I must admit that I have not been an avid baseball fan, but did get interested in this recent World Series due to the nature of this specific one — the great rivalry and the long draught for each team. However, what intrigued me most every game was watching the men spit during the game.
Often, it was like a ballet between the camera and the “spitter.” The camera would zero in on the face of one of the players, usually in the bullpen, who was chewing furiously. As if on cue, the man, who was not even aware that he was on camera, seemed to sense the time was right and he would spit! It was like a ballet: Music? “The Beautiful Blue Danube.” La da da da dum — spit spit — spit spit.
I felt we needed background music. Camera pan to the man, chew chew chew — then, patooey!
And these weren’t just any old timid expectorations. These were big wads of saliva, concentrated, and vehemently blown out of the mouth like liquid arrows. It is immensely vulgar and rude to spit on the public sidewalk. It is crude to spit anywhere in public. Why is it so acceptable, nay even expected, that baseball players spit? How would you like to be the guy cleaning up the field and bullpen after each game? Yuk. I am grossing myself out just talking about this.
And what do you suppose they are chewing? I thought at first it was a chaw of tobacco, but the “spit” didn’t seem brown. Yuk . I think one creative fellow was chewing sunflower seeds and spitting out the hulls. Double yuk. A person wouldn’t spit out a wad of gum or would he? A baseball field must be the most unsanitary place in the world after a baseball game.
Why don’t tennis players spit? Can you just envision if John McEnroe had spit at a tennis line judge? Can you imagine Tom Brady giving a big patooey on the football field before he throws a long pass or Arnold Palmer spitting on the golf course? How about polo players? Think how far they could spit astride a horse?
My children tell me to Google everything, so I Googled “baseball spitting.” Much to my astonishment, there were reams of information about this tasteless subject! Whatever had made me think I was the first person to be abashed by this habit?
In a nutshell, Google told me that spitting is tradition, it’s cultural, and it’s as old-fashioned as the spittoon and just as American. It all started with chewing tobacco, and almost everybody who played the game chewed tobacco. The game was played on grass in the sunlight, and many of the players were raw-boned kids off the farm and even Granny liked a chaw now and then. The dusty fields dried out their mouths, thus the chaw.
In 2011, Major League Baseball and the player’s union came to an agreement that players wouldn’t use chewing tobacco where fans can’t see them. (In the bathroom?) It went on to say that most chew sunflower seeds or gum now.
Wow, now I’ve seen everything. I knew Google was smart, and that’s been proved once again. It’s a custom, Nancy. Get over it!
Nancy Carlson Dodd is a resident of Fort Wayne.