Today’s topic is spitting and baseball. Now I sense even this soon some of you may be getting an itchy forefinger on your mouse. Well, hang with me for a sec because I had an epiphany last night and it shot up out of me like a July 4th fireworks display. As some of you know, I thought I needed something “new” to do to keep my senses stimulated, so I decided I would follow one baseball team this season and attempt to become an ardent and loyal fan. I have never done this before.
I asked my friend Ron C, who happens to also be my official baseball consultant, to select a team that would be a good one for me to follow. I gave him my criteria for the kind of team I could wrap a glove around and in short time he assigned me the Chicago Cubs. It is incredible what has happened. I have already seen more baseball games this month than I have seen probably in the past ten years. Baseball is just not something I’ve spent a lot of time on. One genuine reason why I never watched baseball—and this was part of the epiphany because I forgot all about it until last night—is that I could not stand all the disgusting spitting that went on during the game. It seemed that every baseball player spit and not just a little pah-tewy, but really chucked-out humongous expectorating modules of saliva. It was, it was–well, like I said: it was disgusting …major league disgusting.
Spitting in baseball became such an issue with me that I even wrote an article about it 10-15 years ago. No one would publish it. I mean I couldn’t wet any editor’s appetite with this story. They probably thought I was being ridiculous. Well, if you google “spitting in baseball” today you will see there are a good number of other ridiculous people besides me. In fact, I understand Bryant Gumbel featured the topic the other night.
So why did I have this epiphany? Because it did not dawn on me until last night that I have watched a good half-dozen or more baseball games this month and I don’t remember seeing any of the players spitting. It is as if there was as new rule laid down that banned spitting in baseball. But after a little research, I found that is not the case. There has been a pretty convincing movement to stop players from chewing tobacco—or at least not be seen chewing tobacco. Tobacco is a huge saliva generator and “dipping” it (putting a pinch of it inside your lower lip) has been a part of baseball dating all the way back to the 1800s. Some players chose things like sunflower seeds or bubble gum instead. Regardless, all this stuff in one’s mouth kept it moist out in those hot summer baseball fields in addition to influencing a calming effect in a sometimes nerve-racking environment. Consequently, spitting literally became an accepted part of the game. It was baseball culture. Not no more.
Back in the days of the article I wrote, I questioned why other sports never picked up on spitting. Why just baseball? True, you see football players spit every now and then, but never to the bucket loads that filled baseball parks. If any players were to spit a lot you would think it would be basketball or soccer players who spend almost 100% of their time running back and forth with no break. But can you imagine all that juice on a basketball court? It would bring a whole new meaning to dribbling.
Given that baseball is such a statistics-occupied sport, I am surprised no one has kept stats on which players spit the most, the farthest, or produce the most volume. That’s the kind of stuff they could add to the back of baseball cards. Can you imagine little leaguers going through their decks of cards…“Wow! Did you see Johnson’s ERA? says Tommy to his friend Peter. “That’s nothing,” responds Peter, “Take a look at McClosky’s SD (spitting distance). Now that’s a baseball player!”
So, in case you haven’t noticed, the game of baseball has really dried up. I did see one of the Pittsburgh Pirates spit in the dugout the other night, but I have never seen one of my Cubbies spit. It’s amazing. Why did it take so many games for me to notice? Now I’m going to be sidetracked watching the games to see who and how many are still hocking a loogie in the outfield. If what I’ve seen so far this season is typical, then maybe my biggest criticism of baseball has disappeared. Hey, that would be a home run! Kinda makes my mouth water.