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History Lesson: Don Sutton scuffing the ball

In light of all of the recent talk about pitch tipping and performance enhancement, it seems like a good time to look back at a time -- not so long ago -- when people didn't get so worked up about breaking the rules. Well, most people, anyway. George Steinbrenner certainly got worked up over Don Sutton scuffing the ball against the Yankees once, and Lar at Wezen-Ball has the amusing details. Money quote from then-Yankees manager Lou Piniella:

Steinbrenner: Lou! The TV cameras found something on Sutton's hand! He's scuffing up the ball! For God's sake, go out and talk to the umpire! He's cheating, and you need to catch him!

Piniella: For the love of God, George! We had Tommy John pitching for us yesterday, and who do you think Sutton learned it from?! And Rick Rhoden's pitching tomorrow night. Who do you think taught it to him? Do you really want me to talk to the umpire about it when we have Sutton's teacher and his student pitching for us right now?!

Aside from the yuks, these kinds of stories are valuable for two reasons: (1) they teach us that people didn't always make a federal case out of rule-breaking; but (2) they also teach us that ballplayers and managers aren't the most reliable sources in the world when asking for comment about the rule-breaking of others. I mean, I think it's interesting that Michael Young, Jeff Brantley, Joe Girardi, and Doug Mientkiewicz have gone on the record defending Alex Rodriguez against Selena Roberts' allegations, but in light of a long history of folks inside the game looking the other way at this sort of thing, we can't automatically take their word on these matters any more seriously than we take Roberts'.