By Ralph Hutchinson, Sports Editor

While watching ALCS game 1 on Tuesday October 11, I observed something that the umpires let slide, or did not see and commentators did not mention. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitcher Paul Byrd was spitting on his hand, then rubbing the ball. The first time I saw this, I thought it was strange, but dismissed it. The second time I saw it, I thought more about it and figured out what was going on. He was throwing spitballs! That is cheating. I can think of no other reason for a pitcher to spit into his hand than to doctor the ball. Pitchers who want to get a good grip on the ball use rosin to dry their hands. They don't moisten them. Byrd hit the last batter he faced, Chicago White Sox center fielder Aaron Rowland. It looked like the ball had slipped out of his hand. This is something wet leather can easily do.

Spitballs are not a new trick. Gaylord Perry made a career out of using them, but that does not justify it. Do we want young people to learn that cheating is perfectly alright, as long as you don't get caught? That is what kids will learn if pro sports tolerate unfair play.

I hope that someone at the Commissioner's office views tapes of tonight's broadcast. I will attempt to contact them. I hope that Byrd will be asked to explain exactly what he was doing, and is watched like a hawk from this point forward.

Update: October 12, 2005. I contacted Major League Baseball. They informed me that during the game, the opposing manager may inform the umpire if he feels a pitcher is altering the ball, and any umpire may also ask to see the ball. I pointed out that I spotted Byrd spitting on his hand, then rubbing the ball in a close-up shot in HDTV, and someone a considerable distance away might not see this. A spokesman for the Commissioner's office assured me that there are people who watch the game on TV who are looking for such things.

I hope that MLB will watch Paul Byrd closely next time he pitches. I certainly will. I think we all would like to see a clean game, free of any cheating. Doctoring the ball gives a pitcher an unfair advantage. It should not be tolerated.