Sept. 01, 1975
Sept. 01, 1975

Table of Contents
Sept. 1, 1975

The Kid
Pro Football
Horse Racing
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over


Rubbing his ears, tugging his cap, waving his arms and scratching his nose, he seems to be baseball's designated buffoon, a figure on the periphery of the game whose curious gyrations are a source of amusement to the fans. But to the players, men like Reds' Third-Base Coach Alex Grammas (right) are masters of obfuscation, invaluable transmitters of coded messages that determine strategy. Grammas says he sends out as many as 1,000 cryptograms a game, almost all of them when runners are on base and the play enters its deep-think, option-filled moments. It is at these times that Cincinnati Manager Sparky Anderson must decide whether his players should swing away or take, bunt or hit and run, squeeze or steal. Once his choice is made, Anderson gives a signal to Grammas, who relays it to the batter and runner. During the five-second process, Grammas uses from eight to 15 signs, only two of which mean anything: the "indicator," which alerts the players that his next move will tell them what to do, followed by the "signal," which specifies the play to be executed. Grammas' other motions are fluff, cover-up and deception, all parts of a grand design to befuddle the opponents' sign stealers. On the next three pages is a typical—although, for security reasons, hypothetical—sequence put together for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED by Grammas. Pete Rose has led off the inning with a single and Rightfielder Ken Griffey steps up to bat. With Rose and Griffey watching him intently, Grammas wigwags the first sequence of signs, starting it with several decoys. First, he reaches for his right ear...

This is an article from the Sept. 1, 1975 issue Original Layout

1) Brings his left hand to his mouth...

2) then grabs at his right ear one more time...

3) and fleetingly interlocks his fingers.

4) A tug at his cap bill is the indicator...

5) and the left hand to the nose signals that the play will be a sacrifice hunt.

6) The hunt fails and a new series opens with a clap...

7) followed by other decoy moves, then the indicator...

8) and finally, a rub of the left elbow to signal a new play: the hit and run.

Clockwise, from top left: Don Zimmer of the Red Sox, Tom Lasorda of the Dodgers, Billy Hunter of the Orioles, Irv Noren of the Cubs.