After reading my column on baseball, a Kentucky reader asked: “I have wondered for years (and especially the last two months) if we can ever overcome diseases with baseball players spitting all over creation every pitch of every game? “My wife — a huge fan — refuses to watch games with me anymore because between every pitch, guttural fluids will pollute the field. Will ballplayers be told to social distance their sputum as the new normal? Will spittoons be provided like rosin bags?” Well, I chewed on this question a long time. The baseball spitting tradition goes back to the 1800s. Players chewed tobacco to build saliva, and used that spit to keep their gloves moist on dusty fields. Tobacco chewing declined after players agreed in 2011 not to chew it in public. Today, players often chew and spit sunflower seeds or gum. Sunflower seeds are small, and don’t litter the field. As a kid, I envied spittle superstars. I paid special attention to how they gauged spit size, distance and accuracy. I noticed how experts could stain an opponent’s uniform without soiling their own … or expectorate onto shoelaces from 7 feet away. Spitball pitchers amazed me, and made me realize I never wanted to be a catcher. For my own saliva stimulator, I chose a wad of gum, which often popped out of my mouth at inappropriate times. That made me recall a game when I raced around second base while heading for home plate. My gum popped out, fell beneath my shoe, and I literally got stuck on third base. I learned three things: (1) Never spit into your own path; (2) Never slide into saliva; (3) You’ve run out of luck if your foot gets stuck.

RIX QUINN is a freelance writer in Fort Worth, Texas. For more little stories with interesting ideas, subscribe to his short blog: www.quinnminute. com

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