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The Hidden Language of Baseball

How Signs and Sign-Stealing Have Influenced the Course of Our National Pastime

Paul Dickson

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: University of Nebraska Press
Published: 09/2019
Pages: 230
Subject: Sports and Recreation
eBook ISBN: 9781496217851


Baseball is set apart from other sports by many things, but few are more distinctive than the intricate systems of coded language that govern action on the field and give baseball its unique appeal. During a nine‑inning game, more than one thousand silent instructions are given—from catcher to pitcher, coach to batter, fielder to fielder, umpire to umpire—and without this speechless communication the game would simply not be the same. Baseball historian Paul Dickson examines the rich legacy of baseball's hidden language, offering fans everywhere a smorgasbord of history and anecdote. Baseball's tradition of signing grew out of the signal flags used by ships and hand signals used by soldiers during battle and were first used in games during the Civil War. The Hartford Dark Blues appear to be the first team to steal signs, introducing a larcenous obsession that, as Dickson delightfully chronicles, has given the game some of its most historic—and outlandish—moments. In this revised and expanded edition through the 2018 season, Dickson discusses recent developments and incidents, including the illegal use of new technology to swipe signs. A roster of baseball's greatest names and games, past and present, echoes throughout, making The Hidden Language of Baseball a unique window on the history of our national pastime.  


Paul Dickson is the author of more than sixty-five nonfiction books, including more than a dozen on baseball. Winner of the Harry Chadwick Award from the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), he is the author of the Dickson Baseball Dictionary, named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the five best baseball books ever written, and of Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick, winner of the Casey Award from SABR.  


"A charming celebration of the role of cheating in our national game."—David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times  

"A pleasure. . . . Dickson writes extremely well and appreciates the nuances of baseball controversy. . . . This fine and original book should be in any literate fan's library."—Luke Salisbury, Boston Globe  

"If you absorb even a fraction of the information in his [Dickson's] tales of baseball's silent strategy and how teams have used it to win games through the decades, your next trip to the ballpark will be considerably richer."—Business Week