Dec 10, 1919: Crack down on spitter
Submitted by BTGrimes on Mon, 12/10/2012 - 10:00am
Rule to be enforced
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - National League owners went on record on this date in 1919 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 making it harder to hit.
The spitball was mastered by a number of pitchers in the early 1900's. According to Baseball-Reference the pitch was invented by George Hildebrand. Jack Chesbro of the New York Yankees and Ed Walsh of the Chicago White Sox got the most out of the spitter, each winning at least 40 games in a year - the only American League pitchers to do so.
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 in 1919 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. 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.
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