Perry's case is
somewhat parallel. In 1965 he had an 8-12 record and an ERA of 4.18. Last year
Perry, who said that he had developed a slider, was 21-8 with a 2.99 ERA.
John Wyatt of the
Red Sox, Jack Hamilton of the Angels, Ron Kline and Dean Chance of the Twins
and Orlando Pena of the Tigers are reputed to have the finest spitballs in the
American League, although there are those who feel Wyatt should not be
classified as a spitballer because he uses Vaseline Hair Tonic. Another
American League pitcher switched from tobacco juice, which left telltale spots,
to Vitalis. Before loading up he runs his fingers through his hair or makes use
of a spot of Vitalis he keeps on the back of his glove.
pitcher has engendered more controversy about the spitter than Lou Burdette,
late of the California Angels. Burdette admittedly goes to his mouth before he
pitches, but he has always denied that he uses a spitball. However, Don Hoak,
now a Phillie coach, says, "Only once did I ever see water fly off a
spitball, and the man who threw me that pitch was Burdette." Another player
once stationed himself near the ball bag so he could write messages to Burdette
on the balls. The gist of these billets-doux was: "Spit here, Lou."
The Burdette case
came to a head in 1957 when Birdie Tebbetts, then managing the Reds, asked
National League President Warren Giles to determine whether Burdette was
violating Rule 8.02, which applies to spitters.
nothing in the rule," Giles said, "that I can interpret as prohibiting
a pitcher from moistening his fingers if he does not apply moisture to the
ball. I personally have watched Burdette and studied his actions and inquired
of all our umpires and others, and neither I nor they are of the opinion that
he has, up to now, violated the intent or language of Rule 8.02.
of 8.02 goes: 'The pitcher shall not l) apply a foreign substance of any kind
to the ball; 2) expectorate either on the ball or in his glove; 3) rub the ball
on his glove, person or clothing; 4) deface the ball in any manner; 5) deliver
what is called the "shine" ball, "spit" ball, "mud"
ball or "emery" ball.
violation of any part of this rule the umpire shall immediately disqualify the
pitcher, and the league president shall suspend the pitcher for a period of 10
hard to prove that anyone is throwing spitters," says Cal Hubbard,
supervisor of American League umpires. "I know one when I see it, and I saw
a good many when I was umpiring. The ball would take a funny break and really
down deep in your heart you knew it was a spitter, but it was too late to prove
it. It's the same today. The rule is clear, but it is unenforceable, because
how can you provethat a guy threw it? As far as I'm concerned, there aren't
any pitchers throwing spitballs, because it's against the rules."
pitchers are invariably too cute to be caught dousing the ball. For example,
Preacher Roe practiced his spitter for 10 years before using it in a game (SI,
July 4, 1955).
watching me close," Roe says, recalling his thoughts at the time, "so
I'll have to have a secret source of supply." He perfected a method of
wiping the sweat from his brow and at the same time spitting on the meaty part
of his hand. From there it was easy to bring his index and middle fingers into
contact with the "supply" and load up.