PITTSBURGH (AP) Steve Blass’ 60th season with the Pittsburgh Pirates will be his last in the broadcast booth.
The former pitcher announced Tuesday that 2019 will be his 34th and final year as a color analyst. He will step away as the longest-tenured broadcaster in team history. Blass will remain with the club as an alumni ambassador.
The 76-year-old Blass joined the organization after signing a professional contract with the club’s affiliate in the Appalachian League in 1960. He made his major league debut with the Pirates in 1964 and spent a decade in the majors, going 103-76 with a 3.63 ERA in 282 appearances. The defining moment of his playing career came in the 1971 World Series when he pitched a four-hitter in Game 7 against Baltimore to lead Pittsburgh to a 2-1 win and the title.
“Sixty seasons with the Pirates, one organization in one city, I am so very proud of that. It ranks right up there with anything I have ever done on the baseball field,” Blass said in a statement. “It has been a wonderful run.”
Blass retired in 1975 after a baffling loss of control that became known as “Steve Blass Disease.” He returned to the club as a part-time analyst in 1983 before joining the broadcast team on a full-time basis in 1986. His folksy delivery and penchant for sharing offbeat stories from his playing days became a fixture of broadcasts.
“Steve is as synonymous with Pirates baseball as anyone in the history of our organization. Steve leaping up into the air following the final out in his second complete game victory of the 1971 World Series is one of the most iconic moments in Pirates history,” Pirates owner Bob Nutting said in a statement. “For 60 seasons, Steve has represented the Pirates with humility, grace, pride and passion. Words cannot express how appreciative we at the Pirates organization are for his dedication or how beloved he is and always will be.”
The team will honor Blass throughout the season and is planning an on-field send-off for Blass before the Pirates host Cincinnati on Sept. 28.
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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.
As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.
Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.
As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.
While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.
Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.