Major League Baseball (MLB) issued a warning to its pitchers last week not to use “foreign substances” on the baseball.

Pitchers, including the Nationals’ Max Scherzer, claim they need some sticky stuff such as rosin to help them control where the ball goes. However, the commissioner of MLB, Rob Manfred, said the use of sticky substances other than rosin has become “an unfair competitive advantage” for the pitchers, because it allows them to throw pitches that spin more and are harder to hit.

In other words, MLB pitchers are cheating, and the commissioner wants them to stop.

Professional baseball has been played in the United States for more than 150 years. Sadly, a lot of players and teams have broken the rules to win. Let’s take a look at the history of cheating in baseball.

In the 1890s, some teams played dirty. Players with cleats spiked other players on purpose. They tripped or grabbed opponents by their belts when they were trying to run the bases. The officials did not catch all these sneaky plays because there were only one or two umpires.

Before 1920, spitballs were legal. Pitchers put spit or other substances on the ball to make their pitches dip and swerve so they would be harder to hit.

In 1920, however, New York Yankees pitcher Carl Mays hit Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman in the head with a pitch, and Chapman died. (Batters did not wear helmets then.) MLB officials banned the spitball, because they were afraid a pitcher might lose control of the slippery pitch and kill another player.

After MLB outlawed the spitter, however, pitchers still threw them. Gaylord Perry, who pitched for eight teams during his 22-year career (1962 to 1983), threw lots of slippery pitches. He won 314 games and was selected for the Hall of Fame. Perry even wrote a book called “Me and the Spitter.”

Other pitchers cheated, too. Whitey Ford of the New York Yankees secretly scraped baseballs with a special ring he wore so the scuffed ball would move more and miss opponents’ bats.

Batters also broke the rules. Some put cork in their bats to help them swing faster and hit the ball farther. In 1974, New York Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles broke his bat hitting a single and six super balls (hard, bouncy rubber balls) came flying out. Nettles claimed some fans gave him the bat.

Over the years, pitchers and batters have taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids to help them throw harder and hit the ball farther.

Athletes cheat because they want to win. Winners, after all, get most of the trophies, money and glory. And fans make a big deal out of winners. But some players have wanted to win too much.

The Score

Fred Bowen