Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Quote of the Day (Philip Roth, on Legendary Early Pitcher ‘Spit Baal’)

“The trouble with Spit’s spitball was, simply, that nobody could hit it out of the infield, if they could even follow the erratic path of that dripping sphere so as to get any wood on it at all. Once it left Spit’s hand, carrying its cargo of liquid, not even he was sure exactly what turns and twists it would take before it landed with a wet thud in the catcher’s glove, or up against his padded body. As opposition mounted to this spitter that Baal had perfected — it was unnatural, unsanitary, uncouth, it was ruining the competitive element in the game — he only shrugged and said, ‘How am I supposed to do, let ’em hit it out themselves?’ On hot afternoons, when his salivary glands and his strong right arm were really working, Spit used to like to taunt the opposition a little by motioning for his outfielders to sit back on their haunches and take a chew, while he struck out — or, as he put it, ‘drownded’ — the other side. Angry batsmen would snarl at the ump, ‘Game called on accounta rain!’ after the first of Spit’s spitters did a somersault out in front of the plate and then sort of curled in for a strike at the knees. But Spit himself would pooh-pooh the whole thing, calling down to them, ‘Come on now, a little wet ain’t gonna hurt you.’ ‘It ain’t the wet, Baal, it’s the stringy stuff.  It turns a white man’s stomach.’ ‘Ah, ain’t nothin’ — just got me a little head cold. Get in there now, and if you cain’t swim, float.’”—Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist Philip Roth (1933-2018), The Great American Novel (1973)

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