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Sandlot Baseball – When Mischief Sweeps the Plate

August 17, 2010

“Greaseball, greaseball, greaseball, that’s all I throw him (Rod Carew) and he still hits them. He’s the only player in baseball who consistently hits my grease. He sees the ball so well, I guess he can pick out the dry side.” – Gaylord Perry, spitball pitcher

One of the most infamous pitches in baseball is the spitball or, as Gaylord Perry used to call it, the greaseball. It’s a ball that has been doctored by the pitcher with anything from tobacco juice to petroleum jelly. Gaylord Perry, who really should have been a pharmacist, allegedly smeared on a little K-Y Jelly and Preparation H from time to time – so they say… And Joe Niekro, who missed his calling as a nail technician, used to scratch away on the ball with a nail file. He was once suspended for 10 games when an emery board fell out of his back pocket. He claimed he used it only to file his nails when he was in the dugout…

When I think of these guys, I can’t help but think back to the condition of many of the baseballs we played with on the sandlot. The balls we played with were frayed, slimed and sandpapered. Some were even stained with spaghetti or Worcestershire sauce. Perry once said, “I reckon I tried everything on the old apple, but salt and pepper and chocolate sauce topping.” Well, we played with a few that had those exact coatings.

Here’s a poem to all the spitballers who have made the game a little more interesting and the ball a little more slippery… Chumps or champs?

Leaving His Mark

By Rich Kenney

With doctored ball

he preaches honesty

inside and high.

He dupes the ministers

of heavy lumber

who sense the sins

of disfigurement,

the label of his legend.

His hand reaches for resin,

his skulking eyes reconnoiter.

Contemporaries sling honor;

he tosses corruption,

at ease with his roguery,


With mitt as mask

he smirks at cringing rookies

yearning for dugout steps.

Scheming fingers

pluck at stitches,

the pause, the pitch –

mischief sweeps the plate.

His tools, outlawed and taboo,

and treasonous to the pastime,

cast magic, unapparent,

mesmerizing those in the box

who stand motionless

and bankrupt of swing.

Allies extol his facility;

foes squawk in protest,

leaving fans, like his baseballs,

split down the middle

to ponder villainy

and its wizard of claws…

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  1. Rich, Excellent poem! You certainly have a magic touch with words. Well done, Bill

  2. Thanks, Bill. I’ve always loved poetry.

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