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DEC. 10 (1919) - Spitball*
By Bill Grimes
Dec 10, 2007 - 8:27 PM

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Baseball cracks down on the spitball

 

DECEMBER 10, 1919 NEW YORK CITY , NEW YORK National League owners went on record on this date to ban the spitball and other “freak” pitches. It was considered an unfair advantage for the pitcher to put a “foreign” substance, such as saliva, petroleum jelly or mud on the ball because it changed its aerodynamics giving it movement making it hard to hit.

 

The spitball was mastered by a number of pitchers in the early 1900’s. According to www.baseball-reference.com the pitch was invented by George Hildebrand and popularized by Elmer Stricklett. Jack Chesbro and Ed Walsh
Chesbro_Jack.gif
Jack Chesbro
got the most out of the spitter, each winning 40 games one year – the only American League pitchers to do so.
edwalsh.jpg
Ed Walsh

 

The spitball was always controversial. There had been rules against altering the baseball since the 1870’s, but they weren’t enforced. The National League owners’ vote at their annual meeting on this date was a big step toward finally cracking down. The Major League Baseball Rules Committee formally banned the spitball before the start of the 1920 season, and enacted tough penalties.
Grimes.jpg
Burleigh Grimes
Pitchers caught using a “foreign substance” on the ball faced a ten game suspension.

 

In fairness to established pitchers who relied on the now illegal pitch, those who had been using the spitter could continue using it for the rest of their careers. Burleigh Grimes was the last pitcher to legally throw a spitball in 1934.

 

Contributing sources:

The New York Times , December 11, 1919

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spitball

http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Spitball

http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Elmer_Stricklett

Comments: feedback@todayinbaseballonline.com

Bill Grimes is a member of SABR (The Society for American Baseball Research)



© Copyright 2007 by TODAYinBASEBALL

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