THE "SPIT" BALL
Difference Of Opinion As To Its 1907 Use
Veteran Pitchers Fighting Shy of It Owing to Its Destructiveness
The American League Monopolizing This Kind of Pitchers
By Cy Sanborn
Sporting Life, April 20, 1907
Chicago, Ill., April 15 - Editor "Sporting Life" - Does the "spit" ball injure a pitcher's arm, and will it continue to thrive in the American League? There are some who insist that the "spitter" has seen its day, and that the pitchers will quit using it until it passes out of the game. There are others who insist that the "spitter" is but in its infancy, and that all kinds of new-fangled curves will result from experiments with the saliva. That the spit ball is hard on the arm there is hardly a question. If the "spit" ball didn't injure Jack Chesbro's arm, why is he going into retirement? He says that he believes a year's rest will bring him back as good as ever. Chesbro is a big, strong, healthy-looking 200-pound athlete, and if his arm is good he would hardly pass up a $5,000 contract. If his arm is bad, then the "spit" ball put it on the bum. Bill Dineen once used the "spit" ball with success. Now Dineen is one of the strongest opponents of the "spitter." Dineen says himself that it has taken him two years to recover from injuries his arm was subjected to by the use of the "spit" ball.
No big fellow who is right, ever needs to use the "spit" ball to be successful, is the way Dineen looks at it. "Cy" Young and a lot of other veterans, after having used the "spit" ball for a short time, passed it up, and all of them now depend on their curves and speed to win games. That the "spit" ball has been the cause of a number of pitchers to jump into the limelight is well known. Ed Walsh of the White Sox, the sensation of last year, used the "spit" ball almost entirely. Until last season, Walsh was regarded as only a fair pitcher. He is a big, husky fellow, and to date the "spitter" hasn't affected his arm to any great extent, although he was compelled to take a couple of weeks rest near the close of last season. The other day he struck out 11 in seven innings in a game at Indianapolis, which makes him look pretty good. It's a peculiar feature, but few left-handers use the "spit" ball. The expectorator seems to be the big stock-in-trade with the right-handers, but the southpaws are content to use the old-time curve to get them through. Control is usually the southpaw's trouble. The "spitter" is an unusually hard ball to control, and perhaps this explains why few of the left-handers have taken up the "spitter."
AMERICAN LEAGUE "SPIT" PITCHERS
There are at present quite a bunch of "spit" ball artists in the American League, several of prominence entering this year. The leading ones are Jimmy Dygert, of the Athletics; Liebhardt, Berger and Rhoads, of Cleveland; Walsh, Smith and Fiene, of Chicago; Eubank and Willett, of Detroit; Chesbro, Orth and Hogg, of New York; Winter and Glaze, of Boston; Hughes, of Washington; and Howell and Compton, of St. Louis. This list includes some of the best pitchers in the league and a few of the newcomers. Some depend entirely on the "spit" ball for success, while others only use it now and then when they get into a pinch. Tom Hughes, for instance, has a good "spitter," but he rarely uses it. Al Orth is perhaps one of the few pitchers that the "spit" ball doesn't hurt. Orth has a moderate amount of speed and delivers the ball in such a manner that it strains his arm but little. He also varies his assortment and uses the "spitter" whenever he is in the hole. Orth was at one time known as the "curveless wonder," but since the "spit" ball came into use, he seems to have developed not only a good "spit" ball, but a very fair curve ball to boot. Orth was a tower of strength to Griffith last season and the New York manager will have much dependence on the veteran again, since Chesbro is out of the running. Harry Howell, of the St. Louis Browns, is another pitcher who insists that the "spit" ball has no effect whatever on his arm. Howell, has an excellent curve ball and good speed, and was regarded as a classy pitcher before the "spitter" was heard of. Howell is a great student of the game, and he has developed the "wet" ball to a high degree. Howell simply loves to throw the "spitter" and tries his hardest to retire every batter on strikes. When pitching, Howell always has a mouth full of slippery elm and he simply covers the ball with saliva. When Howell is pitching, the infielders always complain about handling the ball. Bobby Wallace, one of the most accurate throwers in the business, made a large majority of his errors last season with Howell working. The ball, when received by the infielder, is in such slippery condition that to throw it is quite a feat.
SOME NEW COMERS
Of the two new Cleveland "spitters" but little is known except that both set their respective leagues afire last season. Leibhardt in the Southern League, was the king bee. He was simply a terror for work and pitched five double-headers during the season and won nine of the ten games. He worked in two big league games last year, one against Detroit and the other against the St. Louis Browns, and did great work in both, recording two victories. The umpires who worked behind him spoke in the highest terms of his ability and made much comment on his "spitter." Berger, with Columbus last year, simply set the American Association batters on end. His "spit" ball was the most dreaded ball in the league, and his strike out record was very much "Rube" Waddell. Eubank, with Detroit, last year, bids fair to be a star this season, and if he does it will be because of THE "SPIT" BALL He was only a fair pitcher until Bill Armour got him to using the "spitter," and toward the close of last season he was one of the hardest in the league to beat. Big Jack Coombs, who worked in the memorable 24-inning game in Boston, is one of the youngsters who simply spurns the "spitter." Connie Mack discovered Coombs pitching for a college team down at Colby, Me. Mack figured that if Coombs had a "spitter" he would be the sensation of the league, and when he was advised to experiment he informed Connie that any time he had to use the "spit" ball he would return to Colby and go back on the farm. He is still a member of the Athletics, and is expected to prove a star this season.
SCARE IN THE NATIONAL
The National League has few "spitters" unless some of the youngsters brought in this year belong to this class. About the only real spit ball artists in the National of the old crop are Frank Corridon of the Phillies, and John Ewing, of the Cincinnatis.