NYC Can’t Cure Baseball’s Problems

This is a whole new generation. When I was growing up, we had candy cigarettes (gone) and Big League Chew (still around). While playing baseball, we used to have the candy cigarettes so we could smoke like Keith Hernandez, or we would shove a ton of Big League Chew in our mouths to look like Lenny Dykstra. Dykstra was such a legendary chewer that he was said to have stained the AstroTurf at the old Vet. 

As kids, we used this stuff because we thought it was cool to look like ballplayers. Did we try to real stuff?  Well, not as kids. It’s s good thing too because it would’ve been like that scene in The Sandlot:

Personally, I never really had any interest. Part of the reason was my parents. Another part was I was a catcher. I’ve seen catchers who have used chewing tobacco, but to me that was a pain. I tried seeds, which is similar in principle, but it annoyed me. So I went without any of it for most of my baseball life. 

Then I got older, got big, and was moved out from behind the plate. Part of “rookie” hazing was getting them to throw in a dip and watch the hilarity ensue. It wasn’t pleasant. 

In any event, I found myself playing that dreaded DH position more and more, which means you spend a lot of time on the bench. Many of those guys throw one in, so you usually do as well. You practice that finger motion with your index finger so you can pack it better and tighter. One day, it all becomes second nature. 

When I was in college, it was great. There were a couple of nights, it helped me get through the all-nighters. Also, there were some bars in the area where if you didn’t throw one in, you were out of place. Honestly, I wasn’t so much addicted to it as I loved doing it.  

A good friend of mine and me used to love dipping while watching baseball games. We would not only watch the games, but we would also keep an eye out for who was dipping. You would see the finger going in the dugout. The circle shape in the player’s uniform pants. That ever so slight bump in the bottom lip. If you ever saw it in the top lip, you knew that guy was having real problems. Looking at the Mets now, I can tell you who does and who doesn’t dip. I can do that for any team if I watch them long enough. 

Eventually, I quit. It really is a nasty habit. More importantly, it’s dangerous. We saw Tony Gwynn die too young because of it. We saw Curt Schilling battle cancer. As much as I enjoyed it, it really wasn’t worth it. 

The strange part is I never would’ve started had it not been part of baseball’s culture. No sport is as associated with smokeless tobacco than baseball. I thought about all of this when I saw Tim Rohan’s New York Times article about New York City looking to ban smokeless tobacco from being used in places like Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. 

There’s a lively debate to be had here about whether this law is a good idea or not. It’s a debate that should occur. However, at the end of the day, I’m more concerned for that two year old of mine that loves baseball. I realize that NYC can put every law in place they want, but it won’t matter.  It doesn’t matter because the problem is baseball. 

The city bans smoking, but we hear about Yoenis Cespedes smoking between innings. We see players using smokeless tobacco all over the field. As we see with Cespedes, a player will find a work-around. You should hear how they work around smokeless tobacco bans and stigmas in other sports. Overall, players will always find a way to do it. 

If that’s the case, it’ll always be associated with baseball, and that’s not a good thing. Baseball needs to help find a reasonable solution to this because what they have so far isn’t working. They need to figure it out because one day that Big League Chew becomes Skoal or Red Man. That needs to stop before another generation of players starts using it. 

I don’t want to see another Tony Gwynn.