When The Spit Hits The Fan

Since a big part of this blog deals with spitting, I thought it would be a good idea to actually discuss spitting, more specifically spitting tobacco, and the role it has played in baseball.  Baseball players have used smokeless tobacco since the inception of the game.  A common reason given for its use is that it spurs saliva production and keeps your mouth from getting dry in the dusty parks.  In the 1870s and 1880s, players would spit into their fielding gloves to moisten the leather, and a pitcher would spit on the ball to change its aerodynamic properties or to reduce friction between his fingers and the ball (this was legal back then, but not any more).  During this time in history, chewing tobacco was popular in the general population as well.  But in the late 1800s, it was found that spitting contributed to the spread of tuberculosis.  Many cities passed anti-spitting laws.  There was a sudden decline in the use of chewing tobacco in the general population, but the decline in baseball lagged behind.  Many players switched to cigarettes thinking they were safer.  But many others would not give up their chaw, and were suspicious of smoking.  Some trainers blamed cigarettes for batting slumps and fatigue.  Michael “King” Kelly’s batting average decline from .308 to .189 in 1892 was blamed on his cigarette smoking at the time.

Eventually, there was a decline in tobacco chewing in baseball with a subsequent increase in cigarette smoking.  However, there was a resurgence of the practice in the late 1960s when the federal government began touting the dangers of cigarette smoking.  Players reverted back to the old, disgusting habit again, thinking that it was safer than cigarette smoking.  Smokeless tobacco makers jumped on this opportunity, placing free tins of dip – a more refined product that doesn’t require chewing – in major league, minor league, and college team clubhouses (those nasty buggers!).  A 1999 study found that 31% of the league’s rookies used smokeless tobacco.

Every time I watch a game, I am amazed at the number of players using dip (I’ll use the proper term now as I’ve learned that is what they are actually doing, not chewing).  And I am amazed that they continue in this day and age when they know the side effects (besides the fact that all the spitting is totally disgusting!).  Well, then again, maybe they don’t know that smokeless tobacco presents many health threats, including oral, pancreatic, and esophageal cancer as well as heart disease and gum disease.  For all those younger guys looking to impress the ladies, maybe they don’t know it gives you bad breath and yellowish-brown stains on your teeth.  Maybe they don’t know that Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn was diagnosed with cancer of the parotid salivary gland, which he suspects was caused by years of smokeless tobacco use.  Maybe they don’t know that Babe Ruth, who was fond of dipping and chewing tobacco, died at age 52 due to a tumor in the back of his throat (I didn’t know this).  Maybe they don’t know about Bill Tuttle, a former outfielder, who paid the price for his chewing habit with the loss of his jawbone, his right cheekbone, a lot of his teeth and gum line, and his taste buds (Tuttle spent the end of his life trying to steer young people, as well as grown athletes, away from smokeless tobacco).  Maybe they are just going along with the tradition, giving in to peer pressure, doing what they’ve done in baseball for over 100 years.  Maybe it’s time for a change.

I’ll give credit to Major League Baseball for implementing some change.  They did outlaw cigarette smoking while in uniform and in public view.  In 1988, many clubs banned free samples of dip from the clubhouse.  MLB officially established the National Spit Tobacco Education Program in 1994 to try and curb players’ use.  However, it hasn’t followed the lead of the Minor League, which banned chewing tobacco at games in 1993.  Again, baseball traditions die hard.  Some players argue that using smokeless tobacco is not illegal, and no one should control what they do.  Others argue that though it is legal, players are role models, and thus need to live up to a higher standard.  I personally agree with the latter – kids are extremely impressionable and do what they see the big guys do.  Take some responsibility.  Get some help to quit, and try chewing gum instead.  There are plenty of awesome baseball players who don’t dip.

I’d like to give major, super kudos to three guys from the Giants’ staff – Mike Murphy, Bill Hayes, and Bruce Bochy.  All three of these guys quit their several-decades-long dip habits through hypnotherapy recently.  You guys are awesome!  Thanks for setting a good example for the young guys on the team.  Hopefully others will follow in your footsteps.  Burrell, DeRosa, and Pablo – take note!

OK, on a lighter note, on to the spit counts!  I have the results from 2 games:

September 6th

Giants:

–         Stewart 27 (!!!)

–         Surkamp 7

–         Pill 6

–         Ross 5

–         Christian 5

–         Keppinger 4

–         Sandoval 3

–         Casilla 3

–         Beltran 2

–         Vogelsong 1

–         DeRosa 1

–         Cabrera 1

–         Edlefsen 1

–         Righetti 1

–         Lopez 1 😦

–         Unknown Relief Pitcher 1

–         Other Unknown Relief Pitcher 1

Padres:

–         Parrino 5

–         Hundley 4

–         Black 2

–         LeBlanc 1

–         Guzman 1

–         Darnell 1

–         Bass 1

–         Martinez 1

–         Bartlett 1

–         Hermida 1

–         Rizzo 1

Misc.:

–         Umpire 1

Game Spit Master General = Stewart at 27 (new record)

That’s a total of 90 spits during a 3 hour and 5 minute game for an average 1 spit almost every 2 minutes.

Stewart shattered the previous individual record of 19 by Soto of the Cubs and his own previous record of 17.  I’m really starting to think that the boy dips (what other explanation could there be??).  The new kids definitely have come up to the majors with their spitting habits established.  Christian spits into his batting gloves like Fontenot.  The sad face for Lopez is there because up until today, he was the only Giant not caught spitting.  He pitched to one batter this game, and I caught him spitting once while he was warming up.  So disappointed!  The cameras in the stands caught another disgusting act – a guy was reading the paper and picking his nose.  Why did the camera need to stay on the guy?  WHY?

September 7th

Giants:

–         Sandoval 9

–         Pill 7

–         Cain 5

–         Cabrera 3

–         Christian 2

–         Fontenot 2

–         Stewart 2

–         Affeldt 1

Padres:

–         Venable 5

–         Parrino 3

–         Bell 3

–         Harang 2

–         Hundley 2

–         Hermida 2

–         Hudson 1

–         Maybin 1

Misc.:

–         Umpire 1

Game Spit Master General = Sandoval at 9

That’s a total of 51 spits during a 2 hour and 30 minute game for an average of more than one spit every 3 minutes.

I have an additional score card symbol for you.  If you see a little dot on the scorecard during the Giants games, it stands for an RBI.  There were a lot of them on Carlos Beltran’s scorecard the other night, so I thought I would mention it (Go, Carlos!).

Congratulations to Brett Pill on getting a homerun in his first major league at-bat (along with 2 RBIs), and then getting another homerun in his next game.  Hopefully he can keep this up, cause we all know the Giants need more runs!  Carlos Beltran sure has been rockin’ lately.  That boy can hit!  When he is up at bat lately, I find myself breathing a huge sigh of relief.

I have a new, all-time favorite saying that I overheard Mike Krukow say the other night during a game.  When the Giants were leaving guys on base, he said they needed to “quit Jimmy-jacking around!”  You tell ‘em, Kruk!  Too funny!

Finally, I have a story to share that will keep me writing this blog for a while.  I always wonder if you guys are really reading this and getting anything out of it.  The other day, I was talking to my friend (who shall remain nameless so no one gets embarrassed), and she told me about something she learned from the blog.  She and her hubby were watching a Giants game, and she asked him why some of the Ks were backwards.  He said that he didn’t know.  A few days later, she read my blog that explained that this means a strikeout where the third strike was a called strike.  During the next game, she told her husband that she knew what the backwards K meant, and her husband asked how she knew that, and she said, “Mary (Carm) blogged about it!”  Love that!  I hope others are getting something out of this as well.

The boys start their series against the despised Dodgers tonight.  I am predicting a sweep (yes, I even think they can beat Kershaw tonight if they set their minds to it).  I’ll be at the game on Sunday with a bunch of my family and a dear friend, cheering them on in person.  Hope they do it!  Still love my boys!  GO GIANTS!!

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