What Is a Spitball?
A spitball is a type of pitch in baseball, in which the ball is altered by the pitcher’s saliva or sweat. By wetting the ball, the pitcher can create a unique spin, making the ball more difficult to hit. The spitball was a common tactic until it was banned by Major League Baseball (MLB) in 1920.
History of the Spitball
The use of the spitball dates back to the late 19th century. It was first used by Edward “Cannonball” Crane, who pitched for the St. Louis Browns in 1893. He experimented with saliva as a way to improve his pitching, and soon other pitchers began to follow suit. By the turn of the century, the spitball had become a common tactic among professional pitchers.
Evolution of the Spitball
Throughout the early 20th century, the spitball evolved into a more sophisticated pitch. Pitchers began to use a variety of substances to alter the ball, including Vaseline, oil, and wax. This allowed them to create even more movement on the ball, making it even harder to hit.
The Rule Change
In 1920, the MLB changed the rules to ban the spitball. This was a major shift in the game, as the pitch had been a staple of the game for decades. Pitchers were now required to pitch the ball without any alteration.
The 17 Spitballers
Despite the rule change, there were still 17 pitchers who were allowed to continue using the spitball. These pitchers had been using the pitch for so long that the MLB granted them a special exemption, allowing them to continue to use the pitch until they retired. These 17 pitchers are often referred to as the “Spitballers”.
The Last Spitballer
The last of the “Spitballers” was Burleigh Grimes. Grimes was a pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and he retired in 1934. After Grimes retired, the MLB officially banned the spitball, and it has remained illegal ever since.
The Impact of the Spitball Ban
The ban on the spitball had a major impact on the game. It changed the way that pitchers approached the game, as they were now forced to rely on different techniques to get batters out.
The Modern Game
The modern game of baseball has evolved a great deal since the spitball was banned. Pitchers now rely on a variety of pitches, including the curveball, slider, and changeup. These pitches have become increasingly important as hitters have become more powerful.
The Return of the Spitball?
In recent years, there have been some calls to bring back the spitball. Some believe that it could be used as a way to level the playing field between pitchers and hitters, as it would give pitchers an advantage. However, it is unlikely that the MLB will ever reverse their ban on the pitch.
The spitball was a common tactic throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, in 1920, the MLB changed the rules to ban the pitch. This had a major impact on the game, as pitchers were now forced to rely on different techniques to get batters out. Despite calls to bring back the pitch, it is unlikely that the MLB will ever reverse their ban on the spitball.