This Day in Baseball and Rangers History for February 9

* 14 days until the Feb 23, 2024, spring training season opener with KC
* 48 days until the Mar 28, 2024, regular season opener against the Cubs

Today there are two general baseball items associated with Feb 8-9 -- (1) the original 2017 MLB rookie-league experiments with the "Schiller" tie-breaker rule, starting a runner on 2B in extra innings, and a quick thumbnail of the adoption of that rule into the CBA for ML games as the "Ghost-Runner", "Zombie-Runner" or "Manfred Man"; and (2) the original 1920 and 1926 rules first banning rosin bags, then allowing them, and a thumbnail on the production and use of rosin bags and foreign substances, the 2021 strict enforcement of the ban against foreign substances that is still in effect, and the sourcing and production of the only rosin bags permitted in today's ML games.

All current MLB rosin bags in use in the MLs are produced in, and supplied by, a single supplier -- a one-person shop, Pelican Bat Wax, in San Francisco, made from the specially adept resin of Honduras Pines.

February 9, 2017
MLB Experiments with a Simplified "Schiller" Tie-Breaker Rule in the MiLs
Thumbnail of Adoption of the Tie-Breaker Rule

On Feb 9, 2017, MLB announced that a simplified variation of the "Schiller Rule" or "Tie-Breaker Rule" used in international baseball would be tested in two rookie-level MiLs during the 2017 season -- the Gulf Coast League and the Arizona League. If a game was tied after 9 innings, every subsequent inning would start with a runner already on 2B. The rule was, of course, part of Commissioner Rob Manfred's pace-of-play and increased offense initiative, to encourage the scoring of runs in extra innings, both for a more interesting game, and in order to bring the game to a quicker conclusion, both for the fans and to give all players more rest, and particularly to reduce the number of BP arms necessary to close out a tie game. While the international rule was more complex, the simplified MLB version made the last player to have completed a plate appearance in the prior inning the initial runner at 2B.

In 2018, the rule was proposed for inclusion in the All-Star Game, starting in the 11th inning, and in spring training games in the single spring-training 10th inning. However, the change was not implemented, because of opposition from the MLBPA. The rule was nevertheless extended that season throughout the MiLs, starting in the 10th inning of a single game, or in the 8th inning of a 7-inning doubleheader game. By 2018, the rule had already been adopted in several US independent leagues. In 2019, with the agreement of the MLBPA, the rule was also put into effect in spring training, and additionally included 9th inning implementation in games per agreement between both teams.

In the 2020 COVID-19 shortened season, the rule was used by agreement between the MLB and the MLBPA in regular-season ML games, as part of the "health and safety rules" designed to keep games to reasonable lengths during the compressed season. There was a considerable dissatisfaction expressed by fans and media with the rule at the start of the season. But it appears to have accepted over time. The rule was retained by agreement between the MLB and MLBPA in 2021, still on a provisional basis, but with the likelihood that it would become permanent through the next CBA. Initial reports after the settlement of the 2021-22 lockout were that it would be dropped, but a few days later, MLB and the MLBPA confirmed that they had agreed to keep it, and it has become a permanent aspect of the game.

February 9 (BR Bullpen)
Tiebreaker (BR Bullpen)
New rules for '22 to affect 2-way players, extra innings ( 2022)

February 8-9, 1920 / 1926
The MLs Ban then Permit Rosin Bags at the Start of the Live-Ball Era
A Thumbnail of the Use of the Rosin Bags in ML Baseball

The earliest newspaper account of a pitcher using a rosin bag dates to 1887. Its use was significantly popularized during the 1914 WS, where the pitchers each carried their own small personal bag of rosin that they could apply to their hands. The practice quickly caught on and became a fixture in the game.

On Feb 9, 1920, the ML Joint Rules Committee adopted a number of rules to facilitate hitting that ushered in the "live-ball era". Among those rules was one banning the spitball and a host of foreign substances used to produce unusual pitches. This rule included a ban on "all foreign substances or other alterations to the ball" by pitchers, including saliva, resin, talcum powder, paraffin, and the shine and emery ball. A pitcher caught cheating was to be suspended for 10 days. If this sounds like the modern rule, it is. At this time, the teams did not provide rosin, and pitchers had concocted their own resin compounds, which could be quite sticky and often contained pine tar.

After a few years' experience with pitching without rosin, on Jan 30, 1926, the ML Joint Rules Committee promulgated a rule to allow pitchers to have access to a common rosin bag on the field. On Feb 8, the AL announced that it still would not allow rosin bags. But the AL relented and reversed its position on Apr 28. While the AL stated that it would allow a rosin bag on the field, it "discouraged" its use by pitchers.

"Rosin" is a solid form of the resin obtained from pines after distilling out the turpentine. The process involves harvesting resin from living pine trees in much the same way as maple syrup is collected from maple trees, and then heating it to remove the volatile liquid terpenes. The resultant liquid is then cooled and solidified into a crystalline form. The crystal is usually crushed into a fine powder, making it easy to apply. More technically, rosin is a resin substance that forms a part of oleoresin, which is commonly called crude turpentine. Through the process of distillation in copper stills, the oleoresin is separated into two components: the essential oil and the common rosin. This separation produces a fluid rosin, which is run through a tap in the still, purified in a straining wadding, and allowed to cool. The solid rosin at room temperature varies in color based on the type, age, condition and location of the tree from which it is taken, as well as the degree of heat used in the distillation process -- from an opaque, black substance, to shades of brown and yellow, and finally to a transparent, colorless mass.

Since rosin is produced from vegetative materials, there is variation from batch to batch, depending on the particular type of pine tapped, the age and condition of the individual trees tapped, the growing conditions, the minerals in the local soil, and so forth. Most commercially manufactured rosins include some additional drying agent, typically powdered magnesium carbonate. If a pitcher wants to make his own rosin bag, rosin crystals can apparently be purchased on line, crushed in a pestle and mortar until it forms a fine powder, and then placed in a jute pouch along with some crushed kitty litter or baby powder for a drying agent. It is apparently very easy to add additional substances that make it unduly sticky.

Rosin with different characteristics is used in different sports besides baseball, often with different additives -- bowling, rodeos, gymnastics, climbing, weightlifting, tennis, etc. Rosin bags are also used in a number of outdoor construction and other labor activities.

If processed correctly, the use of simple rosin in baseball enhances grip without being overly sticky or inherently affecting the ball’s trajectory. Too much legitimate rosin actually impedes grip, so it's used and applied lightly. Pure rosin does improve control and ball location, provides the potential for some moderately increased spin rate that comes from a better grip, and helps with consistency from pitch to pitch.

A heavy or sticky coating of rosin usually indicates that it has been mixed with some other substance. The most common additives are some type of pine tar or sun block, both of which increase adhesion when mixed with the powdered rosin. The amount and type of any drying agent added to the rosin also becomes an issue when mixed with foreign substances.

The present emphasis on foreign substances may have begun began on Mar 3, 2020, when Angels visiting clubhouse attendant Brian "Bubba" Harkins was fired for supplying high profile SPs and RPs with substances to help increase spin rate. Harkins filed a lawsuit and began speaking out in 2021 against MLB, teams and individuals, publicly naming many of the high-profile pitchers that he supplied.

On June 21, 2001, Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a Commissioner’s Office Guidance calling for strict enforcement of rules prohibiting other foreign substances, indicating that pitchers caught with foreign substances may be ejected with or without warning, and will face a 10-day suspension, pursuant to existing rules. Manfred's statement accompanying the release of the Guidance, provided:

"After an extensive process of repeated warnings without effect, gathering information from current and former players and others across the sport, two months of comprehensive data collection, listening to our fans and thoughtful deliberation, I have determined that new enforcement of foreign substances is needed to level the playing field. I understand there’s a history of foreign substances being used on the ball, but what we are seeing today is objectively far different, with much tackier substances being used more frequently than ever before. ... It has become clear that the use of foreign substance has generally morphed from trying to get a better grip on the ball into something else -- an unfair competitive advantage that is creating a lack of action and an uneven playing field. This is not about any individual player or Club, or placing blame, it is about a collective shift that has changed the game and needs to be addressed. We have a responsibility to our fans and the generational talent competing on the field to eliminate these substances and improve the game." [ below]

The highest profile and most controversial ejection and suspension of a pitcher since the issuance of the guidance involved Max Scherzer on Apr 19, 2023, while he was still with the Mets.

After the 1921 season, the MLB tested rosin from various suppliers for different qualities, and awarded rosin manufacture of MLB official and exclusive rosin bags for the MLs to a single supplier. Each team now must buy directly from that single supplier and must maintain a humidor in its ballpark with a stock of those rosin bags.

The supplier is a one-man company out of San Francisco, and there's a really nice local-interest story jump-cited below which I recommend, written by John Shea, the SF Chronicle's national baseball writer and columnist, on the operation, Pelican Bat Wax, and the operator, Dave Phillips.

Philips was given an initial contract by MLB, 1 day after the CBA was executed in 2022, to supply the only rosin and rosin bags that can be used by ML pitchers. Per the article, the present procedure involves placing two of Phillips' rosin bags behind the mound -- one with hard rosin and one with powdered rosin.

Phillips gets his rosin from Honduras pine trees (apparently the national tree of Honduras), which produces an amber-colored rosin. After distillation, the rosin crystals are packaged in 55-pound clumps. Phillips orders thousands of pounds at a time and crushes them himself.

Phillips believes that it is the character of the Honduras trees and soil that produce a particularly advantageous form of rosin without the need for additives. "'Rosin has a lot of different characteristics to it,' Phillips said. 'Our rosin works faster. It activates a bit quicker. I think MLB went with what I provide because it gets stickier quicker instead of having to doctor it up.'"

February 9 (BR Bullpen)
January 30 (BR Bullpen)
Clarence Duff, What Is Rosin in Baseball: Its Effect on Pitching (Batting Leadoff 2023)
Appstein & Pruitt, He Made Sticky Stuff for MLB Pitchers for 15 Years (SI 2021)
Anthony Castrovinc, FAQ: Sticky stuff and new rule enforcement ( 2021)
James Dator, Max Scherzer’s ‘sticky stuff’ ejection (SBNation 2023)
What is a Rosin Bag and How is it Used in Different Sports? (SportsAspire)
John Shea, Every MLB rosin bag from one San Francisco workshop (SF Chronicle 2022)