Don't be shellfish...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

Part One of this series can be found here. This is Part Two of a three-part series. 

“The rules are quite clear. For violation of any part of this rule, deliver what is called the “shine” ball, “spit” ball, “mud” ball or “emery” ball, the umpire shall call the pitch a ball, warn the pitcher and have announced on the public address system the reason for the action.” — Fast Facts of Baseball- The Spit Ball*

For decades, the spitter was an accepted part of major league baseball, and little to no controversy surrounded its use.  Jack Chesbro, who achieved baseball immortality by setting the unbreakable 20th century record of 41 wins in the 1904 season, was a notorious spit-ball pitcher. (Perhaps the baseball gods achieved their revenge on “Happy Jack” when he managed to lose the deciding game of that same season on a wild pitch which was undoubtedly a spitter (a pitch he called a “slow ball”) with a bit too much action.  During a match between his own New York Highlanders (nee: Yankees) and the Boston Americans (nee: Red Sox), Chesbro ‘s wild pitch allowed the winning run to score from third base. However, for many years, Chesbro’s bereaved widow blamed the team’s catcher for the miscue.) The following year, Chesbro stated that he had invented a new pitch which he called the “jump ball”, which unfortunately for him, didn’t jump all that much; his record plummeted from a mind-boggling  41-12 to a pedestrian 19-15. During the hallowed ’04 season, Jack also posted an ERA of 1.82, struck out 239 batters, pitched 454 2/3 innings, and set MLB baseball records for wins, complete games and innings pitched in a season. Jack also won 14 straight games during that season, which would remain a Yankee record until Roger Clemens broke it almost 100 years later in 2001; he also held the Yankee strike out record until Ron Guidry broke it 74 years later in 1978. (However, because of the brobdinagian number of innings he pitched that year, his K/9 ratio that season was a mere 4.7). In 1908, Chesbro announced that he would forever more eschew the use of the wetball, and his record amply demonstrated his truthfulness, as he went 14-18 for the season.

Ed Walsh, another legendary hurler from the Dead Ball Era, also fashioned what was to be the lowest career ERA in the history of baseball – a sterling 1.82 mark over 14 seasons, with the use of the spitter.  In fact, along with the baseball that had the texture of one of your Aunt Mildred’s dumplings, the use of the spitter was one of the primary reasons for the notorious “Dead Ball Era” that existed from the fin de siècle to around 1918. There is no reason to believe that neither Walsh nor Chesbro would have been inducted in Cooperstown’s Hall of Fame without that pitch. **

Baseball has gone through a number of different era’s in its storied history. Some of them have to do with the effect of rule changes, such as when the baseball mound was moved to its present distance of 60’6” from home plate in 1893. But the two major factors that typically produce radical change in baseball play are intense controversy/scandal as well as the thought or reality of attendance plummeting and threatening the existence of the game. The cancellation of the 1994 World Series, whereupon millions of frustrated fans vowed never to watch or attend another baseball game in their lifetimes, could be said to be the spark that ushered in the age of steroids, and the excitement of watching Mark McGuire go toe-to-toe with Sammy Sosa in the epic 1998 home run chase. The 1919 World Series, where the Black Sox threw the epic classic, allowing the decidedly inferior Cincinnati Redlegs to take the World Title, had a similar profound effect. It is no coincidence that the damaging hearings concerning the fix convinced the Lords of Baseball to radically change the nature of the game. The balls were replaced more frequently, giving them more juice; fences were moved in, and the era of the long ball soon dominated the game, and the spit ball was made to be an illegal pitch. But there is one more episode that people often overlook when considering the banning of the spitter – on August 16th, 1920, Ray Chapman’s life ended as a result of a tampered ball thrown by an unrepentant Carl Mays, who threw an “errant” pitch at Chapman’s temple. Chapman attempted to walk off the field after being hit, collapsed, and died within 12 hours. As per Wikipedia: “At the time of Chapman’s death, “part of every pitcher’s job was to dirty up a new ball the moment it was thrown onto the field. By turns, they smeared it with dirt, licorice, tobacco juice; it was deliberately scuffed, sandpapered, scarred, cut, even spiked. The result was a misshapen, earth-colored ball that traveled through the air erratically, tended to soften in the later innings, and as it came over the plate, was very hard to see.”

raychapmanRIP

Between 1919 and 1920, a rule was put into effect by Major League Baseball that outlawed the spitball and other substance-abuse type pitches. However, a group of hurlers who depended almost exclusively upon the spitball pitch were officially listed and grandfathered in, allowing them to throw spitters for the remainder of their careers (It should be noted that what we call the spitter, for all intents and purposes involve very little spit but consist of Vaseline, pine tar, appendages for cutting the ball (Elston Howard of the Yankees reputedly used his belt buckle, scuffing the ball for Hall of Famer Whitey Ford, who once had the chutzpah of bringing a water bottle to the mound for the sake of easing the pain in his arm), and any other imaginative tool that a hurler can dream up for radically altering the spin of the ball sans arm movement.

Rules or no rules, pitchers are going to throw spitters. It’s a matter of survival.” – Bob Gibson

For those interested in the complete list of pitchers who were exempted from the rule:

The complete list: Doc Ayers (played through 1921); Ray Caldwell (1921); Stan Coveleski (1928); Bill Doak (1929); Phil Douglas (1922); Red Faber (1933); Dana Fillingim (1925); Ray Fisher (1920); Marv Goodwin (1925); Dutch Leonard (1925); Clarence Mitchell (1932); Jack Quinn (1933); Allen Russell (1925); Dick Rudolph (1927); Urban Shocker (1928); and Allen Sothoron (1926).

The most successful of the grandfathered spitball pitchers was perhaps Burleigh Grimes. On September 20, 1934, the era of the legal spitter ended when Grimes made his final appearance as a reliever at Ebbets Field. He retired after that season, and his efforts resulted in immortality as yet another one of a select group of spitballers who parlayed their career into a trip to Cooperstown.

Thus the clause in the rules added between the 1919 and 1920 seasons that banned what I like to call the foreign-substance pitch— but grandfathered in those like Burleigh Grimes who used the pitch to build a career before the rule change. As baseball columnist Dan Devine states, however, “most major league pitchers would consider amputating their middle finger if they thought the result would give them a better split-finger pitch…”, and so unsurprisingly, the spitter lingered past Grimes’s last pitch in 1934. As for Grimes, he had collected a total of thirty-four wins prior to the 1920 season. The year after the ruling he won 22 games, leading the league. He finished his career with 270 wins.

But perhaps the more important statistic is by measuring the composite and individual careers of those pitchers who were grandfathered in. Here is the list, with the won-loss record of all of those pitchers after the foreign substance pitch was deemed illegal:

Doc Ayers 7-14

Ray Caldwell 26-16

Stan Coveleski 109 – 89 (HOF)

Burleigh Grimes 248- 187  (HOF)

Bill Doak  95 -75

Phil Douglas 40-24

Red Faber 172 – 158  (HOF)

Dana Fillingim 34-49

Ray Fisher 10-11

Marv Goodwin 4-12

Dutch Leonard 35-36

Clarence Mitchell  116- 110

Jack Quinn 161 – 130

Allen Russell 34-36

Dick Rudolph 5-12

Urban Shocker 156-83

Allen Sothoron 58-63

COMPOSITE WON LOSS RECORD: 1311 – 1085, .548 WIN%

Now, out of 17 pitchers, three were Famers, and several others were above average pitchers who received votes for immortal status. That comes to approximately 18%, or close to 1 in 5 grandfathered spitballers have their busts in Cooperstown. One could make a good case for Urban Shocker as well, which would put make the list close to 25%. I would surmise that this is far higher than the odds of the average major league pitcher making the Hall.

Now look at the Composite Win% – .548. I counted 10 pitchers in the Hall of Fame with a lower Win %; one of them, ironically, was Gaylord Perry, who had a career .542 Win %. It should be noted there were also a number of pitchers from this list who were close to the end of their careers when the spitter was made illegal, and had a win percentage earlier in their career that would have made the composite score even higher. And of course there were numerous Hall of Fame pitchers, such as Bob Gibson, who used the spitter in key situations, but not in their regular regimen. When all of this is considered, it is hard to contest the fact that the foreign-substance pitch was and still has a daunting effect as a performance enhancing substance.

 

*http://www.baseball-almanac.com/legendary/lispit.shtml

**Interesting factoid: Arpad Elo, a professor of physics at Marquette University who strove throughout his lifetime to invent an improved rating system for chess, had his concept borrowed by baseball in what we call the Elo Rating System, which is a method for calculating the relative skill levels of players.  According to the Elo System, the 18th best pitcher of all time is Gaylord Perry. #19? Ed Walsh, of course!

  1. Big Al says:
    (link)

    454 2/3 innings pitched by Jack Chesbro and 41 wins. Incredible stats for a human beings elbow and arm. Curious to know what kind of build did old Jack have ? Big guy or small guy ? I know one thing. He damn well was a tough guy. Seems like not to many no decisions in that year either. As always Paulie you give us room for thought. When was the last pitcher to break 350 innings or for that matter 300 ? Looking forward to the next installment. Where are you taking us next Paulie ?

    • Wallpaper Paterson says:
      (link)

      @Big Al: last over 300 IP- Steve Carlton with 304 in 1980

      Last over 350 IP- Wilbur Wood with 359 1/3 in 1973

      • Big Al says:
        (link)

        @Wallpaper Paterson: Yeah I googled it later. I had a feeling it was Lefty. I’m a Cardinal fan and I’m still bitter about that trade. Busch didn’t want to give him his due and traded him for Rick Wise. Lefty became a Hall of Famer and one of the all time great left-handed pitchers of all time. He logged 346 innings in 1972 and pitched 250 innings or more on a regular basis. What a stud. And Rick Wise became a footnote in baseball history. Wilbur Wood the old knuckleballer. Him and Phil Niekro where doing there thing back then. They certainly made a tougher brand of baseball player back then and tougher yet back in Jack Chesbro’s time. Tough as nails those guys !!!

        • Wallpaper Paterson says:
          (link)

          @Big Al: Carlton pitched for a long time and his arm didn’t fall off.

          • Paulie Allnuts

            Paulie Allnuts says:
            (link)

            @Wallpaper Paterson: I am not a great believer in pitch counts. Nolan Ryan went over 200 pitches in a game on a regular basis. As Ryan once stated, the arm is a muscle, and the more you use the muscle, the stronger it gets.

        • Paulie Allnuts

          Paulie Allnuts says:
          (link)

          @Big Al: A long time ago, I saw Wilbur Wood at Yankee stadium pitch both games of the double header. He lost both ends. Knuckleball pitchers don’t put as much stress on their arms and therefore can amass higher pitch counts then hurlers who rely on fastballs and sliders.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
      (link)

      @Big Al: Sorry about the late comments – had an emergency that I had to deal with and never had time to get on the computer. At any rate, pitching an incredibly large amount of innings was not unusual in baseball days of yore. In 1883-84, Old Hoss Radbourn threw a total of 1311 innings, and won 147 games. Rube Waddell beat Cy Young in a classic match that went over 20 innings in the dead-ball era, and then pitched the second game of the doubleheader when Connie Mack offered him two days off for fishing and drinking. He pitched a shut-out in the 2nd game, and gleefully ran off to enjoy his holiday.

      • Big Al says:
        (link)

        @Paulie Allnuts: Incredible stuff what these guys could do. My question for you is this. Did they have like 3 pitcher’s on the staff or what ? Was the pitching on some of those teams so bad. that the Managers just kept putting these guys out there ? Love the fishing bribe. That’s classic. I love fishing too. He might have got me on that one. On another note I hope all is well for for you and yours. Nothing is more important than the people you love. What state do you live in Paulie ? I’d love to get you out for some bass fishing and story telling on my bass boat some day.

  2. Wallpaper Paterson says:
    (link)

    Will read and comment on article later, but this is a good spot to note that the RCL “Doctored Balls” has had a spot open up. The draft is on Sunday at 6:30 eastern or something. (How the heck should I know the exact start time? I am the commissioner.)

  3. Brett says:
    (link)

    Urban shocker!!!! Greatest name in baseball history. Has to be my new team name somewhere.

    • Monkeymike says:
      (link)

      @Brett: I agree, he should be I’m the Hall of Fame for his name alone.

    • Better than Rusty Kuntz?

      • Wallpaper Paterson says:
        (link)

        @Rudy Gamble: Dick Lines and Dick Such might beat Rusty Kuntz.

        • Paulie Allnuts

          Paulie Allnuts says:
          (link)

          @Wallpaper Paterson: Maybe the best is Tony Suck, who actually was one of the worst baseball players of all time. I may write an article about him in the near future.

          • Wallpaper Paterson says:
            (link)

            @Paulie Allnuts: Yes, Suck was bad. He made my list of Top 25 Most Embarrassing Baseball Player Names of All-Time. Sadly, it was emailed to friends about a dozen years ago. I did not save the list.

              • Wallpaper Paterson says:
                (link)

                @Paulie Allnuts: I can redo it certainly. Would be a good weekend project.

          • Big Al says:
            (link)

            @Paulie Allnuts: Too funny he actually lived down to his name.

            • Paulie Allnuts

              Paulie Allnuts says:
              (link)

              @Big Al: Interesting that “suck” didn’t have the contemporary meaning at the time when Tony attempted to play roundball. It is really only in the last generation or two that the word has its contemporary meaning. It is almost as if a Higher Power chose Tony Suck as his template for the word.

    • Big Al says:
      (link)

      @Brett: That’s a good one. I’m gonna use “Happy Jack’s 454,” or “Aunt Mildred’s Wet Ball.” Endless supply of names if you go back in there time and start hearing all the stories.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
      (link)

      @Brett: Urban had a lifetime record of 187 – 117 for a .615 Win % and a lifetime ERA of 3.17. He was a better pitcher then many in the Hall, including Chesbro.

      • Paulie Allnuts

        Paulie Allnuts says:
        (link)

        @Paulie Allnuts: Back in the early days of baseball, many players had quite colorful nicknames. That is something that has gotten rarer as time has gone by.

        • Big Al says:
          (link)

          @Paulie Allnuts: Another good idea for a story Paulie. I love great nicknames. One of my favorite’s is actually a hockey player. Pat Verbeek. His nick name was ” The little ball of Hate ” They’d send him out on the ice and he would hit anything that moved including teammates if they weren’t giving a 100 %.

          • Wallpaper Paterson says:
            (link)

            @Big Al: I can do an article on NFL nicknames.

            • Big Al says:
              (link)

              @Wallpaper Paterson: Give me a sample of some of your best….

              • Wallpaper Paterson says:
                (link)

                @Big Al: Last weekend, in the trivia thread of my fantasy football dynasty league, I dropped this post-

                After careful consideration, I have decided the following are my elite eight favorite NFL/AFL player nicknames (in no particular order)-
                Golden Wheels
                Tombstone
                Cadillac
                Mercury
                Spider
                Ickey
                Flipper
                Lam

                The bottom six were great because they became “use” names meaning those nicknames were usually used in place of the player’s first name in football encyclopedias, on TV and on trading cards. I love nicknames like “The Catawba Claw”, “The Purple Streak”, “Timber Beast”, “The Gray Ghost”, “The Galloping Ghost”, “The Kansas Comet”, “The Mad Stork”, “Little Train”, “Big Hands”, “The Nigerian Nightmare”, “Straight Runner”, “The Throwin’ Samoan”, “Bones”, “The Human Bowling Ball”, and “Bushel Foot”, but they did not become use names.

                Your tasks-
                1. Identify my elite eight by last name. You get bonus points for noting the first name. I would bet you all know who “Mercury” is, but I’m not sure the average NFL fan knows his first name. This is partly why the nickname is so good.

                2. Which team wore a patch in a Super Bowl (and for the entire season) with one of these nicknames on it?

                • Wallpaper Paterson says:
                  (link)

                  @Wallpaper Paterson: The answers-

                  Elbert (Golden Wheels) Dubenion
                  Rich (Tombstone) Jackson
                  Carnell (Cadillac) Williams
                  Eugene (Mercury) Morris
                  Carl (Spider) Lockhart
                  Elbert (Ickey) Woods
                  Willie (Flipper) Anderson
                  Johnny (Lam) Jones

                  Dubenion was a Bills flanker in the 1960s. On the Bills AFL championship team of 1964, he caught 42 passes for 1139 yards and 10 touchdowns. His yards per catch average of 27.1 is third on the list for a single season.

                  Jackson was a devastating defensive end who only played 82 games due to injuries.

                  Flipper Anderson was the Rams receiver who caught the overtime touchdown to beat the Giants in the ’89 playoffs. Anderson caught the pass and continued straight ahead into the Giants Stadium tunnel.

                  Johnny Jones was nicknamed “Lam” because he came from Lampasas, Texas, and there were two other fellows named Johnny Jones on the Longhorns. The others were nicknamed “Ham” and “Jam.”

                  Lockhart was a defensive back for the Giants in the 1960s and 1970s. He died in the summer of 1986. The Giants wore a patch that season. The patch had a drawing of a spider, the name “Spider” and number 43. The patch was worn against the Broncos in Super Bowl 21.

                  • Paulie Allnuts

                    Paulie Allnuts says:
                    (link)

                    @Wallpaper Paterson: It is verboten to mention Flipper Anderson in one of my columns! That name still gives us Big Blue fans nightmares. But I hadn’t even realized that Spider Lockhart had passed away, and didn’t remember the team wearing a patch with “Spider” on it. And that was the year of their first Super Bowl. I shudda known that! All great stuff.

  4. Count de Monetball says:
    (link)

    Very cool read Paulie! Totally looking forward to part three!

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
      (link)

      @Count de Monetball: Thanks, love that name! Part three is bizarre, and may add a part 4, which is crazy stuff.

  5. Ghost of the Disappeared says:
    (link)

    Paulie: I read the word Spitters and thought you were talking about “ex-girlfriends” for a second.

    I understand, back before it was recognized as a health threat, amphetamines were available in most MLB clubhouses

      • Big Al says:
        (link)

        @Jay: But the stories live on and on.

        • Paulie Allnuts

          Paulie Allnuts says:
          (link)

          @Big Al: Which is what separates baseball from other sports. The lore is incredible, and we now know more about these players (thanks to a number of knowledgeable baseball historians) then we ever did. There is magic in baseball history.

      • Aubrey Plaza's Pillow says:
        (link)

        @Jay: Jay is not that old.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
      (link)

      @Ghost of the Disappeared: Mr. Ghost, read part one and the upcoming part three of this series, which focuses on amphetamines.

  6. Anthony says:
    (link)

    12 team H2H league, it’s really deep! I have a quick question for you man. My rotation is Kershaw, Darvish, Strailey, Samardzija, Garza, and Liriano. Depth is of most importance in this league and I can trade Darvish for Cain and Cobb. Would you pull the trigger on that? Thanks man!

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
      (link)

      @Anthony: Love Yu, but I would go for that trade if depth is an important aspect. I like Cobb and would roll the dice that Cain is able this season.

    • Turd Ferguson says:
      (link)

      @Anthony: @Anthony:
      What’s his next best SP ahead of Cain? Counter with that, settle for Cain.

      How deep is it? Are Erasmo, Delgado, Bradley long gone?

  7. mauledbypandas says:
    (link)

    I absolutely love these articles. Thank you!

    (also I think it’s spelled McGwire or something like that)

    • Wallpaper Paterson says:
      (link)

      @mauledbypandas: It is spelled McGwire.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
      (link)

      @mauledbypandas: My pleasure, Panda!

  8. Big Money Matt says:
    (link)

    Just did a 16 team dynasty auction ($300) h2h with OPS instead of avg and QS instead of wins. Each team has 30 roster spots.

    C-Ramos $4
    1B-Votto $34
    2B-H Kendrick $6
    SS-Andrus $16
    3B- Cabrera $52
    OF- A Jones $36
    OF- Bruce $26
    OF-Rios $23
    UT- M Adams $8
    UT- Moustakas $1
    B- Yellich $5
    B- R Davis $1
    B- K Wang $1
    B- Bourjos $1
    B- A Escobar $2
    B- C Asche $1

    SP- Sale $26
    SP- Teheran $14
    SP- Wacha $16
    SP- Samardzija $9
    SP- Kluber $5
    RP- Rodney $5
    RP- JJ Hoover $1
    P- Melanconan $1
    P- S Santos $1
    P- Tazawa $1
    B- Josh Johnson $1
    B- Smyly $1
    B- Eovaldi $1
    B- R Delgado $1

    Any thoughts on how I could improve this team? Thanks.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
      (link)

      @Big Money Matt: I would check Rudy or Grey for advice on this one. I am more of a baseball historian then a fantasy expert.

  9. AL KOHOLIC says:
    (link)

    Great story Paulie,the corked bat era is one id be interested in adding to this serries,Nettles and Bell were 2 i remember best,i wander how many really did cheat using corked bats,thanks for your5 hard work and effort,all of you here at razzball are the best

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
      (link)

      @AL KOHOLIC: Kelly, a scientific study was done on corked bats, and it was found that they do not increase power.

  10. Lord Baldrick says:
    (link)

    Paulie, rate my team!:

    C – Gowdy
    1B – Schmidt
    2B – Evers
    3B – Deal
    SS – Maranville
    OF – Mann, Gilbert, Connally, Moran
    UT – Whitted, Devore, Cather, Murray
    SP – Rudolph, James, Tyler, Hess
    RP – Crutcher, Strand, Davis

    Everyone says I’ll be buried in last by the Fourth of July, but I believe in miracles….

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
      (link)

      @Lord Baldrick: Wow, great list, I would even have to look up a number of those guys, as at least half are unrecognizable to me. As for Maranville, check out the archives; I wrote an article on the Rabbit, which featured him and Jim Thorpe playing Tarzan, swinging in trees and howling in the middle of the night. Needless to say , both of them were quite intoxicated at the time.

      • Lord Baldrick says:
        (link)

        @Paulie Allnuts: Looking forward to the Miracle Braves getting some attention for their centennial – what a fantastic story. Also wanted to mention Frank Shellenback – maybe the best of all MiLB pitchers using a legal spitter.

        • Paulie Allnuts

          Paulie Allnuts says:
          (link)

          @Lord Baldrick: Thanks for the reminder, Lord Baldrick – never wrote an article about the Miracle Braves, now would be a great time to do some research.

  11. OGRE says:
    (link)

    Anyone up for an RCL draft today?! We had an owner drop out suddenly. Draft is at 7:45 EST tonight. Thanks!

  12. de nachos says:
    (link)

    Love these articles. and your passion for the lore of the game is palpable. You are so right when you say something separates baseball from other sports. Jimmy Rollins once said that baseball is the one game that is best passed down from father to son in order to understand the subtleties and beauty of it. You are weaving a wonderful tapestry of the history of the game. Thank you.

    • Big Al says:
      (link)

      @de nachos: @Paulie Allnuts: Another good idea for a story Paulie. I love great nicknames. One of my favorite’s is actually a hockey player. Pat Verbeek. His nick name was ” The little ball of Hate ” They’d send him out on the ice and he would hit anything that moved including teammates if they weren’t giving a 100 %.

      • Paulie Allnuts

        Paulie Allnuts says:
        (link)

        @Big Al: I remember Pat Verbeek! Yes, an article on nicknames needs to go in the hopper as well, Big Al. So many ideas, so little time…

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
      (link)

      @de nachos: Thank you so much, de nachos; I don’t ever think I have ever received a better compliment.

  13. Big Al says:
    (link)

    Sorry about the nickname comment de nachos. Mean’t to say that when I was in high school I was a pretty good player and was getting scouted and one of my friends asked me how much would I sign for. Without even thinking I said 3 square meals and a place to sleep. I don’t need money I’d play for the glory of the game. That was back in the 60’s. From there on back, most of these guys played for exactly that. The glory of the game and of course to impress women too. Being a jock had it’s perks. But I agree with you 100% baseballs history is mystical and is passed down in a unique way that is shared from generation to generation.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
      (link)

      @Big Al: Amen to that

Comments are closed.