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Big League Chew: Phils Out-Spit Yanks

To quote the late, great sportscaster Jim McKay, "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" never looked better than in high-definition TV. The pristine, crystal clarity of the widescreen image adoringly captures an athlete's grace, strength, speed and—in the case of baseball—his saliva.


Major League Baseball is the expectorator sport.

I don't recall seeing Tiger Woods spitting on the green. I don't think Brett Favre would risk letting one loose on his facemask. Roger Federer? No way.


But our national pastime is different. The intensity of the game seems to cause these players to salivate more than most. Blame it on a wad of gum or a jaw of chaw but the spitting during the 2009 World Series seems to be at an all-time high. It's an age-old tradition, honored by players and coaches alike. Can you imagine the dugout floor? Yeah. Don't.


The tight, HDTV camera shots of a pitcher's face and his unflinching gaze acutely focus our attention on this habitual behavior. During Monday night's game, I saw one Yankee relief pitcher stare intently at Jorge Posada's hand signals and hock a double-loogie. Then, before his wind up, he topped that with a triple-spittle.


I became oddly obsessed with this ritual and as I kept a running tab on both teams—the Phillies beat the Yankees in more ways than one, with 72 spits to the Yankees' 59—a strange phenomenon emerged. There appeared to be a direct correlation between the aerial flight of a pitcher's projectile spitting and his resulting pitch! The speed, the arc, the angle of descent, it was all there. Could this be possible? Do home run hitters know this?

change up

I've designed these diagrams as proof of my unscientific study. 

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Ken Carbone is among America's most respected graphic designers, whose work is renowned for its clarity and intelligence. He has built an international reputation creating outstanding programs for world-class clients, including Tiffany & Co., W.L Gore, Herman Miller, PBS, Christie's, Nonesuch Records, the W Hotel Group, and The Taubman Company. His clients also include celebrated cultural institutions such as the Museé du Louvre, The Museum of Modern Art, The Pierpont Morgan Library, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the High Museum of Art.