I know baseball.
I’m not a rabid fan, but I’m a good one. Most nights, with nothing else to do, I’ll watch the Royals, or listen to them on the radio while I’m working on a project. I pay attention to the Red Sox, mostly because I have family in the Boston area. I like baseball on the radio; that’s the way I learned it. I’m old enough to remember when that was the only way to catch the game and, even today, there’s something comforting about listening to the game rather than seeing it on the screen.
I’ve been a baseball fan since my father took my brother and me to Municipal Stadium in Kansas City to watch the Athletics. He taught us how to use a scorecard to record every pitch, every swing, every error. Afterword, I could take you through the entire game, pitch by pitch. I found that amazing, though today, I’m not sure why anyone would want to hear it. My mother, God bless her, acted interested while she did laundry.
I’m not a baseball expert. If you ask me who holds the record for left-handed RBIs in a single season while maintaining the strikeout record at the same time, I’ll just look at you, because I don’t know. That’s not the way I know baseball. But I can tell you all about Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio and Mantle. I know the game and can play it. I just can’t play it well. My ears know the sound of a well-hit ball.
What I’m saying is that, within my home and without comparison to people who know all the statistics and details and asterisks in the world of baseball statistics, I consider myself to be conversant in the game. Within my home, I pretend to be a baseball expert.
But after all these years, I still have a question about the game, something I don’t think any expert will be able to answer: why is spitting is OK in baseball?
My mother taught me that spitting is not appropriate in public. When I asked why, she said it was a sign of poor breeding. I wanted to point out that I had nothing to do with the breeding, but it wouldn’t have come across as humorous. As a result of my mother’s perspective, if I see someone spitting in public today I form an opinion about their entire gene pool.
Baseball players, however, have some sort of special spitting dispensation. They love to spit and spit often. They spit in the dugout. They spit on the field. They emphatically spit between pitches, as they go through their individual pre-swing routines at the plate. And I guess everybody thinks it’s OK in baseball. Pitchers, however, are not allowed to spit on their hands or the ball. They’re allowed, to lick their fingers, however. The announcers never mention it. Maybe they’re spitting in the pressbox.
Why is this OK in baseball, but not other sports? Golf, for example. If Tiger Woods were positioning for his final putt on the eighteenth green and suddenly hocked a loogie over his shoulder, I bet the entire crowd would leave. If Maria Sharapova did that during a tennis match, they would hound her off the court. Football is a rough and physical sport, but I bet you could get fined for spitting. You sure don’t see it on the football field. Truth be told, I can’t think of another spitting sport. NASCAR maybe, but it would be so hard to tell.
I’m not saying we should outlaw spitting in baseball. I suppose it wouldn’t be baseball without it’s quirks and idiosyncrasies. It’s not an issue we need to resolve right away, what with the weather and politics. And I can’t be responsible for where my brain goes; it sometimes wanders in odd places. Maybe spitting is a good reason to watch baseball on the radio.