PART I: SIGNS AND SIGNALS
Most baseball fans make something of a hobby of trying to spot and interpret signs and signals. There are a few, of course, who insist that signs are just an elaborate hocus-pocus designed to mystify and amuse the spectators. Actually, they are a vital tool of any successful team.
The mechanics of sign-giving usually start with the manager furnishing his sign to the coach. The coach, in turn, gives the sign to the runner or the hitter or to both. Many times the manager's sign is merely a mannerism that only a coach familiar with a certain pilot's style could catch. The palm of the right hand flashed, a closed fist, a quick rub on the shirt or even a slight wiggle of the toes could very well convey a meaning.
A simple and widely used sign in the major leagues is one that has a key. For example, rubbing the shirt with the right hand could be the bunt sign, but this sign does not go "on" unless it is followed by touching red or blue—or any other color in which the uniform may be trimmed. The take sign could be a similar rub of anything above the belt—followed by rubbing the key color.
WHEN THE SIGN IS "ON"
Many clubs leave the strategy of the hit and run to the individual player. That player, in turn, will have a sign with four hitters above him in the batting order. These signs are changed constantly to prevent the opposition from getting wise.
For example, the batter rubs his shirt, pants, and touches his cap. If he touches his cap last, the hit and run is "on." To confuse the opposition, if he goes to his cap, then rubs his shirt, the sign does not go. Still another version of the hit and run keeps the sign on all the time unless the hitter performs a certain kind of ritual.
It often becomes necessary to relay signs to coach, runner and hitter with no more than a split second in which to do it effectively. For that reason, most managers try to figure what they are going to do at least one pitch, and many times two or three pitches, in advance.
Let's look at a sample of a more complicated set of signals that major league clubs have used. In the first inning, the sequence of signs is: cap=bunt; shirt=take; trousers=hit and run.
In the second frame the signs automatically go: shirt=bunt; trousers=take; cap=hit and run.