Baseball Doctoring The Baseball Rules

Doctoring The Baseball Rules

Each time a Major League batter steps up to the plate, they are tasked with hitting a baseball, traveling toward them at 90-100mph. Now imagine that ball had also been spit on, rubbed in the dirt, or rolled around in tar. These were once common tactics MLB pitchers turned to, hoping to make their pitches even more difficult to hit. Now, the doctoring the baseball rule prevents pitchers from roughing up game balls. Read on to learn about all that the doctoring the baseball rule encompasses, why it was instituted, and how it allows batters a fair chance to make solid contact.


Doctoring the baseball occurs when a pitcher makes any alterations to the baseball before throwing their pitch. This rule also regulates what pitchers are allowed to wear while on the mound, i.e. no bracelets, bandages, etc. Finally, the doctoring the baseball rule can be violated if a pitcher touches the ball to any part of himself, or if he touches his mouth and then touches the baseball before drying his hand.

In Major League Baseball, intentional attempts to doctor the baseball result in immediate ejection from the game, followed by a ten-game suspension. For more minor, unintentional infractions of this rule, a warning may be called by the umpire and a “ball” is given for every following unintentional infraction.


Offenses breaching the doctoring the baseball rule include but are not limited to:

  • Rubbing the baseball with dirt or chalk
  • Rubbing the baseball with spit
  • Discoloring the baseball
  • Rubbing the baseball on clothing
  • Touching your lips while on the pitching mound
  • Touching your mouth off of the pitching mound but failing to thoroughly dry your hand before coming in contact with the baseball
  • Blowing on your pitching hand


Before 1920, succeeding as an MLB batter was much more difficult. One of the primary reasons for this was because game balls deteriorated quickly and were much more difficult to see and make solid contact with. Foul balls that made their way into the stands were often even thrown back onto the field and reused, and it was uncommon to use multiple baseballs in any given game. 

More than that, no rules had yet been instituted regarding what pitchers were allowed to do to the baseball before tossing it toward the plate, and as a result, batters were often tasked with making contact with spitballs, dirty or discolored baseballs, and more. 

In 1920, however, the MLB finally implemented new guidelines about the shape a game baseball must be in, resulting in a more even playing field for batters. This is when the doctoring the baseball rule was introduced. Some exceptions were originally made, as each team was allowed to pick two pitchers who were still permitted to throw spitballs. This exception eventually died out, too, and 1934 was the last year a spitball was legally thrown.

Similar Rules to Doctoring the Baseball


What is doctoring the baseball in baseball?

Doctoring the baseball occurs when a pitcher makes an attempt to alter the baseball in any way before pitching it. For example, a pitcher might attempt to discolor the baseball, making it more difficult to see. Or, a pitcher may add his own spit to the baseball, changing the ball’s movement and making it more difficult to hit. Violations of this rule result in ejection from the game plus a ten-game suspension. This rule can also unintentionally be broken when a pitcher fails to wipe off their pitching hand after touching his uniform or mouth.