Monday, July 11, 2005
THAT WAS THEN AND THIS IS NOW
Major League Baseball has been doing the hokey pokey with pitchers and their sleight of hand for more than 100 years. The latest to be caught red-handed was Brendan Donnelly, the Angel reliever who was thrown out of a game for having pine tar on his glove. The Angels are asking whether or not pine tar should be illegal for pitchers. That invokes years of tradition. In yesteryears the spitball was a legal pitch through the 1919 season. Teams facing known spitball pitchers sometimes would apply manure to the ball to keep them from licking it. The last legal spitball pitcher was Burleigh Grimes of the Brooklyn Dodgers who retired after the 1934 season, but the spitball has never really gone away. Pine tar, or mud, or scuff marks or anything that alters the smooth surface of the ball, including the stitches, reduces drag the way dimples reduce drag on a golf ball.