When you are watching a professional game of Baseball, one question surely will come to your mind, why do Baseball players spit? Spitting is not as common in other sports as it is in Baseball. If you find players are not spitting at some point of time, then they must be chewing something like sunflower seeds, gum, or tobacco. A major reason for so much spitting is because it is the tradition of the Baseball game.
Why do baseball players spit?
Spitting is not new in the game of Baseball. It was started back in the 1800s. There are multiple reasons for this ranging from avoiding the chewing of tobacco to part of the tradition and many more.
Some reasons are listed below:
The chewing of tobacco started in the Baseball game in the early 1800s, but the most notable period of chewing tobacco was between the 1920s & 1940s. Some sponsors were involved in promoting tobacco in Baseball too, they sponsored the tobacco to some teams as it was considered at that time that usage of tobacco increases performance a lot.
With the advancement in the medical industry, people came to know that it is pretty bad for their health. So, a significant decline came in chewing tobacco in the 1970s and 1980s. This was banned in college Baseball back in 1990 and minor league Baseball also banned it in 1993. Chewing tobacco also leaves a negative message for the young players who are looking forward to adopting Baseball as their career sport.
Major League Baseball (MLB) officials and the union of players felt the bad impact of chewing tobacco on younger players in 2011. They agreed not to use tobacco where Baseball fans can see them doing this. This was the first solid step toward disliking chewing tobacco in Baseball. Only 05 years after this development, a new rule came into the game in 2016. According to this rule, new players who enter the league are not allowed to chew tobacco. Now, all the 30 Stadiums of Baseball do not allow the use of smokeless tobacco.
Despite the rules and regulations against chewing tobacco, still some players do this. As saliva builds up in the mouth due to chewing tobacco, there is the need of spitting and that is the reason why do Baseball players spit while chewing tobacco.
Chewing gum is a pretty good alternative to chewing tobacco in Baseball. As far as saliva generation is concerned both chewing gum & chewing tobacco are the same. Production of saliva can be increased up to ten times by chewing gum. This causes the players to spit or swallow the spit. Some Baseball players choose to spit.
Chewing gum is one of those habits of spitting that a Baseball player can develop when he is a kid. This habit will go with him in the MLB. Chewing gum is not only an alternative to chewing tobacco, there are some others methods too.
Chewing on Sunflower Seeds
Another factor that leads to more spitting during a Baseball game is chewing Sunflower seeds. This is a pretty amazing alternative to chewing tobacco. They have also an old history in the Baseball game. The major reason for using Sunflower seeds is their packaging, as these seeds are available in small plastic bags. It’s easy for Baseball players to keep it in their pockets and put it in their mouths whenever they feel the need on the field.
If we talk about the health perspective, there is no harm in chewing on sunflower seeds. There is no side effect for chewing on sunflower seeds as compared to chewing tobacco making it perfect as a substitute for tobacco. Their shells are quite small and spitting them onto the field does not provide any risk for injury. No chance of banning chewing gum and sunflowers seeds from the authorities as they do not provide any harm.
Players take seeds in their mouths and after some time spit the shells on the ground one by one as chewing of the seeds is done. You will find small shells around the dugout and also on the field if you observe them closely. These shells do not impact the game at any level.
Dirt & Dryness
As Baseball is an outdoor game and played in summer in quite hot temperatures too, it’s natural that you are spitting in such a hard circumstance. After standing a long time on the Baseball field, dryness can come to the mouth. This dryness causes you to spit, but remember it causes dehydration. The reason for dehydration is that the human body contains a lot of water, so you are removing some of the water when you spit.
The baseball field can be filled with dirt and it will get in the air when some Baseball players slide, dive and run onto the field. Also, Baseball is played in the open area, so dust in the air can go to the players’ mouths and faces. This dirt and dust also cause players to spit during the play. Some professional stadiums are indoor, so there is no dirty air that can lead to spitting.
Spitting is a Habit
You cannot say all the time that there are outside things that are responsible for regular spitting in the Baseball game. Spitting can also be a habit for some players as we are all human beings. Spitting can happen at any time during the play unknowingly. Because it is one of those things in our daily life about which we don’t care a lot. Baseball players can develop this habit with time as they are usually used to chewing tobacco or gum.
Spitting is a Tradition in Baseball
‘Why do Baseball players spit’ answer is mainly concerned with the traditions of the game. Spitting was with the Baseball game for almost over 100 years. As time is huge, so now it has become almost a tradition of the game. Tradition is that thing where superstition also comes into play. Some Baseball players spit every time before they do swing, spit every time during the pitching, spit whenever reach the base, and on many other events. When tradition becomes superstition then you can expect any time at any time.
Chewing tobacco was a common practice in Baseball in the 1800s both on and off the field. Chewing tobacco habit was one of the major factors in making spitting a tradition in the Baseball game. Also at that time, players stimulate the saliva and when they spit it out then they used it to moisten their gloves.
When some 5-year kid watches the Baseball game on TV and observes that the legends of the game are doing this then he thought that it is part of the game. This is also the reason why some Baseball players develop the habit of spitting quite early in their careers. You also want to spit when you see your stars of the game are doing it regularly.
Any game can be boring if you don’t find a way to entertain yourself. You have to find some out-of-the-box tricks with which you enjoy the game. This boredom factor is quite dominant for those Baseball players who have to wait until the batter swing the bat and the ball go their way.
Out of all Baseball players, outfielders are those players that touch the ball less, so chewing gum, or sunflower seeds and then spitting from them is quite understandable. By doing this at least players feel occupied.
Is spitting good for performance
Spitting can boost performance to some extent. It can provide help to get a better grip. Some players spit on the batting gloves before they go for batting to get a tighter grip. Fielders can also be seen spitting on their throwing hands and sometimes they spit on the palm of their fielding glove for better grip and adhesion.
What is Spitball in Baseball?
If you know the answer to ‘Why do Baseball Players Spit’ then you must be familiar with the term “Spitball” too. Spitball is referred to as an illegal pitch of Baseball when there is some foreign object on the ball like salvia, gum stickiness, or Vaseline. Applying of foreign object is illegal because after applying it ball can behave more unusually than the normal and defensive team and the pitcher may get the advantage over the opponent. Any kind of substance is illegal in Pitch because it can provide benefits to the pitcher against the rules and regulations.
Let’s say a pitcher spits on the ball or rubs the ball with saliva right before the pitching then there will be an unusual movement in the ball making it difficult for the batters to hit. This happens because applied saliva reduces the air resistance on one side of the ball where it is applied. Batter will be confused because he is not expecting such movement.
Another creative but illegal method used by the pitchers is to apply the stickiness of the gum on the ball. They tap their fingers on the gum to get that stickiness in their hands. This will give hands a pretty extraordinary grip on the ball which is not possible from the legal means. The important point here is that chewing gum is allowed in Baseball but applying gum to the ball is not allowed.
Pitchers realized the benefits of the Spitball with time, once they came to know that it has more advantages then they started doing it more frequently. Pitchers also used to spit juice of tobacco on the ball and then rubbed it with the dirt & licorice to make it brown looking. They used this trick so that ball can blend in with the surroundings and ultimately it will be really hard for the batter to see it properly and make the contact efficiently.
Spitball caused a Death in Baseball history
On August 16th, 1920, a sad incident happened in the game of Baseball. The batter Ray Chapman of Cleveland Indians in the temple was the victim of a dirt & tobacco spitted rubbed baseball. At that time of Baseball, helmets were not used by the players. Chapman lost the war of his life after 12 hours of injury. He was the only Major League Baseball player who died from the sustained injuries that he encountered during an MLB game.
Spitting Battle in Major Leaguer Baseball
Players spit at or near the opponent to disrespect him during some confrontations. It happens in heated moments but it is strongly condemned. There have been some incidents in Baseball history where players even spitted near the umpire to show their anger at some of the decisions made by the umpire.
One such famous example is Roberto Alomar, he was a second baseman who belonged to Baltimore Orioles. Roberto spitted at the umpire of home-plate John Hirschbeck. This incident was quite famous at that time.
Roberto made a bad comment about the sick child of the umpire. When John heard about the comment, he went to the Baltimore Orioles dugout and looked for Alomar. Other umpires and officials came and finished the matter. Later on, both John and Alomar sorted out the issue and became friends. But this incident made headlines and drew attention as far as spitting on umpires is concerned in Baseball games. Spitting as a gesture of disrespect to someone in Baseball should be highly discouraged and it should not be done by the players to the opponent players or umpires.
Role of saliva in Modern Baseball Pitching
When pitchers in Major League Baseball are in contact with pitching rubber, they are not allowed to touch their mouths or lips. You must be wondering why pitchers lick their fingers during the game then why it is like this. Pitchers can lick their fingers but they have to wipe them off before any contact with the ball. Professional pitchers take benefit from this, they break this rule but very smartly and get the slight edge of using saliva during pitching.
‘Why do Baseball Players spit so much’ question comes to every Baseball’s fan mind. Players spit due to various reasons, one of the major reasons is that spitting is an old tradition in the Baseball game. Players spit also due to chewing tobacco, sunflower seeds, and gum. Spitting is allowed but spitball is not allowed in Baseball.
Players should develop chewing sunflower seeds or gum rather than chewing tobacco as it is not allowed now. Illegal use of spitting gives the exceptional movement of the ball and it is not allowed. Applying foreign objects is illegal on the ball.
I am Harry La, CEO for BaseballHub.Net – a baseball website and I am also a Baseball Writer. I am responsible for the publication of such articles as game recaps and previews, player interviews, coaching updates, and in-depth previews of upcoming games or series.