Dating baseball terms
While both Hildebrand and Corridon used it in the majors, Jack Chesbro and Ed Walsh were the first star pitchers who depended heavily on the spitball, first learning about it by watching Stricklett.
The tremendous success of Chesbro and Walsh- the only American League pitchers ever to win 40 games in a season- led other pitchers to take up the pitch, and it quickly became common.
The situation became worse when Russ Ford discovered that he could create a devastating pitch by scuffing the ball with emery paper, and other pitchers quickly followed suit.
The questionable spitball had opened the door for the clearly illegal emery ball and similar pitches.
Whichever approach a pitcher took in throwing the spitter, deception was a key part of his arsenal.
With most pitches, the pitcher can select his pitch just by changing his grip on the ball.
The spitball has often been credited to Elmer Stricklett.
Stricklett did not invent the spitter- he learned it from minor league teammate George Hildebrand, who had learned it from his minor league teammate Frank Corridon - but he had a key role in introducing it to the majors.
Some pitchers described a pitch in which saliva was placed on one side of the ball, which was then thrown conventionally.With the spitter, though, he must actually get spit onto his hand or the ball.Even pitchers who were legitimately allowed to throw the spitter needed a way of disguising their intent so that hitters never knew if they were getting the spitball or another pitch.Many pitchers since have been accused of throwing spitballs illegally, and a few were either caught or admitted to doing so after retiring.
It is unclear when pitchers first began experimenting with the spitball, but there is no evidence that any pitcher made it an important part of his pitching arsenal before 1902.Frank Shellenback was probably the most notable "grandfathered" minor league pitcher.