. It was clear to me then that Mike Scott was cheating, I can’t believe he was never actually caught doing it. It wasn’t subtle…

    • Kyle - Nov 4, 2011 at 1:54 PM

      Wow. Great story.

    • thefalcon123 - Nov 4, 2011 at 2:28 PM

      8/7/2009: Carlos Beltran hit a foul ball of Jaime Moyer behind the Mets dugout that I caught at Citi Field. I was 27 years old at the time and an office manager in New York. After show the ball around and getting grunt of dismissive interest from people in the seats nearby, I sat down to examine my prize. It was a rosin bag that Jaime Moyer was throwing instead of the baseball. Thus solving the riddle of his inexplicable ability to remain a Major League pitcher at the age of 73.

  9. foreverchipper10 - Nov 4, 2011 at 3:07 PM

    Great Scott!

  10. rje49 - Nov 4, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    When Scott pitched a no-hitter late in the season, I remember watching a highlight tape showing him pitching to the final batter. The ball seemed to be doing corkscrews on the way to the plate! darting in, out, up, down. It was fascinating and obviously I’ve never forgotten it.

  11. pjmarn6 - Nov 4, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    And you really think the manager, the owners and umpires aren’t in on all this. Makes WWW look tame.

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