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For other uses, see Spitball (disambiguation).

A spitball is an illegal baseball pitch in which the ball has been altered by the application of saliva, petroleum jelly, or some other foreign substance.

This technique alters the wind resistance and weight on one side of the ball, causing it to move in an atypical manner. It may also cause the ball to "slip" out of the pitcher's fingers without the usual spin that accompanies a pitch. In this sense, a spitball can be thought of as a fastball with knuckleball action.

Alternative names for the spitball are spitter, mud ball, shine ball, supersinker, vaseline ball (because originally, Vaseline was used to give the ball a little more break), and emery ball, although technically, an emery ball is one where the ball has been abraded in much the same way that the original cut ball had been physically cut (an emery ball is also known as a scuff ball).

History[edit]

The invention of the spitball has been popularly credited to a number of individuals, among them Elmer Stricklett and Frank Corridon. Numerous accounts, however, refer to different players experimenting with versions of the spitball throughout the latter half of the 19th century, and it remains unlikely that any one individual "invented" the spitball.[1]

Ed Walsh, however, is certainly responsible for popularizing it. Walsh dominated the American League from 1906–1912 primarily on the strength of his spitball, and pitchers around the league soon copied his spitball or invented their own trick pitch.

The dramatic increase in the popularity of "freak deliveries" led to a great deal of controversy throughout the 1910s regarding the abolition of the spitball and related pitches. In his autobiography, Ty Cobb wrote that such "freak pitches [...] were outlawed when the owners greedily sold out to home runs."[2]

In addition, there were serious issues with the spitball, as a variation on the standard spitball called for the pitcher to smear the entire surface of the normally white ball with a mixture of tobacco spittle and dirt or mud in order to stain it the same deep brown color as the infield, making it nearly impossible for batters to see or avoid in low-light conditions. In August 1920, Ray Chapman was killed when he was struck in the temple by a spitball thrown by pitcher Carl Mays during a poorly lit game.

Ban[edit]

The spitball was banned in two stages. In the winter of 1919–1920, managers voted to partially ban the spitball, allowing each team to designate at most two pitchers who would be permitted to legally throw spitballs. Then, following the 1920 season, the spitball was banned leaguewide, except for existing spitballers who were grandfathered in and allowed to keep throwing the pitch legally until they retired.[3]

Seventeen existing spitballers were granted this exemption. Burleigh Grimes lasted the longest, retiring in 1934. The complete list: Ray Fisher (played through 1920); Doc Ayers (1921); Ray Caldwell (1921); Phil Douglas (1922); Dana Fillingim (1925); Marv Goodwin (1925); Dutch Leonard (1925); Allen Russell (1925); Allen Sothoron (1926); Dick Rudolph (1927); Stan Coveleski (1928); Urban Shocker (1928); Bill Doak (1929); Clarence Mitchell (1932); Red Faber (1933); Jack Quinn (1933); and Grimes.

In March 1955, MLB Commissioner Ford Frick advocated for the return of the spitball, telling a sportswriter, "If I had my way, I'd legalize the old spitter. It was a great pitch and one of the easiest to throw. There was nothing dangerous about it."[4] Despite the Commissioner's enthusiasm, the pitch remained illegal.

Methodology[edit]

Although the spitball is now banned at all levels of professional and organized amateur baseball, it is still sometimes thrown in violation of the rules. (In 1942, Leo Durocher, then-manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, fined Bobo Newsom for throwing a spitball and "lying to me about it.") Typically, a lubricant is hidden behind the pitcher's knee or under the peak of his cap. Others will place the ball in their mitt and then cough on or lick it. Another tactic pitchers use is to soak their hair in water before going out to the mound, and then rubbing their hand in their hair before a pitch. Some pitchers have even glued a piece of sandpaper to one of their fingers, and scuffed a part of the ball to achieve a similar effect to the spitball. Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe has stated that he would hide a piece of emery board in his belt buckle so that he could roughen the ball or even cut it. During the Minnesota Twins' 1987 pennant chase, one of their starting pitchers, Joe Niekro, was suspended when he was caught on the field with a nail file in his back pocket; Niekro said in defense that he had been filing his nails, a common practice amongst knuckleball pitchers. One week later, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Kevin Gross was caught with sandpaper in his glove and suspended. In the 1986 season, Houston Astros pitcher Mike Scott was frequently accused of cheating;[5] during the 1986 NLCS, New York Mets player Wally Backman presented to the media a collection of 17 balls scuffed the same way, after Scott's dominating performance in Game 4 of that series.[6]

One of the most famous spitballers was Preacher Roe, who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950s. Roe was renowned both for his ability to control the spitball and to throw it without getting caught, and described his methodology in a 1955 article in Sports Illustrated, "The Outlawed Spitball Was My Money Pitch", published a year after he retired.[7] Another famous user of the pitch was Gaylord Perry, who went so far as to title his autobiography Me and the Spitter. (For example, Perry would put vaseline on his zipper because umpires would never check there.) Don Drysdale and Lew Burdette also used the pitch regularly.[citation needed]

Legal spits[edit]

The name dry spitter is sometimes used to describe a pitch that moves like a spitball without saliva, such as the forkball or split-finger fastball. It is sometimes used simply as slang for the knuckleball.

There is also the remote term of God-given spitter, which is when the ball is naturally dampened by moist air or light rainfall, which allows pitchers to be able to throw pitches with sharper breaks, much like a spitball.

In today's game, pitchers are allowed to moisten their fingers with saliva, so long as they wipe their fingers on their uniform before again touching the baseball.

Comparison to other sports[edit]

The techniques used to prepare a spitball are analogous to the techniques still used to condition the ball in cricket. As was the case in pre-1920s baseball, a single cricket ball is used for a long period of time (almost 500 deliveries in international cricket), and the fielding team progressively attempts to make one side of the ball more shiny than the other to create such phenomena as swing bowling. Some techniques, such as physically polishing the ball against the player's clothing, or applying sweat and saliva (even when tainted with mints that a player is sucking on), are entirely legal and are used widely; others techniques are illegal (known as ball tampering), including such practices as altering the ball's state by the use of artificial substances such as sun block or dirt, or degradation by fingernails or other hard substances, intentionally returning the ball along the ground to abrade it, or raising the seam.

See also[edit]

References[edit]


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spitball — Please support Wikipedia.
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4433 news items

Wall Street Journal

MarketWatch
Fri, 08 Apr 2016 06:00:11 -0700

And a noteworthy product it is: Spitball plays off the craze for flavored whiskey, a defining trend in the spirits business. More specifically, it plays off the craze for cinnamon-flavored whiskey, a category, led by the brand Fireball, that became a ...

NewYorkUpstate.com

NewYorkUpstate.com
Mon, 11 Apr 2016 11:33:45 -0700

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The spitball may be banned in baseball, but it's alive and well at the distillery in the hometown of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Cooperstown Distillery, located a few blocks from the Hall Fame, launched a whiskey called ...

Breitbart News

Breitbart News
Tue, 12 Apr 2016 18:10:01 -0700

According to Dawg Nation, Athens defense attorney Kim Stephens said the school's weapons policy is written in a way that “anything that shoots a projectile — 'including a straw and spitball' — fits the definition of a weapon on campus.” She suggested ...

ChicagoNow (blog)

ChicagoNow (blog)
Sun, 01 May 2016 14:33:45 -0700

The pitch was unusual as it approached home plate and many speculated that what Allen hit was a 'Cuban Forkball' (i.e. spitball) that failed to break downwards. Allen would hit two home runs on the night in the Sox 6-5 win. May 1, 1991 - The Sox lost ...

New York Times

New York Times
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 04:00:47 -0700

The pitch: The people behind Spitball understand both comedy and social media and how to combine the two to build a brand. “The advantage we have is we know how to talk to people,” Mr. Hardwick said. Spitball is but one part of Mr. Hardwick's plan to ...

Huffington Post

Huffington Post
Wed, 27 Apr 2016 11:33:45 -0700

If you're among the majority of baseball fans who think that everything has always gone right for the New York Yankees, from the Babe Ruth trade to Reggie Jackson's home run trifecta, I've got a modest antidote.

Forbes

Forbes
Wed, 27 Apr 2016 09:00:29 -0700

Offhand (spitball math warning), the film should have around $215 million heading into weekend three. If it can sustain its legs for a $35m third weekend (-43%) it will end day 17 with $250m domestic. In terms of global grosses, it earned another $9.4 ...

AOL News

AOL News
Thu, 28 Apr 2016 06:50:30 -0700

I find it to be really relieving to be able to go and spitball about the (stuff) that's going on in your mind," he says. He keeps his private life where it belongs: behind closed doors. Work keeps him busy enough. He's about to start filming the drama ...
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