As a fan who has watched and followed big league baseball for almost 60 years, I am amazed at the general ignorance of everyone concerned on the subject of the spitball. There seems to be a belief that all that is necessary to the throwing of the spitter, and making a baseball do a dipsy doodle, is to get a little saliva, perspiration or other kind of moisture on the tips of the fingers and, presto! The Spitter Is Back (June 3).
I can understand that a modern fan, unfamiliar with the techniques of the ancient spitter, might jump to such a conclusion, but for the pros to be so gullible is truly astonishing. Note that one doesn't hear the few remaining oldtimers like Casey Stengel or Chuck Dressen making such claims. They batted against the real spitter and they know better.
Let us get a few things straight:
1) Saliva was not the agent that made the ball dive. The substance that made the spitter possible was slippery elm, while the saliva provided transportation from the mouth to the ball. When chewed, slippery elm stimulated the salivary glands and produced generous amounts of saliva spiced with the slippery stuff. While the pitcher always put the ball and glove to his mouth to keep the batter guessing, when he was actually throwing the spitter he smeared it with huge gobs of the juicy elm. Every time the spitter went through to him, the catcher's hands were a mass of spit and slippery elm, so that both he and the infielders always took the precaution of holding a fistful of dirt.
July 14, 1963
2) The spitter was so difficult to throw that it almost defied control. For this reason the number of pitchers who used it was almost always less than one in 10—and those who did use it had to have a good pitch, generally a fast ball, to go with it, because of the problem of getting the spitter in the strike zone. When Burleigh Grimes pitched the second game in the 1920 World Series, a sharp-eyed Cleveland coach noted that while the Dodger second baseman, Pete Kilduff, picked up a handful of dirt before each pitch, sometimes he held it and sometimes he discarded it before Grimes pitched. He deduced correctly that Kilduff only held onto the dirt when Grimes was throwing the spitter. That finished Burleigh for the Series and also the Dodgers. Grimes was promptly knocked out of the box on each successive start.
Of course it is possible that some pitchers might conceal some foreign substance in their gloves or on their persons and get away with it. But it would have to be something that would defy detection by the umpire, who is frequently asked to examine the ball. Any pitcher doctoring the ball with saliva or a foreign substance faces severe penalties.
Have you ever heard of an umpire making any such accusation? The defense rests.
Staten Island, N.Y.
HOMES OF THE BRAVES
Since the Dodgers left New York, I have been a fan of the Milwaukee Braves. But I had never thought very much of the effect of their trades on other teams until I read your remarks about ex-Braves in BASEBALL'S WEEK (July 1). I have since delved through the major league rosters and arrived at a full 25-man team of men who were once owned by the Braves. I believe that they would give the present Braves a tough time, despite Henry Aaron, the greatest ballplayer in the major leagues today. Here they are:
Pitchers (starting): Bob Buhl (Cubs), Joey Jay (Reds), Lou Burdette (Cards), Carl Willey (Mets) and Juan Pizarro (White Sox); (relief): Don McMahon and Don Nottebart (Colts), Ken MacKenzie (Mets), Gene Conley (Red Sox), Terry Fox (Tigers), Chet Nichols (Red Sox).
Catchers: Dick Brown (Orioles), Joe Azcue (Indians).
First Base: Joe Adcock (Indians).
Second Base: Ron Hunt (Mets), Chuck Cottier (Senators).
Shortstops: Andre Rodgers (Cubs), Johnny Logan (Pirates).
Third Base: Felix Mantilla (Red Sox), Ed Charles (Athletics).
Outfielders: Al Spangler (Colts), Frank Thomas (Mets), Wes Covington (Phillies), Bill Bruton (Tigers), Manny Jimenez (Athletics).
Mount Vernon, N.Y.
What Gordon Callow says in rebuttal (19TH HOLE, July 1) to my letter (19TH HOLE, June 17) is true. College eights did win at the Olympics between 1920 and 1956. Yet he fails to state who won the six other rowing events at each of the Games.
In 1956, when Yale won the Olympic eights, it was only after competing in the repechage heats, and in 1960 the "lot of foreign crews" that beat Navy were all club crews, except for the University of British Columbia crew from Canada, which is not foreign to American rowing.
The difference between rowing three miles at 30 strokes a minute and rowing 2,000 meters at 38 to 40 is about the same as the difference between a 440-yard dash and a mile run. The shorter distance, in track as well as rowing, is as tiring as the longer distance—if not more so. But, still, which of your college eights will equal the record of Standbury in a single when he rowed the first mile of the four-and-a-quarter-mile race in 4:28? Does your Cornell eight today contain anyone like Beach or Gaudaur, who were world champions at 40 years of age? I must admit that these men were exceptionally good, but I use them only to show the dedication of club oarsmen who do not have million-dollar endowments but pay their own expenses, provide their own transportation and very often carry their shells on top of their cars to transport them to regattas.
In 1960 it was Navy that represented us in Rome. Last year against the Russians it was Cornell, yet it was the Vesper Boat Club that pushed them home. This year it was the Ratzeburg Rowing Club that led the American college crews in all races, even those greater than 2,000 meters. This year, if it is a college crew that represents us at the German-U.S.-Japanese regatta in Tokyo this fall, Ratzeburg will be sure of at least a second place. And I dare say that of the 26 oarsmen in Tokyo next year not one of them will be out to "earn a letter."
JON S. BUTLER
I have read some prejudiced articles in my day, but William Leggett's Bill Dailey, Wont You Please Come In (July 1) was the worst I ever saw. He says the Yankees are babies and complain and make excuses for every game they lose. Comparing the way he describes the Yankees' problems and then the problems of the Twins is revolting. He brushes aside Mickey Mantle's injury as a yearly thing that shouldn't even faze the Yankees, and asks if everyone should cry because Roger Maris hurt his back and then his big toe (which made it hard for him to walk). But with the Twins it is a different story. "Harmon Killebrew, the league's top home run hitter of 1962, missed a month of the season" is the way his loss is described. I don't recall anything about Mickey Mantle being the Most Valuable Player of 1962—or doesn't that count? Richie Rollins played with a broken jaw. So what, he still hit around .330, didn't he? The Yankees lost Luis Arroyo, and Mr. Leggett asks if the loss of Jim Roland (who?), a rookie pitcher with a record of 4-1 who is out for three weeks, isn't far more serious.
Mr. Leggett's article is a farce.
Who is this guy anyway? Public relations manager of the Twins or president of the "I Hate the Yankees Club"?
ALAN R. PLOTZ
Hooray for William Leggett!
It's about time someone realized that the Yankees aren't the most seriously injured team in the AL.
I have a problem. In viewing high-speed photography and movies of a bat hitting a baseball or of a golf club hitting a golf ball, I have noticed that almost immediately after the bat or the club first meets the ball, the ball is no longer in contact with either. This being so, why all of the emphasis on the so-called follow-through in batting or the golf swing? Perhaps SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has the answer.
ROBERT E. FITZGERALD, M.D.
•The value of the follow-through in a baseball or golf swing (or tennis or any swing, for that matter) lies not so much in what it does after the ball has left the bat or club, as in what it does to condition the swing itself before and during the period of impact. According to Paul C. Simms, assistant professor of physics at Columbia University, "The importance of following through can be seen in the simple momentum-impulse law of physics: MV=FT. In order to give a ball of mass (M) a velocity (V), a force (F) must be applied for a period of time (T). Since the force that an individual can exert is limited, the velocity that the ball obtains will be large only when the bat and the ball remain in contact for the longest possible period of time." Even after the bat and ball are no longer in contact, the follow-through, according to Simms, remains important because it precludes any sudden change by the batter's muscles that would interfere with the application of the force during the period of impact.
"Imagine," says the professor, "the consequences both to the bat and the batter's arm if, in the middle of a powerful swing, the bat should be stopped by striking a steel post. It is easy to see that it is more difficult not to follow through." A proper follow-through, in other words, maintains a smooth application of force for a longer period of time and, at the same time, it reduces the momentum of the bat in a safe manner.—ED.