Baseball players should refrain from spitting

June 12, 2018

As we begin to enter the summer months, let's explore a practice that exists only in the sport of baseball.

It is not seen in football, basketball, soccer, rugby, tennis, golf, badminton, surfing, billiards, archery, or in any of the other myriad recreational activities in which people participate.

But it is everywhere in professional baseball. The players on defense do it, both outfielders and infielders, pitchers and catchers.
The players on offense do it, batters, runners on bases, and those in the on-deck circle. It has spread to the dugouts and includes coaches, managers, and players on the bench. Even the arbiters do it, the umpires on the bases and the home plate judge can be seen lifting his mask to cause some substance to speed its way into the air.

It is a behavior that parents distain and the socially conscious abhor.

Why is there so much spitting in baseball?

Wikipedia describes spitting as, "Forcibly ejecting saliva or other substance from the mouth." Continuing, "It is currently considered rude and a social taboo in many parts of the world." Does this mean that a good portion of the people on the planet do not watch our "national pastime" on television?

Spitting can transmit infectious diseases and can represent "symbolic regurgitation" or an act of intentional contamination.
Those with numbered uniforms in baseball may propel gum juice, saliva, sunflower seeds, tobacco juice, or some other substance from their mouths.

Interestingly, this behavior has not yet caught on with the spectators. Sadly, it has leaked to the collegiate game.

So much of this behavior takes place during a typical nine-inning contest that one could suggest that each participant has signed a contract requiring a certain number of spits per game or that each spit brings the individual a certain level of remuneration.

So infatuated with what is found inside the mouth were players back in the day that a description for delivering the ball from the mound to the plate was known as the "spitball."

They could "doctor" the ball with any matter dripping from their lips causing the sphere to perform a magical dance as it moved through the air to the safety of the catcher's mitt.

Eventually, this pitch was outlawed, not because of hygiene concerns, but because it was known to give the hurler an unfair advantage at the expense of the batsman.

Regardless, it may be necessary to place a spittoon in each dugout before each contest. Should not a cuspidor also be placed someplace on the playing field for easy access by each needy player or umpire?

Who is responsible for cleaning up all this mess? Should not the punishment fit the crime? As most of the playing surfaces are artificial and the dugout may become a virtual swamp by game's end, could we not require each offending player to stay a few moments after each game to repair the damage?

Perhaps the answer may be found in a mantra often used by educators when students put their feet on chairs of desks, "How about if I come to your home and put my feet on your desk or table?"

Application to this now exposed questionable habit, that refrain could be, "How about if I come to your home and spit on your floor?"
Wouldn't it be nice if each baseball stadium had a huge banner that read, "Don't spit on me?"

James H. VanSciver Ed.D.


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