Pomrenke: Shellenback and the spitter

From SABR member Jacob Pomrenke at The National Pastime Museum on December 19, 2013:

As if they didn’t have enough on their minds, Chicago White Sox pitchers must have been dismayed to read this banner headline in the Chicago Daily Tribune a few weeks after the 1919 World Series ended:


White Sox owner Charles Comiskey wasn’t the only baseball official who wanted to abolish the spitball and other freak deliveries — the shine ball, emery ball and paraffin ball among them — that had come to dominate the game during the Deadball Era. The war on the spitball had been building for years. 

Influential publications such as The Sporting News and Baseball Magazine frequently called for their banishment, citing concerns about declining offense; the increase in time-consuming complaints from players asking umpires to check the ball and just plain unsanitary behavior. (During the influenza pandemic that swept the globe and killed more than 20 million people worldwide, a Chicago judge levied a $1 fine on anyone caught “expectorating in public.”) 

Ironically, Comiskey’s White Sox benefited most from the spitball and other questionably legal pitches. Chicago ace Ed Walsh, arguably the American League’s top pitcher from 1906 to 1912, “did more than anybody to popularize the spitball,” according to historians Rob Neyer and Bill James. Walsh led the White Sox to their first World Series championship in 1906 and won 40 games in 1908.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/shellenback-and-spitter

Originally published: December 19, 2013. Last Updated: December 19, 2013.