Chewing tobacco has been part of baseball since the start, and some players dont like being told what to do but progress towards a healthier game is welcome
The new baseball season is into its second week, but one old tradition will be less visible this year: dipping.
Th use of smokeless tobacco products has already been banned at Major League ballparks in San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles, and last week, dipping is now prohibited in the sport stadiums of New York. The crusade to eradicate tobacco from baseball will be a long one, but progress is being stimulated, to the delight of veteran campaigners.
We have long been on the side of getting smokeless tobacco off the field, said commissioner Rob Manfred during a Kansas City Royals broadcast last week. Its been banned in the minor leagues for a number of years, and in multiple rounds of bargaining, we made proposals about limiting its use on the field. So, in general, we watch the legislation that has been passed as a positive. Its a health hazard for our players, and one we would like to avoid.
For many fans, the sight of players chewing tobacco or spewing its remnants into a cup has become cliche. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids lately estimated that between 25 and 30% of Major league players use the substance, which comes in many varieties.
Chewing tobacco has been deeply ingrained in baseball since video games was formulated in the mid-1 800 s. At that time, chewing tobacco was popular in the United States, with many people viewing it as a kind of cultural insurrection against the English, who largely smoked their tobacco through tubes. The art of dipping came to permeate American life including baseball.
But America seemed to fall out of love with chewing tobacco in the 1890 s, when German microbiologist Robert Koch linked spitting to the spread of tuberculosis. On Kochs advice, major cities passed anti-spitting laws, and spittoons were removed from public places. This stimulated chewing tobacco far less convenient, and triggered a great migration towards cigarettes, deemed safer in the public conscience.
But as the new century dawned, baseball didnt follow the trend. Chewing tobacco was still deeply entrenched. Many players were patently addicted to chaw, but others reaped strategic benefits from it, such as lubricating gloves and providing moisture for spitballs.
As the spitball was proscribed and cigarettes became an virtually glamorous accessory, some ballplayers gradually weaned themselves off chewing tobacco but it never is away entirely. Baseball maintained a close relationship with the tobacco industry, as legends like Joe DiMaggio fronted advertising campaigns and post-war ballparks were plastered with billboards for Bull Durham and Camel cigarettes.
In the 1960 s, greater education led to a drop in cigarette usage, but there was also a resurgence of chewing tobacco in the Major Leagues, as producers flooded clubhouses with free products, hoping to get a whole new generation hooked. It ran: baseballs habit was passed down like a baton, from veterans to rookies, from idols to worshipers. By 1999, 31% of Major League rookies use chewing tobacco, according to a study by Jeff Cooper, James Ellison and Margaret Walsh. The national average for males was just 6 %, which spoke to an endemic problem within the game.
That year, Tony Gwynn was enjoying his 18 th season with the San Diego Padres. A fun-loving guy with a broad smile and gentle personality, Gwynn collected his 3,000 th made that year and was selected to the 15 th All-Star Game of a remarkable career. Gwynn was an icon, a formidable craftsman at the plate but he was also a serial user of chewing tobacco. Gwynn would eventually say that caused the salivary gland cancer that led to his death in June 2014.
Gwynn maintained that the cancer was located where he typically placed a wad of tobacco. Other baseball players have suffered complications due to using tobacco products, from Babe Ruth, who died of oral cancer, to Bill Tuttle, who eventually lost the ability to speak. Star pitcher Curt Schilling blamed smokeless tobacco for his battle with mouth cancer, and likened working in baseball afterwards to an alcoholic becoming a bartender.
The threats of smokeless tobacco are well established. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it has myriad of negative impact, from nicotine addiction to cancer of the mouth, esophagus and pancreas. Dont forget gum disease, tooth loss, extreme dehydration and belly acid; high blood pressure, loss of jaws and the erosion of tongues and cheeks. An average wad of tobacco, chewed for 30 minutes, releases as much nicotine as three cigarettes, while direct contract with the mouth stimulates it arguably more potent.
In the 2012 -1 6 labor agreement, Major League owners pushed for a complete ban on smokeless tobacco, but satisfied opponent from the players union. The league was able to secure concessions, however, as players were banned from carrying packages of tobacco on the field and conducting interviews while chewing a wad. Now, the new city rules will hopefully eradicate the substance altogether from significant ballparks around the country, should the players comply.
That isnt totally insured. The forbidding will be difficult to enforce, although Manfred has pledged to work closely with local statute officers. Nevertheless, some players have voiced their displeasure at the legislation, citing the legality of smokeless tobacco in everyday life and smarting at a perceived infringement on their civil rights. Were grown-up men, Cubs pitcher John Lackey argued during spring training. People in the stands can have a beer, but we cant do what we want? Thats a little messed up.
Many Major league players are simply addicted, and that could create problems. Giants ace Madison Bumgarner began chewing tobacco at 10, which offers a stark insight into the combat that lies ahead.
The new laws are greeting, but plenty of work is still required. A slew of terrific young players have recently emerged in Major league Baseball, headlined by Bryce Harper, who is quickly becoming the superstar of a changing sport. Its brilliant that baseball has a new icon, a fresh face for fans to engage with. But would it be even better if that face didnt have a protrusion in its cheek, and didnt spit out tobacco juice every 20 seconds?
But progress is being induced, but the latest developments must be steps towards a wider solution that will attain baseball healthier and better. The evidence is irrefutable, and so is the momentum towards a total ban.
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