Today in baseball history - March 7 - Bring back the spitter

Bring back the spitball?

CLEARWATER, FLORIDA |MARCH 7, 1955 - Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick believed baseball had tipped in favor of the hitter so on this date in 1955 he said if he had his way he would bring back the spitter.

While visiting the Philadelphia Phillies training camp Frick said, "Something positive should be done to help the pitchers." In advocating the return of the spitball Frick added, "There's nothing dangerous about it. It was nothing like the screwball they have to throw today, with a twisted elbow and tricky snapping of the wrists. No wonder today's pitchers can't go on as long."

But what did the statistics say? Below is a look at the average earned run average (ERA) in the major leagues for 3 seasons in the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's when each league had eight teams.

Average MLB ERA
1955...4.00
1954...3.90
1953...4.15

1945...3.58
1944...3.52
1943...3.34

1935...4.24
1934...4.28
1933...3.81

ERA's were up in the 1950's compared to the 40's, but down from the 1930's. It's true, throughout the years pitchers have been steadily pitching fewer innings and throwing fewer pitches, but for a variety of reasons, two of the most prominent being more home runs, and the strategic prominence of the bullpen.

Needless to say, the spitball did not come back - legally.

Contributing sources:
Associated Press, Clearwater, Florida, March 8, 1955
Retrosheet

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