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Why is pepper banned from some ballparks?

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  • #16
    Got another good one from the House of David Museum.

    And this much from
    pepper, the baseball variety, for all practical purposes is gone, or is, at least, being shown the door. I can explain pepper to you if you are not familiar with the exercise, but your best bet would be to buy, rent or borrow the series of videos titled Baseball: A Film, by Ken Burns. It is a boxed set of nine (Nine, get it?) There are snippets of old time ballplayers playing pepper, tossing the ball behind their backs and generally having a grand old time with it. It is the baseball version of the Harlem Globetrotters tossing the ball around in warm-ups at the free throw circle to the strains of "Sweet Georgia Brown."

    I remember Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates using a 40-ounce bat and holding it with one hand to conduct pepper sessions. He and his teammates did it the same way we sandlotters did it. A few players would form a semicircle and toss the ball to a batter at close range. The batter peppered the ball back off the bat, where it is was handled as best one can handle a short-range missile and it was quickly tossed back to the batter, who peppered another shot, and so on, fastly. It was supposed to be a good warm-up, one to improve hand and eye coordination. It was usually done around the backstop area.

    Major League baseball parks today boast "No Pepper" signs around the home plate region. Some say the little game tears up the turf. Others say a ball might fly into the stands and injure a paying customer. I do not know the real reason. I do not see how there could be a real reason.
    I can't remember specifically where they are, but can't remember being at a park anywhere that didn't have a "No Pepper" or "No Pepper Games" sign posted somewhere. (But that might be my imagination.)

    When Chris Chambliss came to the Cincinnati Reds as batting coach a few years ago he brought back pepper games, but I was never down there to see them. Otherwise it's gone out of style, whether because of all the natural grass, fear of injury to players or fans, or the fact that it emphasizes bat control and quick reactions rather than swinging for the fences.

    Found this at a the St. Petersburg Times site:
    Lou Piniella, an 18-year big-league outfielder, said the demise of pepper's popularity began "because (the field) has got to look real nice on TV." Pristine green, particularly behind home plate, is de rigueur. Bald spots? Oh, please!

    Then there are the indoor batting cages in every stadium. They didn't exist a generation or so ago. Players spend more time there, less on the field.

    "We basically try to do the same things in the cages with the hitters," Piniella said. "Pepper's better for pitchers because they get used to the ball coming right back at them after they release it."

    Alex Johnson, a journeyman outfielder from 1964-76, liked pepper. When he played it he dug about a 6-inch hole for his back foot. Toma would have to shunt him toward the outfield. Not all players were as accommodating. Dave Rader, for instance.

    Rader was part-time catcher for Boston in 1980. Joe Mooney, long-time Red Sox groundskeeper, remembered stepping onto the field at Fenway Park one day "and Rader's got this pepper game going back of the plate with some other guys. I say, "Cut it out,' and he just laughs and keeps playing and I say, "I'll get even with you,' and the next day he comes out and there's no batting cage, nothing. That was my ground he was (messing) with."

    A cousin of pepper
    Pepper was the early 1920s creation of Jesse Lee "Doc" Tally, said Terry Bertolino, co-author of The House of David Baseball Team (Arcadia). Tally and two teammates on the bearded barnstorming club did it to kill time waiting for fans to show up.

    It evolved into a midgame show with the trio assembled in the infield. By show's end the air would be replete with balls, bats, even gloves. "As many people sometimes came to see it as came to see the game," Bertolino said.

    The Gashouse Gang - the 1934 Cardinals of Dizzy and Daffy Dean, Ducky Medwick and others - popularized it at the big-league level, a baseball version of the Harlem Globetrotters' signature Sweet Georgia Brown pregame basketball circle of no-look, behind-the-back, between-the-legs passes.

    The Gashouse Gang's version actually was the flip game, a cousin of pepper, several fielders flipping the ball to each other, sometimes never taking it out of their glove.

    "Sometimes it doesn't go over too good," Zimmer said, "so if we're playing pepper, that's one of the rules; no flip game. Guys would get hit in the eye, spike each other going for the ball."

    USF coach Eddie Cardieri doesn't allow it. "Tossing the ball with the glove, that's like practicing missing it, not catching it," he said.

    Young Rays outfielder Carl Crawford played pepper before every game at Jefferson Davis High in Houston. It remains a staple in high school, though some coaches, Tim Sims of Hernando High among them, have switched to using Wiffle Balls as part of practice. "You can play with them indoors on rainy days, and you can take a regular swing," Sims said.

    Crawford played pepper a lot in the minors, too, but very little since his big-league debut in July 2002. "Probably some guys don't like the idea of slapping at the ball," Crawford said. "They don't want to get into the habit in a game where they're going to be swinging as hard as they can."

    Rays veteran outfielder Al Martin said pregame rituals have supplanted pepper games.

    "We do a lot stretching exercises, and (Kevin Barr, strength and conditioning coordinator) puts us through a routine that gets you loose in other ways now. Lots of different things go on on any given day as far as preparing for a game," Martin said. "You kind of don't have enough time, so you disregard the little things. Pepper's one of them."

    - For information on the history of the pepper game and the House of David baseball team, go to
    Last edited by 2Chance; 09-25-2007, 08:23 AM.
    "Someone asked me if I took steroids. I said, 'No. I had a contract with Wheaties.'"
    --Bob Feller


    • #17
      Those signs mean nothing, just phony nostalgia.
      The Ultimate Baseball Look

      Modern Synthetic Baseball Fields


      • #18
        And this is how my crazy brain works. I saw the title of the thread and thought, "What kind of concession stand doesn't serve condiments?"

        "Chef Bill"
        Boynton Beach, Florida


        • #19
          Pepper is as relevant to young players as rotary phones.


          • #20
            Originally posted by Chef Bill View Post
            And this is how my crazy brain works. I saw the title of the thread and thought, "What kind of concession stand doesn't serve condiments?"
            It's 'big salt' and their lobbyists...


            • #21
              what made you bump up this 10 year old thread?


              • #22
                "NO PEPPER GAMES" was stenciled on the backstop at Three Rivers Stadium.


                • #23
                  This past season I had my 12 year old team playing pepper at practice. The kids enjoyed it.


                  • #24
                    Because pepper can precipitate uncontrolled bouts of sneezing, and you can't have that. (There's no sneezing in baseball.)


                    • #25
                      In the old Sportsman's Park in its later ("Busch Stadium") years, there were "No Pepper" signs at the base of the backstop. If they ever had an Old-Timer's Day, do you suppose Pepper Martin felt dissed?
                      "Thank you very much, Commissioner, for the fine introduction. We've got the setting: sunshine, fresh air; we've got the team behind us. So... let's play two! - Ernie Banks, Aug 8, 1977"


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