“That is soooo gross!”
“He’s spitting! Yuck! Do you know unsanitary that is?”
“I don’t think he’s worrying about that – it’s just a nervous thing – or he’s chewing gum or, you know…”
“Ewuuu, did you see that loogie?!!”
Yes, spitting and baseball seem to go hand-in-hand. Or mouth and ground, I dunno. Indeed, it is a strange part of the national past time.
Today it might be spitting out sunflower seeds, which I guess is an improvement over just plain expectorating. The seeds thing started in the 1950s and 60s, with players keeping a handful of sunflower seeds in their pocket rather than a plug of chew in their cheek.
Javy Baez of the Cubs seems to always be chomping on sunflower seeds, including when at bat. The mighty Aaron Judge says he has two pieces of gum he chews every game until he makes an out. Both of these behaviors seem less odd than the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig licking his bat. Of course, I still don’t know what flavor bat he’s using…
The old days, what with tobacco chew being so prevalent, there was a whole lot of colorful spitting (typically the brownish color of the chew). It’s not like the players can swallow the tobacco juice. Also, at that time some players used the spit to moisten their gloves. Finally, in 2011, major league baseball and the players union agreed that for the most part, players won’t use chewing tobacco where fans can see them. Some cities have banned smokeless tobacco all together from the ball parks, including Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. In fact, use of chewing tobacco has been prohibited in the minors since 1993.
But why, why do players spit? Here’s an attempt at a definitive list and some explanation, some of which speak for themselves:
To ward off evil (in rural parts of North India years ago moms would lightly spit at their children — not on them, to the side of them) to impart a sense of disparagement and imperfection thereby protecting them from the evil eye (known as nazar).
Contempt (that is, for the other side, the pitcher, the ump, among others).
Tradition…. Tradition! Tevye the Diaryman no doubt played baseball, when he wasn’t fiddling on the roof.
How about: Anything goes because you’re outdoors. That said, I don’t recall seeing much spitting, if any, by tennis players or on the gridiron. Maybe a few golfers, but isn’t that prohibited? Certainly frowned upon!
Or, maybe it’s mimicking. You know, young kids see some of the big guys spitting and wanna be like that so they adopt the behavior; perhaps up-and-comers feel the same way…
Conformity. He’s doing it, I’m doing it. Ergo, I belong!
Ahh, here is one I like, and might even makes a bit of sense: Relieves tension. Baseball takes awhile. Games can be very close. Some at-bats go 7, 8, 9 or more pitches…
Well, did you know there was the famous spit in 1956 at Fenway Park by Ted Williams to his “beloved” sportswriters in the upper deck press box? It cost the Splendid Splinter $5,000, although I don’t think the fine was ever collected by the Red Sox owner, Tom Yawkey.
One thing for sure: Baseball is very, very statistic oriented. Sorry, though, I have looked and searched far and wide, but cannot find any information on the average number of times baseball players spit during a game. (Note to self: Talk to some statisticians, and see if this should be monitored as closely as bat speed, and how many times the first ball thrown was a ball or a strike. I mean, what is really important?)
I admit that I am concerned spitting is associated with, and occurs in baseball, more so it appears than any other sport. Possibly more so than any other activity, unless there are spitting contests.
Baseball which has so much elegance in its own way, is the home of expectorating?
Friends, it comes down to this: The next time someone says “You are the spitting image of your mom!”, I suggest you just grimace and reply: “Really, can’t you just say I resemble dear old mom?”