Before anybody put a camera in center field to learn what pitch the catcher was calling for next, there was a telescope and a buzzer. In 1951, the New York Giants beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in a playoff on a famous ninth-inning home run by Bobby Thomson—which became known as "the shot heard 'round the world." In 1962, the AP reported the allegation that the Giants had cheated, that Thompson knew what pitch was coming. Nearly all of the surviving Giants, including Thomson, confessed to as much in 2001, Joshua Prager writes in the Wall Street Journal. The Giants had a buzzer installed in its center-field clubhouse at the Polo Grounds, their home field. The person at the telescope would watch the catcher, then push the buzzer once for fastball, twice for an off-speed pitch. It sounded in the team's right-field bullpen, where the batter would look as a player relayed the sign. In the years since, there was one person in a Giants uniform who wouldn't confirm the scheme.
Herman Franks, a Giants coach, was at the telescope, working in a darkened bathroom in that clubhouse, players said. After years of denials, at 95 and in poor health, he invited Prager to his home—just 19 days before he died. Thomson had confirmed the plot but hedged about whether he was tipped to the game's final pitch. Franks was the one person who could speak to that. The telescope was powerful enough that the catcher's fingers filled his view, Franks said. He would watch the catcher give the sign to the pitcher, then raise the telescope to the batter's eyes, to see if he glanced at right field for the relayed sign. With Thomson at the plate in the ninth inning, and the count 0-1, Franks said he saw the catcher call for a fastball and hit the buzzer. Then he tilted the telescope to Thomson's eyes. And he saw Thomson look toward right field. (Read more MLB stories.)