You see it every night when you watch a game. The pitching coach walks slowly out of the dugout and the catcher joins him at the mound. As they discuss the plan of action for the next batter, the pitcher holds his glove up over his face and the catcher does the same. With 30,000 fans surrounding them and the opposing dugout just a few yards away, they talk in hushed tones with covered faces.
As the legend goes, this somewhat ridiculous act of paranoia was started because of Will Clark.
The story around the game has been that Clark hit his famous grand slam off Greg Maddux in the 1989 NLCS after reading Maddux's lips during a mound meeting right before he dug into the plate. The whole game is on YouTube and you can see the sequence -- including Clark watching Maddux -- at the 1:21:20 mark.
On this week's "SF Giants: Chalk Talk at Home," Clark retold that story. Did he read Maddux's lips seconds before blasting a ball over the bleachers?
"That is a true story," Clark said. "But to add to that story, it was almost common sense, too. My first at-bat he threw me away and I went to left field for a double. Next at-bat, he threw me away every pitch and I wound up hitting a home run out to right-center. And in the meantime we had Brett Butler and Pat Sheridan in the lineup -- two left-handers -- and he was pounding them in, so sooner or later I'm going to see a fastball in.
"I was kind of almost going to be looking for it and then when I was standing in the on-deck circle and saw him say 'fastball in.'"
Clark was standing there with Kevin Mitchell.
"You saw what he just said?" Clark asked.
"What?" Mitchell said.
"It was fastball in," Clark said.
"What are you going to do?" Mitchell asked.
"I'm going to look fastball in," Clark said.
"It just so happened it was the first pitch," Clark recalled on the show. "Thank God I didn't miss it."
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The Giants won that game 11-3 -- Clark had four hits, two homers and six RBI -- and went on to win the series. Maddux, of course, became one of the greatest right-handers of all time, and it was common to see him standing out there on the mound with the glove covering his mouth. But was that really to prevent another "fastball in" moment?
Jayson Stark did a deep dive into all of this seven years ago and some of Maddux's teammates confirmed that he was the first pitcher they could remember who covered his face with his glove. But former Cub Rick Sutcliffe said it wasn't because of Clark.
Sutcliffe said Maddux had a bad habit of getting the sign and mouthing the pitch he was going to throw, and he also had another habit the glove could hide.
"Greg was a guy who used some profanity from time to time," Sutcliffe told Stark. "And finally his wife told him: 'If you're gonna say those things when you're on TV, at least cover your mouth.'"
Stark determined that Curt Schilling might actually be the one who popularized glove-talking. Schilling recalled doing it out of paranoia during a huge moment in the 1993 World Series.
"I think I might have invented that," he told Stark.
We'll never know who really made this such a popular move with pitchers and catchers. All Clark knows is that it has reached a comical point. He recalled watching former Giants catcher Andrew Susac go out for a visit a few years ago with a hockey style mask. Susac put his glove up to cover the mask.
"I go, 'Andrew, nobody can see your freakin' face anyway and you're covering it up!'" Clark said. "Now we can't even hear what the hell he's talking about."