We must confess that the Major League Baseball’s “Lick and Wipe” rule has baffled us since it was imposed a few years ago (better known as Rule No. 8.02 to be specific). Being confounded about what we thought was just a “bad habit” and concerned that no one was carrying around bottles of Germ-X….we ventured on a quest for an answer.
Mike Pelfrey has a propensity for licking his hand more than any pitcher in baseball. During one game, it was noted he licked his hand a total of 89 times! Wonder what his mom thought about that.
Let us preface all this by saying that we’ve been avid baseball fans since the early 80’s, going back to the good old days of the Atlanta Braves when Bobby Cox was still around and Skip Caray actually narrated the games….nothing wrong with Fredi Gonzalez and Chip Caray mind you…fondly remembering how it used to be. Though a Braves fan through and through, we can’t help remembering Darryl Strawberry (played for both the New York Mets and New York Yankees), with his 6-foot-6 frame, his controversial behavior and one of the most awesome sluggers there ever was. Our curiosity about the rules and regulations abound.
Cyndi noted that in all the years that she sat on the bench watching her kids play T-Ball and Little League Ball, never once was there a discussion about a Lick and Wipe issue; nor a Spit Ball Issue. Perhaps the coaches talked about it with the little guys and discouraged it, but bleacher moms never heard tell of such a thing.
So, with all that in mind Cyndi decided to ask a few men friends their opinion on the rule.
Man #1: Stated “I dunno, guess it helps ’em throw the ball better”
Man #2: Stated “Oh, it’s a new thing, you gotta lick your fingers, to get a better grip on the ball, but you gotta wipe the spit on your shirt or the ump will call a balk on you”
Man #3: Stated “Yeah, they do it just to tick off the umpires”
With all that manly knowledge floating around, something still didn’t sit well within. Jack reached out to the Internet for some realistic information. Laughable now, but when he did a search on the “Lick and Wipe Rule” he instantly realized his mistake as he was bombarded with Internet porno sites advising who, what, when, where and how to lick and wipe…in great detail. Fearing the worst, thinking the Internet Police or FBI would surely show up at the door, he I closed down the browser and turned the computer over to Cyndi!
Thinking “smart” is always better than just “thinking.” We next did a search on Major League Baseball rules…there we go. Rule No 8.02. For any of you who always wanted to know but were afraid to ask, we share with you (in layman’s terms) the rules for Like and Wipe, or spit ball, or whatever substance must not be used on the baseball!…
It seems the pitcher may not, for any reason “expectorate” (spit, slobber or otherwise drool) on the baseball. Nor may he apply any foreign substance to the ball, rub the ball on his clothing or within the pitchers glove, nor deface or alter the ball by any means. We also learned that the pitcher may not bring his pitching hand up to his mouth or lips while within an 18 foot circle surrounding the pitching rubber (pitching rubber?…oh, what we call the base on the mound). BUT…if it’s exceptionally cold out during the game, and if it’s agreed by both managers, the umpire may allow the pitcher to “blow” on his pitching hand throughout the game. If the umpire catches the pitcher doing any of the above, he may penalize the pitcher by calling a ball (not a balk fellas); he may give the pitcher a warning; or he may actually eject him from the game and suspend him from up to 10 full games! Wow! The rules do have more “whys,” “wherefores,” and “thou shalt not’s,” but this is the down and dirty of it. Just think if we had this many rules at work…or at home? You get caught drooling at home…and YOU’RE OUTTA HERE!
Apparently Cyndi’s three purveyors of wisdom DID have a good point about the whole thing. Having sticky fingers does indeed provide a better grip on the ball, providing the pitcher with a greater ability to throw harder, stronger and more accurately. Therefore, the rules were altered a few years ago allowing pitchers to actually lick their fingers, though they must be off the plate, and they must wipe their fingers on their uniform, hat, etc. We still think Germ-X should be involved.
It’s interesting to note that these particular rules came about in 1920 when Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians took a spitball to the temple from the Yankee’s Carl Mays. Sadly he died from his injuries. In those days, no one wore batting helmets, and whatever substance Mays was using on the ball discolored it and made it more difficult for Chapman to see. That’s why MLB instituted the rules banning foreign substances on baseballs and a requirement that umpires must change out the ball whenever it gets dirty. Which also explains why a team can go through 80 baseballs in a game!
So, there ya go! Baseball’s Lick and Wipe rules to live by. By the way, we’re debating if we should go back to some of those “other” websites for a quick sneak-peak. Don’t tell anyone!