This week will probably be quite pivotal in determining if and when we have a 2020 Major League Baseball season. Players and owners will discuss various things, some financial and some safety related.
One of the initial restrictions in MLB’s first draft proposal of safety protocols is disallowing spitting. We should have seen this coming, because one of the on-field rule changes this year is a three-batter minimum for relief pitchers. MLB has been trying to eliminate the LOOGY for a while.
It’s unknown whether that will make it into the final set of revised rules for this year, but just in case it’s no longer allowed, let’s appreciate some literal spitting images from Dodgers history.
In a pinch
Jim Thome was acquired by the Dodgers in 2009, for a very specific role. He just turned 39 and was mostly a designated hitter at this point in his Hall of Fame career, but a balky back meant he couldn’t really play first base with Los Angeles. But he did pinch hit, a lot. He appeared in 22 of 35 games with the Dodgers in September and October, going 5-for-20 with a walk and a hit by pitch. Sure he never had an extra-base hit with LA, but he left his mark with a textbook example of baseball spitting.
Sometimes the camera strikes at the exact right moment to create a fantastic photo. Like after Justin Turner hit a home run in Arizona in 2016, or Clayton Kershaw in the dugout in Miami in 2011.
Matt Kemp had a flare for the dramatic, and sometimes that involved the joyous relief of letting out a spit after hitting the ball, whether during the 2008 NLCS or after a walk-off double against the D-backs in 2018.
Field of play
You can find spitting all over the place in baseball, whether it’s on the field, as shown by Kemp during spring training 2018 and Adrian Gonzalez here, or ...
In the dugout
... if it’s in a more confined space, like Rich Hill during the 2019 NLDS and Yasiel Puig in Cincinnati in 2018 demonstrate here.
Within the rules
Spitballs were quite effective for pitchers in the early part of the 20th century, especially during the deadball era. The pitch was outlawed in 1920, though several players were grandfathered in, allowed to continue to use the pitch.
Two Dodgers — Clarence Mitchell and Burleigh Grimes — were permitted to keep spitballing, and Grimes (shown above) pitched in the majors until 1934, all the way to the Hall of Fame.
It’s hard to imagine baseball without spitting, but if it’s gone, at least we have these memories.