Spitball Pitch

What is the definition of Spitball Pitch in Baseball?

The spitball pitch has a storied history in the world of baseball. A once legal and widely used technique, the spitball has since been banned due to its unpredictable nature. This baseball pitch involves the application of a foreign substance, such as saliva, petroleum jelly, or mud, to alter the ball’s wind resistance and weight balance. The resulting pitch behaves unlike any other, presenting challenges for both hitters and fielders.

In baseball, the pitcher’s role is crucial, as they are responsible for throwing the ball in a way that makes it difficult for the batter to hit. This often involves throwing balls with varying speeds, spins, or trajectories. The spitball pitch adds a whole new level of complexity by causing the ball to move unpredictably, making it extremely difficult for the batter to anticipate its movement. Though it may seem like a powerful tool in a pitcher’s arsenal, the spitball pitch has been deemed illegal due to concerns about its potential impact on the integrity of the game.

Key Takeaways

Understanding Baseball

Basic Rules

Baseball is a sport played between two teams, each consisting of nine players, who take turns batting and fielding. The objective of the game is to score more runs than the opposing team by hitting a thrown ball and running around a series of four bases. Once a batter hits and reaches all four bases, a run is scored.

Each baseball game is divided into nine innings, and a half-inning occurs when either three outs are recorded against the batting team or runners on base score by touching home plate. The team with the most runs at the end of nine innings is declared the winner.

Essential Terms

  • Batter: The offensive player attempting to hit a pitched ball.
  • Pitcher: The defensive player who throws the ball to the batter, intending to get the batter out.
  • Strike: A pitched ball thrown by the pitcher, which is considered acceptable by the umpire and either missed by the batter or caught within the strike zone.
  • Ball: A pitched ball thrown by the pitcher that does not enter the strike zone and is not swung at by the batter.
  • Out: Occurs when a batter or base runner is removed from the field, typically due to being struck out, caught, or tagged by a fielder.
  • Hit: When a batter successfully strikes the ball into fair territory and reaches at least first base.

One of the many pitches in baseball is the spitball pitch. It is an illegal pitch involving the application of a foreign substance such as saliva or petroleum jelly to alter the ball’s wind resistance and weight balance. The altered properties cause it to move in an atypical manner, making it difficult for batters to hit.

What is a Spitball Pitch

A spitball pitch in baseball refers to the use of a foreign substance, such as saliva, petroleum jelly, or mud, on a baseball to alter its aerodynamic properties and overall weight balance. This technique makes the ball’s trajectory unpredictable due to the change in wind resistance on one side of the ball, presenting an additional challenge for batters trying to make solid contact.

The process of applying a foreign substance to the ball in order to change its behavior is what makes the spitball illegal in professional baseball. This form of cheating tainted the reputation of the game, giving pitchers who utilized it an unfair advantage over hitters. As a result, Major League Baseball banned the spitball pitch in 1920. However, pitchers who were known for their spitball techniques before the ban were still allowed to use it for the remainder of their careers.

The rationale behind the spitball’s prohibition is to maintain the integrity of the sport and ensure a level playing field for all players. Spitball pitchers would often be quite deceptive in their approach, hiding the foreign substance on their person or equipment and applying it to the ball when the umpire was not closely monitoring them.

Despite its controversial nature and subsequent ban, the spitball pitch remains a fascinating aspect of baseball history. Its legendary status often sparks discussions about the lengths players have gone to gain an edge in competition, serving as a reminder of the importance of fair play and honesty in sports.

History of Spitball Pitch


The spitball pitch in baseball has a long and storied history. It is an illegal pitch, where the ball is altered by the application of a foreign substance like saliva, petroleum jelly, or mud. This technique changes the wind resistance and weight balance on one side of the ball, causing it to move in an atypical and unpredictable manner. The origins of the spitball pitch can be traced back to the early days of baseball, with pitchers seeking an advantage over batters by using trick pitches.

Key Players

There have been many notable spitball pitchers in baseball history, some of whom achieved great success while using the banned pitch. However, over time, the spitball pitch has come under increased scrutiny and has been officially banned from the sport. This ban has made it even more challenging for players to employ the technique without facing penalties and repercussions.

How to Perform a Spitball Pitch

The spitball pitch, although considered illegal in professional baseball, has been utilized by some pitchers to gain an advantage on the mound. It involves the application of a foreign substance, such as saliva or petroleum jelly, to the ball, altering its wind resistance and weight balance. This change in the ball’s properties results in an unexpected and atypical movement, making it difficult for hitters to make solid contact.

To perform a spitball pitch, a pitcher would first discreetly apply the chosen foreign substance to the ball either in their glove, behind their back, or in some other concealed manner. This will allow them to avoid detection by umpires and opposing players. Once the substance is applied, the pitcher would grip the ball with their dominant hand, using the same grip as a standard fastball. This grip ensures a proper mixture of the substance on the surface of the ball while still maintaining control during the pitch.

As the pitcher executes their windup and delivery, they would release the spitball with a similar motion to their traditional fastball. The difference comes when the foreign substance affects the ball’s flight path, creating a unique and unpredictable movement. This makes it harder for hitters to predict the ball’s trajectory and ultimately leads to missed swings and poor contact.

It is crucial for pitchers attempting a spitball pitch to be cautious regarding the legalities of their actions, as repercussions for being caught using a foreign substance on the ball can be severe, including fines, suspensions, and ejections from the game. Despite its potential benefits, pitchers should carefully weigh the pros and cons of employing a spitball pitch and always strive to adhere to the rules of baseball.

Rules Regarding Spitball Pitch

A spitball pitch in baseball is considered illegal due to the application of a foreign substance such as saliva or petroleum jelly to the ball. This alters the wind resistance and weight on one side of the ball, causing it to move in an atypical manner. The presence of a foreign substance can also lead to the ball slipping out of the pitcher’s fingers without the usual spin that accompanies a pitch.


There are consequences for pitchers who choose to throw a spitball pitch, as it is against the rules. When a pitcher is caught using this illegal pitch, umpires may issue cautions or even eject the player from the game. These penalties serve to ensure fair play and maintain the integrity of the sport. Overall, it is vital for baseball players to adhere to the rules and avoid using a spitball pitch in games.

Impact of the Spitball Pitch

The spitball pitch in baseball is an illegal throw in which the pitcher alters the ball using a foreign substance like saliva or petroleum jelly. This modification affects the wind resistance and weight balance on one side of the ball, leading to an unpredictable movement. The substance can also cause the ball to slip out of the pitcher’s fingers without the usual spin that accompanies a pitch.

The reason for its illegality lies in its ability to give an unfair advantage to the pitcher. By manipulating the aerodynamic properties of the ball, the spitball pitch has a higher degree of unpredictability for the hitter. This makes it incredibly difficult for batters to anticipate the trajectory of the pitch and make contact with the ball.

The spitball pitch also has historical significance as it marked the end of the deadball era in baseball. Major League Baseball (MLB) outlawed the spitball in 1920, primarily due to its impact on the game’s integrity. Nonetheless, 17 pitchers who had been known to throw spitballs were allowed to continue using the pitch. In 1934, Burleigh Grimes threw the last legal spitball in the MLB.

The ban on the spitball pitch aimed to improve safety and fairness in baseball. An unforeseen consequence was a shift in the balance of power from pitchers to hitters. As pitchers could no longer deceive batters with the unpredictable movement of spitballs, the sport saw an increase in home runs and overall offensive production. This shift eventually resulted in the lively ball era that modern baseball fans are familiar with today.

In summary, the spitball pitch, once a popular and effective technique in baseball, has been illegal since 1920 due to concerns about fairness and safety. Its ban brought an end to the deadball era and contributed to the evolution of the game to its current state.

Famous Spitball Pitchers

Some notable pitchers have become famous for their mastery of the spitball pitch. Jack Chesbro and Ed Walsh are two such pitchers. Chesbro, a right-handed pitcher, played in the major leagues from 1899 to 1909, primarily for the New York Highlanders. He is known for setting a modern-era record for most wins in a single season, with 41 wins in 1904. Meanwhile, Walsh, a Hall of Famer, had a career that spanned from 1904 to 1917, mainly with the Chicago White Sox. He was known for his incredible control and movement on his spitball pitches, leading the league in strikeouts four times and boasting a career ERA of 1.82.

Another prominent pitcher sometimes associated with the spitball is Gaylord Perry. Perry’s career lasted over two decades, from 1962 to 1983, during which he played for several teams, including the San Francisco Giants and Cleveland Indians. His use of the spitball pitch was often surrounded by controversy and suspicion, as the pitch had already been outlawed by the MLB by the time Perry began his career. Despite this, he managed to win over 300 games and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Interestingly, the spitball was legally allowed for a select group of pitchers even after it had been officially banned by the MLB in 1920. A “grandfather clause” permitted 17 pitchers to continue using the pitch, and Burleigh Grimes was the last of them. Grimes’s career spanned from 1916 to 1934, and he is best remembered for his time with the Brooklyn Robins and the St. Louis Cardinals. Thanks to the grandfather clause, he was able to legally use the spitball until his retirement in 1934, marking the end of an era for this controversial pitch.

In conclusion, the spitball pitch has a storied history in baseball, with pitchers like Jack Chesbro, Ed Walsh, Gaylord Perry, and Burleigh Grimes achieving great success while employing this unique and now-outlawed technique. Although it is no longer legal in professional baseball, the spitball remains an intriguing and integral part of the sport’s history.

Spitball Pitch in Modern Baseball

The spitball pitch is a term associated with the act of a pitcher applying a foreign substance, such as saliva or petroleum jelly, to a baseball before pitching it. This technique changes the ball’s wind resistance and weight balance, giving it an atypical movement that can be hard for batters to hit. However, the spitball pitch is considered illegal in modern baseball due to the unfair advantage it gives pitchers over batters.

In the past, spitball pitches were more common, being used to create unpredictable pitch movements similar to those of a knuckleball or screwball. The application of a foreign substance to the ball changes its aerodynamic properties and, in some cases, reduces friction between the pitcher’s fingers and the ball, making it harder to predict the movement of the pitch after it has been thrown.

Major League Baseball (MLB) rules are clear regarding spitballs. According to the rule book, any violation related to the use of foreign substances on a ball should result in the umpire calling the pitch a ball, warning the pitcher, and announcing the reason for the infraction over the public address system.

Despite being officially outlawed, there have been instances of pitchers in the modern era attempting to use spitball pitches. But with increased scrutiny and technological advancements that make it easier to detect rule violations, such instances are becoming rarer. Pitchers caught using spitballs may face penalties, including fines and suspensions.

It is important to note that while the spitball pitch is illegal, there are still many legal pitches with unpredictable movements that contribute to the excitement and strategy of the game. These include the knuckleball, slider, and curveball, which continue to challenge batters and generate intrigue among baseball enthusiasts.