CHICAGO -- Accusing the Chicago White Sox of "cheating," Frank Robinson said last night that the Orioles would file a protest over dugout facilities that place the visiting team at a disadvantage in the new Comiskey Park.
This will be the second straight year that the Orioles have lodged a formal complaint against the White Sox. Both have involved the acknowledged sign-stealing genius of Chicago coach Joe Nossek.
"I really, truly believe they have a camera focused on the [visiting] dugout, the third base coach, or sometimes maybe both," said Robinson. "I'm convinced they are one team that cheats."
He was asked if he thought the White Sox were the only team in the American League that uses illegal means to pick up opponents' signals. "No," he said, "I think Minnesota does it too, but this team [Chicago] goes out of its way. They really work at it."
Robinson's suspicions, aroused during Monday night's game, were reinforced by the revelation that first base coach Johnny Oates accidentally discovered what he believed to be a video room adjacent to the White Sox dugout while touring the park.
"A dugout level video room," he said, somewhat sarcastically. "It seems like a funny place to watch film." After walking through a door that was left slightly ajar, and noticing a television monitor in the front of the room, Oates was not so politely told to leave.
"Somebody on the other side called out 'Who's that?' I said to him 'I'm just looking at your new ballpark.' He told another guy to get me out of there -- that nobody was supposed to be in there."
Oates said he couldn't tell exactly what equipment was in the room, other than the TV monitor. "But it reminded me of the equipment in our video room [behind the clubhouse in Memorial Stadium]," said Oates. "I know they didn't want me in there, and told me to get out."
Adding to the intrigue is the fact that all the doors in the new Comiskey Park, including restrooms adjacent to the dugouts, are clearly numbered and identified -- except the one leading to the mysterious room.
Although the possibility of electronic monitoring will be mentioned, Robinson's protest will center on differences between the home and visiting dugouts. The home plate end of the White Sox dugout is partially shielded by a large padded board, behind which manager Jeff Torborg operates throughout the game.
The visiting team dugout has a slightly different configuration -- and does not have a similar protective screen. "Our whole dugout is completely exposed," said Robinson. "They can see everything that's going on in there, but we can't see him [Torborg] behind that padding. The two dugouts should at least be the same."
Torborg and White Sox general manager Ron Schueler both denied any subterfuge. "That's absolutely wrong," said Torborg, when informed Robinson accused the White Sox of cheating by using electronic devices to steal signs. "If we were, I wouldn't admit it -- but we're definitely not cheating.
"I'd like to," admitted Torborg, "but we don't. I guarantee you we're not. Besides, Jerry [owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who is on the rules committee] wouldn't allow it."
That didn't impress Robinson. "Of course they wouldn't admit it," he said. "They were cheating last year when he [Nossek] was in the stands with a walkie-talkie -- and they denied it."
As for the padding that shields him from view during the game, Torborg had a novel explanation. "The ball boy sits right there [he does] and balls kept bouncing in on me," he explained.
The covering was installed just before the start of the series with the Orioles Monday -- with Torborg supervising the placement. But while it does hide him from the opposite dugout, it does not completely block him off from the ball boy, since the padding stops about one foot above the ground and two feet from the end of the dugout railing.
Schueler was even more emphatic than Torborg in his denial of illegal activity. He intimated that Robinson was trying to cover up the way the Orioles played in the first two games (both losses) of the series before last night's 5-1 win. "Obviously this is being brought up as a reflection of what's happening," he said. "I think he [Robinson] is grasping.
"He may be disappointed with the way his team is playing. I'm disappointed he would think that -- he just caught us when we were really swinging the bat. Ask him if he thought we were doing it last Thursday [when the White Sox lost their home opener to Detroit 16-0]."
When asked about the "mysterious room" just a few steps from the White Sox dugout, Schueler said it was nothing out of the ordinary.
"There are tapes of old at-bats in there," said Schueler. "It's got nothing to do with today's game. A lot of teams in baseball have video rooms. We're not doing anything [illegal]."