Baseball's Worst Hoaxes And Lies

Baseball is famous for its unwritten rules. You know, those secret codes that regulate player behavior and which pundits are quick to cite whenever anything irritates them. And the best known of baseball's unwritten rules? It's only cheating if you get caught. That mindset might explain why baseball history is chock full of notorious liars and infamous hoaxes. Problem is, not all of the perps got away with it. So here it is, a look at baseball's worst hoaxes and lies—and the poor saps who broke baseball's most sacred unwritten rule by getting caught.

Mark McGwire's home run chase

After Major League Baseball canceled the 1994 World Series due to a labor dispute, the popularity of the game plummeted. Suddenly, the national pastime seemed on the verge of going the way of horse racing and boxing. The league's solution? Embrace cheating! Encouraged by an intentionally lax drug policy, juiced up players like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa launched an all-out assault on the record books. The plan worked: Fans and media flocked back to the sport to watch McGwire and Sosa attempt to break the home run record in 1998. And the only victim was the integrity of the sport.

Tim Johnson's service in Vietnam

In 1998, new Toronto Blue Jays manager Tim Johnson led his team to a winning record for the first time in five years. It was the feel-good story of the year—especially if bald-faced lying makes you feel good. See, it turned out that Johnson's main tactic for motivating his players was to give them inspiring speeches about his service during the Vietnam War. One problem: Johnson never served in Vietnam. In fact, he was safely at home playing baseball during the war. Once the truth came out, the Blue Jays ended up firing Johnson despite his winning record. He never managed in the major leagues again.

The curious case of Sidd Finch

Sports Illustrated has long been considered the gold standard of sports reporting in America. So when they revealed in 1985 that new Mets pitching prospect Sidd Finch had been clocked throwing a 168 mph fastball, fans went nuts. Just one problem: Finch didn't exist. He was actually an April Fool's joke created by writer George Plimpton. With both readers and other media outlets fooled, Sidd Finch went down as one of the most successful hoaxes in sports history.

The Black Sox scandal

The biggest scandal in American sports history took place in 1919 when several members of the Chicago White Sox attempted to pull off the boldest hoax of all time. The plan: intentionally lose the World Series in order to line the pockets of the professional gamblers who had paid them to fix the championship. And it sort of worked, as they did indeed lose the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. However, word of the scam soon leaked, and with the sport itself tainted forever, MLB quickly drummed all the guilty players out of the league for good. Say it ain't so...

Danny Almonte's birth certificate

Of course, cheating isn't just reserved to pro players with millions of dollars on the line. No, the hoaxes and lies stretch all the way down to the lowest levels of organized baseball, as proven by the case of Danny Almonte. Almonte dominated the 2001 Little League World Series, torching opposing players with a fastball so dominant, nobody could believe it came from a 12-year-old. And for good reason: Almonte was later revealed to actually be 14, despite a fake birth certificate which claimed otherwise. Almonte was deemed ineligible and the team was stripped of its wins.

Pete Rose never bet on baseball!

Liar, liar, pants on fire. Pete Rose broke the cardinal rule of baseball when he bet on MLB games. But more than that, he reportedly bet on games his own team was playing in. That's strike two, to use a fitting metaphor. Strike three? He has spent the last 30 years lying about every aspect of his gambling addiction. Sorry, Charlie Hustle, but that means you're out. As of this writing, he still has yet to be readmitted to the league in any way, meaning he's ineligible for admittance to the Hall of Fame, despite his record setting 4,256 career hits.

Rafael Palmeiro's finger wag

Lots of players have lied. Some players have even lied while being sanctimonious jerks about it. But only Rafael Palmeiro has pulled off the epic feat of being a sanctimonious jerk while lying to Congress. Called in to testify about steroids, Palmeiro famously wagged his finger at the assembled lawmakers and swore that he had never touched the stuff. Later, of course, he was found to have not just touched it, but to have gobbled it up like Flintstones vitamins. He was suspended; our disbelief wasn't.

Abner Doubleday invented baseball!

In 1905, the president of the National League, Abraham Mills, convened a special committee to determine just how the game of baseball came to be. Their conclusion: it was invented in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839 by a young Abner Doubleday, who later became a decorated general during the Civil War. It's a great story, and it led to the choice of Cooperstown as the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. The only problem with the story is the fact that it's a total load of nonsense. There's no evidence whatsoever that Doubleday had anything to do with inventing baseball; on the contrary, scholars now believe baseball had existed for at least a hundred years prior to Doubleday's supposed invention. Myth: busted.

George Steinbrenner's massive whopper

Finally, leave it to George Steinbrenner to tell one of the biggest whoppers in MLB history. Upon purchasing the New York Yankees in 1973, Steinbrenner promised fans that he would be a strictly hands-off owner, sticking instead to his shipping business while more experienced baseball minds ran the team. Of course, he went on to micromanage not just the affairs of the team, but the details of his players' lives, right down to the length of their mustaches. Still, he did win seven championships in the process, so it's hard to get too upset about one little lie now and again—even if it was actually a huge lie.