Pepper games are pre-game exercises among a group of players to help them sharpen their reflexes for the fast pace of the coming live action.
In Pepper, a batter hits a series of grounders and line drives to a group of teammates standing about 20 feet away from him. They, in turn, field the hits and “pitch” the ball back to the batter, who hits the ball back toward the group.
It’s a fast-paced, cyclical “game” that requires finesse on the part of the batter to not injure the fielders standing so close to him, and supreme attention from all involved.
Oftentimes, Pepper is played as an actual game, where fielders stand in a line, and the front man tries to catch the batted balls. He continues until he misses, and then moves to the back of the line.
Similarly, a batter continues hitting until he swings and misses or hits a foul ball. At that point, he becomes a fielder at the back of the line, and the fielder at the front of the line becomes the batter.
Here are some other facts about Pepper games:
Why is it called “Pepper”?
And why Pepper instead of Salt? Probably because the game is so quick and spicy!
What does a “No Pepper” sign mean?
Why would a team ban Pepper games when they can help their players get read for a game? Well, Pepper can be hard on the grass and dirt near home plate and the infield since it produces a concentration of batted balls and cleat traffic.
And Pepper also represents a potential danger to fans since batted and thrown balls are constantly in motion and coming in from a variety of sources and angles … it’s not hard for one to go wayward.
Most Major League Stadiums have displayed “No Pepper” or “No Pepper Games” signs near home plate for decades.
Who invented Pepper games?
But at least one school of thought lays credit for the invention of Pepper with the House of David baseball team in the early 20th century, and maybe even influenced by the group’s founder, Benjamin Purnell.
Why is Pepper banned in MLB ballparks?
Do major league players still play Pepper?
Do MLB players still play Pepper out of the public eye? Hard to say for sure, but you can bet players at other levels — including the sandlot — still break out the old “Pepper shaker” from time to time!