did Jim Brosnan use the spitball? (and, did he admit it?)



From: Roger W. Smith

To: Paul Aron

December 28, 2015


Dear Mr. Aron,

By chance, I recently discovered your book Did Babe Ruth Call His Shot? and Other Unsolved Mysteries of Baseball in the New York Public Library. I consider it a very lucky find.

I am reading the book now and enjoying it immensely. It is stimulating, informative, and very well researched. I have given copies as Christmas gifts to my two brothers.

The bibliographies at the end of each chapter are very well done, in my opinion.

I do have one correction to make that I think is in order. In Chapter 21, “Who Threw the Spitter?” you refer, in the bibliography at the end of the chapter, to Jim Brosnan’s book The Long Season (New York: Harper & Row, 1960).

I read the book in paperback around the time of its publication as an adolescent. It’s a great book, in my opinion, one of the best baseball books ever written. And to think it was written by Brosnan himself!

In your bibliography for Chapter 21, on page 169, you state: “… you have to wonder why he [Brosnan] never mentions a spitter, though he was frequently accused of throwing one.”

Brosnan, in fact, does mention throwing a spitter, his throwing one, that is.

On page 111 of my worn paperback edition of The Long Season ((New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1961), Brosnan writes (in his diary entry for April 20):

 I, personally, like to work on my spitball in the bullpen. The spitball is illegal, of course, although it’s quite popular in the National League. (Also, the International, Texas, Pacific Coast, and most other leagues I’ve worked in.) It’s not an easy pitch to control and requires constant practice. Most practitioners in the National, International, Texas. etc. leagues throw their spitballs most of the time they’re pitching. Many of them are quite successful, and I’ve often wished that I could get away with spitballs, myself. However, there’s a knack to it. I, personally, need a good stiff wind blowing straight out from the plate in order to get anything on the pitch.



From Paul Aron

to: Roger W. Smith

December 28, 2015


Thank you for your kind words about Did Babe Ruth Call his Shot? Thanks also for pointing out my error. I also read (and loved) The Long Season as an adolescent, and I obviously didn’t re-read it carefully enough. I’m not sure the publisher has any plans to reprint the book, but I will alert them to the error and make sure that if there is a reprint the error is corrected.

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