If Major League Baseball returns this year, fans may not like all the changes. A draft document prohibits high-fives and fist bumps, and there will be no hugging in baseball. But fans watching on TV might appreciate no longer having to endure closeups of players spitting. To that end, the traditional chewing of tobacco and sunflower seeds also would be eliminated, ESPN reports. Teams have until Friday to weigh in on the changes to the league's health and safety manual, which aren't final. As of now, coaches at first and third base are not to approach players or umpires, players are not to socialize with the other team, and infielders are encouraged to not throw the ball around the horn after an out. Players and others usually in the dugout will sit in the stands instead, at least six feet apart. South Korea's KBO League, whose games are being shown on ESPN during the MLB shutdown, has made some of these changes, including the spitting ban.
A pandemic is an especially bad time to spit, inside or outside stadiums. During the Spanish flu outbreak 100 years ago, posters admonished Americans, "Don't Spit!" One said that "careless spitting" spreads influenza, per the Atlantic. More than 150 cities enacted anti-spitting ordinances, with accompanying fines, to battle tuberculosis, per Smithsonian Magazine. If an occasional expulsion onto the grass doesn't sound that awful, picture the floor of a dugout. By the end of a game, Jim Souhan writes in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the dugout has "pools of spit, tobacco juice, water, Gatorade, chewed gum, sunflower seeds and wrappers." Players walk through it all and right into the clubhouse. "This was disgusting long before anyone in baseball considered the concept of social distancing," Souhan writes. (Read more MLB stories.)