Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

Column: Rightfully spitting in the face of tradition

There is nothing like watching an MLB game and seeing the camera pan to the dugout
where your favorite players are spitting dark chewing tobacco from their mouths.

If that doesn’t get the kids excited, I’m not sure what else will.

With USA Today’s front page article this week, it is clear the habit doesn’t get MLB Commissioner Bud Selig too excited. He has taken up the battle to ban smokeless tobacco in clubhouses and dugouts for major league teams.

The prevalent habit, which has a long-stemmed tradition in baseball, is already banned
by the NCAA and minor leagues. Selig is trying to take the final step and cut it completely for the majors.

As you’re probably thinking, this isn’t going well with all players, nor with their
union representatives. They see it as a choice each player can make himself, not something that should be regulated.

Cutting the chewing tobacco from baseball would be breaking from tradition.
Th e term bullpen originated because of Bull Durham tobacco, which was first produced in 1860.

Once gloves were introduced, players would spit into their mitts with chewing tobacco
to make the leather soft.

Chewing tobacco is still found in players’ shelves and on dugout floors.
Dipping may be a part of baseball culture, but that doesn’t make it right. Th ere is
no other sport where partaking in something that causes cancer and playing on the field happen at the same time.

The health risks and the poor image it displays play into Selig’s desire to cut it from
baseball completely.

“Number one, watching guys spit in the dugout is not exactly a great thing to watch,”
Selig said. “But, more importantly, if you knew the health consequences, they’re huge.”

Even if we put those silly “health consequences” to the side, Selig has a lot of other
reasons to eradicate the habit from the sport, image being one.

Whether you like it or not, our athletes are role models to tens of thousands of kids
throughout the country.

What does it say to them when they see their favorite catcher lift up his facemask
and spit chewing tobacco in between batters?

It sets a bad example, plain and simple. The players have a right to do whatever they want outside of the game, but for those three hours they are on TV and in the spotlight, they shouldn’t be promoting that.

Some say it is more acceptable because baseball is a slow-moving sport. It’s a game
that has been around for a long time.

I don’t see golfers spitting chewing tobacco out their mouths on the 18th green at

To the tradition argument, people used to be able to smoke wherever they wanted
to. It’s time for a change, and Selig has every right to make it.

It is never simple to make a drastic change that departs from the tradition of a sport. It
is also never simple to change when politicians get involved.

The  next steps in this process will not be quick or easy, but at least Selig is willing to
give it a shot.

Caitlin Ursini is a senior in journalism

Get stories like this in your inbox