EDITOR'S NOTE: This column appeared in The Albany Herald on Sept. 7 to little fanfare. But it has created something of a national stir after being shared on websites by readers who assume this is some archaic example of a south Georgia redneck Neanderthal who believes a woman's place is in the kitchen. The inspiration for the story came while watching an Atlanta Braves game with a "female person" (which is not a swipe at women, incidentally, but an attempt to poke fun at the care with which we refer to gender these days) who remarked about players spitting all the time. The column was a tongue-in-cheek poke at SOME women's response to the gross habits of men who play sports. In no way should anyone read into this that I don't think women know the intracacies of baseball nor understand the game. It was meant to be funny, and while I've learned that the humor is lost on many readers (Elaine Boozler? But I've always loved you ...) it should be noted that none of the women who are regular readers of The Herald expressed outrage over the contents of the column. But they're regular readers, while others who are not would not know the intent at humor. I love women. And I have always said that they are, by far, the superior gender. -- Carlton Fletcher
“Put me in coach, I’m ready to play.”
— John Fogerty
Baseball, when played well, is an amazing sport to watch. Unfortunately for some folks (like me), you get so caught up in the wins and losses of your team that you forget to appreciate the little nuances that make the game special.
Some people, though, are always looking for ways to add a little flavor to their baseball viewing. For those folks, here’s a suggestion: Watch it with a female person who either doesn’t particularly care about the game or, better yet, watch it with a female person who not only doesn’t particularly care about the game but also knows nothing about it.
(By the way, if that female person is willing to sit through a game that she cares and/or knows little or nothing about — without complaining, mind you — she might just be a keeper. And, guys, it wouldn’t hurt you to repay the favor by watching some kind of Chick Flick or dumb reality show with her, either of which might put you off your dinner. Just a friendly suggestion from a guy who understands the fairer sex about as well as quantum physics.)
Back to the game.
If you’re one of those female persons who is willing to sit down with your dude and watch a baseball game without getting antsy two or three innings in, I offer you the following guide to help answer some of those questions that you might feel like asking but don’t want to seem dumb.
QUESTION: Eww ... why are the players always spitting?
ANSWER: While it may seem uncouth, spitting is not only a big part of baseball, Rule 354-J requires players to spit, at a minimum, every two innings. I think it has something to do with helping to keep the grass green and growing. Maybe it’s a purely male genetic thing, but you put a guy outside on a playing field with a bunch of other guys, and it doesn’t matter if 50,000 fans are in attendance and millions more watching on TV, he’s going to spit.
(Side note for ladies who want to impress their dude: Ask him if he knows about the “spitball.” Players don’t utilize the nasty tactic these days (why, I don’t know), but there was a time when pitchers would saliva up the ball before every pitch to make it do things that would avoid hitters’ bats. It was fun watching umpires try to catch them at the unsavory tactic.)
QUESTION: Why do players pat each other on the butt all the time? Is there some kind of homo-erotic element of the game that we don’t know about?
ANSWER: As Sir Mix-a-Lot so aptly told us back in the day, guys like butts. (Sir Mix, big ones, but that’s his thing.) Since it is not, though, a good idea to express that sentiment or, worse yet, act on it in the everyday workplace, especially if your co-worker happens to be a female, guys just settle for a lesser thrill and do this with other guys on the ball field. For some reason, women don’t appreciate a good butt-pat and “good job” when they close an account or complete a delicate operation successfully. So guys just pat each others’ butts and move on.
QUESTION: Is that a wad of chewing tobacco in that guy’s mouth?
ANSWER: Most players chew (and spit out, of course) sunflower seeds or bubble gum (talk about being a kids’ game), but there are still players here and there who ignore the Surgeon General’s warning and indeed play the game with tobacco in their jaw. It used to be a common practice, and some of the best stories of bygone baseball lore are about guys who swallowed their chaw while executing a play. The resulting involuntary response (hurl!) was always worse than the spitting of tobacco juice.
QUESTION: Who are all those non-athletic-looking little dudes in street clothes who walk out to the mound with managers and coaches or talk with reporters after the game?
ANSWER: Modern-day baseball has become a world game, and thus, great athletes from several foreign countries now play in the Major Leagues. Since these newly minted millionaires — from far-away places like Japan, Colombia, Curacao, Korea and Canada — have lived their lives speaking only their native tongues, interpreters are needed (especially for the Canadians, eh). Thus, some nerdy guy in a leisure suit from Honduras goes to the mound with the managers and coaches so that they can communicate with the players.
Interpreters have become so valuable, one team recently traded two of its top prospects and cash for another team’s interpreter and a player to be named later. (Oh, and Donald Trump had been working on a plan to have these foreign players who are “taking American players’ jobs” deported. He was talked out of it by a smart Boston official who played to Trump’s gigantic ego by telling the president Fenway Park’s “Green Monster” is a wall built by the players as a tribute to his campaign Mexican wall promise.)
QUESTIONS: Why are the players always adjusting their junk?
ANSWER: Part of the official baseball uniform is a torture device known as “the cup.” The triangular piece of equipment is worn by players to keep batted or thrown balls from hitting them in ... ummm, let’s just say a place where guys really don’t want to be hit. Problem is, the cup is so poorly designed, it often moves into perfect position to hurt as badly as getting hit by a batted or thrown ball.
Funny thing about cups is that Little League baseball adopted the pro rule that made cups (which are, by the way, inserted into a pocket in jock straps worn by players ... and that’s my entry in the TMI derby) mandatory equipment. But many Little League programs had girl players who had absolutely no use for cups. But some A-hole stickler umpires (most likely guys who hated that girls were allowed to play) said, “A rule’s a rule” and insisted that girls without cups could not play. Eventually, a little commonsense won out, but it was a thing for a while.
So, there you go, ladies. You now know the answer to all the questions about baseball you’ve wondered about but have avoided asking your man. You’re welcome. And, as an answer to your final question: No, neither I, your guy nor any other fan can get you Dansby Swanson’s or Freddie Freeman’s phone numbers.