"I never understood the charm of chewing tobacco—the slobbering, the expectorating, the unspeakable spit cups"

A Pastime Baseball Can Do Without


Until relatively recently, tobacco around baseball clubhouses wasn’t considered much to worry about. As a young fan in the 1950s, I was used to players like Nellie Fox and Bill Tuttle, who stuffed so much chaw in their cheeks that they appeared to be trying to swallow a softball. One of my favorite players of the day, Rocky Bridges, looked like a chipmunk with a buzzcut. Baseball cards, an obsession with preteen boys for the better part of the last century, first came with packs of cigarettes, only later with bubble gum.

Back in the day, sportswriters weren’t quick to link tobacco and the early deaths of former ballplayers. It was obvious in the case of Bill Tuttle, who died of mouth cancer at 69 after disfiguring surgery. But not clear was whether all those years of Nellie Fox’s chewing had anything to do with his death at 47 from lymphatic cancer.

Nor was a connection made in 1948 when the superstar of superstars, Babe Ruth, died at 53 of throat cancer. The Bambino smoked and admitted to taking up chewing at age 5. But he also drank heavily and generally pursued whatever life-shortening activity amused him. So we are left to wonder.
Comment: Above image is Don Zimmer and Nelson Fox. Source.  Also see Zimmer quits. Zimmer lived close to where we lived in Cincinnati. My wife's father was a tobacco chewer. Gross habit. Some retro ads:

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