When you watch a professional baseball game, it’s almost guaranteed that you will see players spitting every once in a while. Why do baseball players spit very often when you don’t see that in other sports, at least in a way you do in baseball.
There must be a reason for that. What is it?
Baseball players spit for many reasons, the most common being due to sunflower seeds, dirt in their mouth, or habit. Other reasons include boredom, tradition or superstition, and chewing tobacco which has been banned in Major League Baseball since 2016.
A player might spit because of one or many reasons stated above, and it’s quite personal. However, many baseball players won’t spit as there has been a lot of controversy and resentment towards spitting baseball players and their disgusting example for the youth.
This has shared opinions and started arguments about whether spitting should be condemned or not. What do you think?
Be that as it may, let’s take a closer look at the reasons why baseball players spit, so you can understand whether it’s done in vain or due to a real and understandable reason.
Why Do Baseball Players Spit?
Spitting has been a part of baseball since the 1800s, so it’s nothing new. It all started because of chewing tobacco so let’s learn more about that.
1. Chewing Tobacco
The use of chewing tobacco started as early as the 1800s, but the most popular phase was between the 1920s and 1940s. At this time, every baseball team had a chewing tobacco sponsor that gave away free chewing tobacco for the players to use because it was supposed to improve performance concentration, among other things.
However, as medicine became more advanced year after year, a significant decline in chewing tobacco started in the 1970s and 80s. That’s because everyone discovered that chewing tobacco wasn’t beneficial for their health. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
Fast forward to 2011, MLB and the player’s union agreed that the players wouldn’t use chewing tobacco where fans can see them prevent kids from taking examples and start using chewing tobacco themselves.
Only five years later, in 2016, a new rule was created by the league and union, where new players entering the league were banned from using chewing tobacco altogether. When I’m writing this article in 2022, all 30 baseball stadiums prohibit the use of smokeless tobacco in the area.
Still, some people use chewing tobacco discretely even when the players and managers will be fined, as the rule states. Chewing tobacco users spit due to saliva buildup, which can be nasty.
2. Chewing alternatives
In my recent article, I talked about why baseball players chew gum. The reasons are many, but chewing gum is practically the same as chewing tobacco in terms of saliva generation.
Your natural saliva production can be increased up to ten times the normal, making the players spit or swallow a lot of saliva. Some people choose to spit.
Chewing gum certainly isn’t the only thing to chew on when on a baseball field. Another popular alternative that makes the players spit is sunflower seeds.
Depending on whether the player is chewing on sunflower seed with or without peels, it can make the need to spit. This is especially true with sunflower seeds that haven’t been peeled, as the peels are very crunchy and can have an unpleasant texture from time to time.
3. Dirt & Drought
Baseball being an outdoor sport played mainly in the summer in warm and hot temperatures, the conditions can get dry. When you are standing long times on the field, your mouth can dry. This can cause the need to spit; however, spitting contributes to dehydration. That’s because the human body contains a lot of water, and when you spit, you remove some of the water with it.
In addition to the drought, a baseball infield is filled with dirt which will get in the air when the baseball players slide, dive, and run. The airborne dirt can get into your mouth, and that will cause a need to spit.
As human beings, we all have habits. These habits can be beneficial or disadvantageous, and I know for sure that I have both. The argument about which one spitting is has been getting brought, but I’d say that it’s somewhere in the middle. I think that spitting isn’t anything you gain benefit from, but it’s nothing to gasp and point about either.
Wherever you stand with the question, one thing is certain: spitting is a habit for some players. It can just happen almost unknowingly. Depending on how frequent and determined the spitting is, it can look gross.
5. Tradition & Superstition
Because spitting has been part of the baseball style for well over a hundred years, it has become kind of a tradition. Some people may disagree, but I remember seeing many cartoons where a baseball player leaned on the stadium wall and spitting.
Tradition is usually where superstition will come into the picture. Some players might spit every time before taking a swing, spit when reaching to a base, spit before pitching, and you name it.
Their superstition has likely originated from something that went well or bad in history. Even when many superstitious people don’t believe it has any effect, they still do it as a ritual to rule out any jinx.
We all know what boredom is, and it can be really boring… That can be especially true for baseball players waiting for the batter to swing the ball in their way. Outfielders, out of all baseball players, touch the ball least, which can make their job stand quite a bit.
Spitting and chewing gum or sunflower seeds is at least something to keep you occupied while waiting for the ball so you can play.
What Is Spitball?
If you have noticed that baseball players spit a lot, you might have encountered the word spitball. This doesen’t ring any bells if you don’t know what it means, so what is spitball?
Spitball is an illegal baseball pitch where the ball has been added with a foreign substance such as saliva, vaseline, or gum stickiness. Applying foreign substance on the ball will make the ball behave unexpectedly, giving the pitcher and defensive team an advantage.
Any sort of external substance is illegal to be used in a pitch because it can give various benefits for the pitcher.
For example, if the player spits or rubs saliva from his lips on the ball right before pitching, it would reduce the air resistance on another side of the ball, giving it an unusual way of moving. This would confuse the batter, who would likely strike out because he can’t expect such a throw.
Another way is to increase grip on the ball by tapping fingers on the gum you are chewing. This will add stickiness to your fingertips, which gives you an unusually great grip that makes you pitch in a way that you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. Even when the gum isn’t illegal in baseball, its stickiness is an illegal substance that is prohibited.
Spitball was banned after the 1920 season with a slight exception. The exception included that the 17 already known spitballers were allowed to throw legal spitball pitches until they retired.
There have been many clever attempts that many have been successful in using spitball after its ban.
Some of the best ones include rubbing a substance under the baseball cap, between the knee brace, or even the zipper, soaking hair in the water, and then touching the hair before a pitch, among other smart ways.
Spitball also has many other names such as vaseline ball, super sinker, spitter, shine ball, among other things.
Is Spitting Banned In Baseball?
Given that spitting has many potential rule-breaking opportunities and it has started arguments for decades whether it’s acceptable or not, is spitting legal in baseball?
Generally, spitting was allowed until 2020, when it was banned in Major League Baseball for Covid safety reasons. During the shortened season, a rule was made where the players weren’t allowed to spit. Time will tell whether spitting will be allowed for 2022 and later.
The spitting rule doesen’t only include saliva, but any seed or peanut shells. However, chewing gum is still allowed, but the players can’t spit any excess saliva produced while chewing the gum.
My Favorite Baseball Equipment
Thanks for reading this article. I hope it brought you great value that you can implement into your own life! Below you can find my favorite baseball bat, baseballs, and a glove that I think will take your game to the next level!
- Bat: My favorite baseball bat is the Easton Project 3 Fuze. This bat has a composite end cap, reduced post-impact vibrations, balanced swing weight for the fastest swing speed, and a carbon core that makes this bat perform very well! As I’m not a professional baseball player, I like to use alloy bats as you can swing faster and hit further.
- Baseballs: Rawlings Competition Grade Practice Balls are my choice for something to hit. I love these balls because they fit all levels of play, so regardless of who you are playing with, you can use them. They come in a 6 or 12 balls box, and you can choose between raised or flat seams! I prefer flat seams as the balls tend to fly further!
- Glove: When it comes to the glove, my choice is the Rawlings Sandlot Glove. This glove is available for both lefties and righties. The same glove is also available for infielders, outfielders, pitchers, catchers, and 1B mitt. This glove has a nice vintage look, and it’s made from oiled leather. It has palm pads that protect your hand from impact, and it is pre-broken-in, so you are good to go as soon as you have it! A glove I’m proud to recommend.
- Fan Equipment: If you’re a fan more than a player, you don’t want to miss Fan Equipment by Fanatics. You can find items from various sports that bear your favorite team’s logo, such as jerseys, gift ideas, or other surprising things.