Category Archives: Curt Schilling

Boston mayor proposes ban on chewing tobacco at Fenway Park, other ballfields


Well, right on the heels of my story about the New York Times writing about San Francisco’s ban on ballpark chewing tobacco, the major of Boston, Martin Walsh, is now proposing a similar ban on chewing tobacco at Boston parks and ballfields, which include Fenway Park.

Walsh said he is proposing an ordinance banning smokeless tobacco beginning April 1, 2016, in time for next season (San Francisco’s ban is taking effect Jan. 1, 2016.)

There’s been a big push to ban chewing tobacco on baseball fields since the death last year of Tony Gwynn. Gwynn, a longtime chewer, died of salivary gland cancer in his early 50s. Boston pitcher Curt Schilling also had a very public battle last year with a serious bout of oral cancer. Schilling, likewise, used to chew tobacco.

From the Boston Globe article:

“A lot of times, young people will copy what their sports heroes do, and clearly there is a connection between chewing tobacco and cancer,” Walsh said in an interview. “This sends a strong message throughout Boston, and hopefully many other towns around Boston, and across the country.”

Chewing tobacco is deeply, deeply ingrained in the culture of baseball for some mystifying reason. According to the Globe, 21 out of 58 Red Sox players surveyed at Spring Training said they use smokeless tobacco. That’s pretty close in line with a survey of professional baseball trainers, who estimate that about one-third of ballplayers chew. Meanwhile, only 6 percent of adult males among the general population chew.


According to the Globe, Red Sox owner John Henry supports Walsh’s idea.

Interestingly, Schilling, an openly conservative Republican, also supports Walsh’s idea. From the Globe:

Schilling, who is expected to attend the mayor’s announcement at Joe Moakley Park, said he supports the prohibition on chewing tobacco.

“I have seen cancer take the lives of people very important to me like my father, a lifelong smoker, and I have endured the insufferable agony of radiation to the head and neck,” Schilling said in a statement. “If this law stops just one child from starting, it’s worth the price.

The Boston Globe also added an opinion piece, written by Dr. Howard K. Koh and Dr. Alan C. Woodward, in favour of the ban.  Koh and Woodward point out that not only did Tony Gwynn die likely as a result of his chewing, but Babe Ruth, who chewed and smoked cigars, died in his early 50s from throat cancer.

From this opinion piece:

Despite this progress, the national rate of smokeless tobacco use in high school has stayed disturbingly steady. In the US, nearly 15 percent of high school boys currently use smokeless tobacco. More than half a million youth try smokeless tobacco for the first time. Smokeless tobacco companies annually spend $435 million on marketing. A key message of such advertising is that boys can’t be real men unless they chew. Also, scores of Major League Baseball players who chew or dip in front of fans provide invaluable free advertising for the industry. Impressionable kids stand ready to imitate their every move.

For too long, the tobacco industry has normalized and glamorized products that cause drug dependence, disability, and death. Leveraging the prestige and appeal of baseball has been an essential part of that strategy. It’s time for baseball to start a new chapter that reclaims tobacco-free parks as the new norm — and for Boston, home to so many sports achievements, to lead the way.

Ultimately, in order to really drive tobacco out of Major League baseball, it would take the cooperation and agreement of the Players’ Association. Chew is already banned on the field in Minor League and NCAA baseball. However, the Players’ Association has opposed banning it at the Major League level. The issue is expected to be negotiated during the players’ next collective bargaining agreement with Major League Baseball.

New York Times takes on chewing tobacco in baseball


I’ve written extensively about this in the past year — about the push to get chew out of baseball. The New York Times just published a story about, joining other major newspapers like the Los Angeles Times in exploring the stubborn tradition of chewing tobacco in baseball.

Chewing tobacco is for whatever reason deeply entrenched in the culture of baseball. Baseball player chew at a much higher rate than the general population. According to the Professional Baseball Trainers Association, one-third of ballplayers chew tobacco, down from about half a few years ago. However, that’s still considerably higher than the general population of adult men, of which only about 6 percent chew. (Virtually no women chew for whatever reason, probably because it’s so gross.).

chew in baseball 2
AP photo

Tony Gwynn’s death last year of salivary gland cancer and Curt Schilling’s battle with oral cancer have sparked the most recent debate about chew in baseball. Chew is already banned on the field and in the dugouts in the NCAA and Minor League Baseball. San Francisco banned all tobacco chewing in AT&T Park (even including players and coaches) beginning next year and a bill has been introduced in the California State Assembly to ban chewing tobacco in all ballparks in California (this would affect the A’s, Dodgers, Padres and Angels, as well as visiting teams). We’re talking chew on the field or in the dugout; they can’t ban players from chewing on their own time.

Though chew has been banned in the Minor Leagues and NCAA for many years now, it’s still allowed in Major League Baseball (Though, get this, players are banned from chewing tobacco while conducting television interviews.). It would take an agreement with the Player’s Association through the collective bargaining process to get chew off the field and the dugouts.

chew in baseball 3
Getty image

The New York Times went to San Francisco to talk to Giants’ players and coaches. Pitcher Jake Peavey said players won’t be able to stop chewing because it’s so addictive and will probably have to pay a lot of fines. Madison Bumgarner, who earlier came out in favour of the law, is a “dipper” and he said he could quit. Yankees’ pitcher CC Sabathia chews and said he would follow the law and not chew while playing in San Francisco (or California if the state passes a law.).

From the article:

Andrew Susac, the Giants’ backup catcher, receives emails from his mother relaying horror stories about people who have had parts of their jaw removed because of the effects of tobacco use. Susac tried gum and sunflower seeds as alternatives, but they did not suffice, he said. He tried a nontobacco imitation, but that did not work, either. He tried using pouches of coffee grinds, but they made him jittery.

Susac guessed that he dipped five times a day during the season, including in the morning, after lunch, on the bench during a game, and on his ride home. At another point during the day, whenever he gets an urge, he dips once more.

“Half the time I do it, I don’t have a real reason to,” Susac said. “It’s part of the game, I feel like. You come to the field, get bored or whatever, and just throw in a dip.”

One of the San Francisco County Supervisors who passed the ordinance, Mark Farrell, said he has actually seen youth coaches chewing tobacco in front of players.

From the article:

Mark Farrell, the member of the Board of Supervisors who sponsored the ordinance, started using tobacco while he played college baseball at Loyola Marymount. In his freshman year, he said, he was one of only two players on the team who did not. He kept the habit through law school and has since quit. But now, raising two boys, he has seen youth coaches using tobacco in front of children.

“This almost becomes a self-enforcing mechanism, just by passing this,” Farrell said. “Coaches don’t want to be out on our park fields proactively breaking the law in front of parents. Players don’t want to be on the field, on television, blatantly breaking the law.”

L.A. Times: Chew is deeply ingrained in the culture of baseball

Mark derosa

Here’s a great story from the L.A. Times exploring the culture of chewing tobacco in baseball.

San Francisco recently banned chewing tobacco at all ballparks, including AT&T (to take effect next year), while both the city of L.A. and the state of California are considering similar bans.

The issue of chew in baseball has become more high-profile in the past year or so because of the death last year of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn from salivary gland cancer. On top of that, pitcher Curt Schilling battled oral cancer in the past year. Schilling blames chew for his cancer, as did Gwynn.

The Los Angeles Times focused on how, despite being banned by the NCAA, chewing tobacco remains persistently part of the game on the field.

From the article:

Coaches said they address tobacco with their players before every season.

“You also bring it up throughout the season,” UCLA Coach John Savage said, “but it’s not a daily reminder.”

Madison Bumgarner, Bruce Bochy both support ban on chewing tobacco at AT&T Park

Bumgarner, Bochy

Surprised me a bit that these two would step into this issue, but I thought it was great. The city of San Francisco banned chewing tobacco recently at all sporting venues (It won’t actually take effect until Jan. 1, 2016), including at the Giants’ stadium, AT&T Park. This means that not only fans can’t chew in the park, but players can’t either.

World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner and manager Bruce Bochy expressed their support for the move last week.

From a Los Angeles Times article:

Giants Manager Bruce Bochy applauded the decision: “It’s a step in the right direction,” he told the team’s website. “I think it can be a good thing. It’s going to be hard to enforce. It’s a tough habit to break.”

Giants ace Madison Bumgarner also supported the law. “Hopefully it will be a positive thing for us players. It’s not an easy thing to stop doing, but I support the city.”

There is also a bill winding its way through the California Assembly to ban chewing tobacco at all ballparks in the state, which would include AT&T, Dodger Stadium, Petco in San Diego, the Oakland Coliseum and the L.A. Angels’ stadium.

AT&T Park (AP photo)

Major League Baseball is under increasing pressure to ban chewing tobacco in all ballparks, especially since the death of Tony Gwynn from salivary gland cancer (Tony blamed chew for his death and another high-profile player, Curt Schilling, recently underwent treatment for oral cancer which he also blamed on chewing tobacco.). For some mysterious reason, there is a culture of chew deeply embedded in baseball culture. Not only have quite a few ballplayers over the years died of oral or throat cancer (Babe Ruth is the most well-known), but it sets a bad example for teenage baseball players.

However, MLB can’t simply ban chew by players on the field without the approval of the Players’ Association. A chewing tobacco ban is expected to be one of the topics of negotiation between MLB and the Players’ Association in their next contract.

Chew is already banned in all minor league and NCAA baseball parks, so it’s not like there isn’t any precedent.


Curt Schilling’s letter to his 16-year-old self — stay away from chew

curt schilling2

Curt Schilling wrote an open letter to himself on a site called “The Players’ Tribune” about the dangers of chewing tobacco.

Curt Schilling as you know, was a longtime chewer who last year developed oral cancer. After months of chemo and radiation, he is cancer-free and is now a big anti-chew advocate.

Schilling isn’t my favourite player out there. He’s a bit of a blowhard, I don’t like his politics and I don’t have a lot of patience for athletes who feel the need to rub their faith in people’s noses, but when it comes to the issue of chewing tobacco, he’s on the right side.

A lot of his letter gets preachy — I’ll skip over that — but he says some great things about chew in his piece:

Tomorrow at lunch, a kid is going to dare you to take a dip of Copenhagen. If you say yes, like I did, you’ll be addicted for the rest of your life. Well, the rest of your life up to the point when you are diagnosed with cancer.

I get what you’re thinking. You’re 16 — you’re invincible, just like all your buddies. If you were to jump ahead 33 years, you couldn’t write a better dream than the one your life is going to be.

With one exception.

If you say yes tomorrow, you will become addicted to chewing tobacco and you will get mouth cancer.


OK, there is a long preachy part, I get the point that Schilling is trying to make, but it’s really preachy. Anyway, then Schilling returns to his chew use:

You will develop sores, you will lose your sense of taste and smell. You will develop lesions. You will lose your gums — they will rot. You will have problems with your teeth for the rest of your life.

You will meet men — many good, honest men — who chewed. None of them will have their entire face. They will be missing jaws, chins, cheeks, noses and more. None will live more than a year or two after you meet them. All of them were tobacco chewers.

You will meet Joe Garigiola. He will introduce you to Bill Tuttle. Bill will have no lower face. His entire lower jaw is gone. It was that, or die of mouth cancer. Well, not “that or,” because that mouth cancer would kill him inside of two years.

You will brush your teeth and your mouth will bleed. Not light blood from your gums, but darker blood from deeper inside your mouth. That’s the chew destroying your tissue. You will get message after message, but your addiction will always win, until it wins the biggest battle.

You will get message after message, but your addiction will always win, until it wins the biggest battle

If you say yes tomorrow, you will begin to kill yourself from the inside out. It’s difficult for you to understand in this current phase of your life, but by chewing tobacco, you are jeopardizing your participation in what will be some of your most important moments.

You will risk any chance of seeing your four amazing children graduate high school. You will potentially lose the opportunity to walk your daughter Gabriella (who, like her dad, will be blessed with simple yet outstanding pitching mechanics) down the aisle. You will risk not seeing Gehrig, your oldest son, pitch for four years at a New England college. You may miss your son Grant graduating high school and changing the world.  And you may be absent as your youngest son Garrison — who aspires to follow in your father’s footsteps and join the army — masterfully plays goalie with a remarkable passion.

Your dad is going to die in five years. You know what’s going to kill him? A heart attack brought on by heart disease and lung cancer caused by tobacco use. He’ll die right in front of you. 

Finally, consider this: How many kids will start dipping over the next 32 years because they saw you do it?

Do you want that on you? No?

Then my advice is simple. Tomorrow, at lunch, just say no.

Make the right choice,

– Curt

Boston Herald columnist calls for banning chewing tobacco in baseball


Boston Herald columnist Michael Silverman wrote a powerful column this week that it’s time for Major League Baseball to ban chewing tobacco.

This is hitting home in Boston right now because former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, who helped the Sox win two World Series, recently revealed that he is battling a serious form of oral cancer — cancer he blames on his 30-year chewing habit. Schilling’s cancer and Tony Gwynn’s (another chewer) death this summer from salivary gland cancer have put chewing tobacco in baseball front and centre.

Schilling actually did quit chew for a while, but after a year-and-a-half the power of nicotine won and he started dipping again. From Silverman’s column:

“None of it [lectures] was enough to ever make me quit,’’ Schilling said. “The pain that I was in going through this treatment, the second or third day, it was the only thing in my life that I wish I could go back and never have dipped.”

Actually, MLB does want to ban chewing tobacco. Cigarettes are banned in the clubhouse and dugouts. Chew is banned (on the field, mind you) in minor league baseball and in college, but MLB can’t ban it because the Player’s Association won’t allow it.


Silverman writes:

If only the players and Major League Baseball could see that they are dead wrong when it comes to how they rationalize and allow the use of smokeless tobacco rather than eliminating the addictive and cancer-causing substance.

Anyone who heard the higher timbre in the 47-year-old voice of Curt Schilling on WEEI radio and on NESN for the Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon as he spoke for the first time about his battle with mouth cancer yesterday, or anyone still grieving the loss of 54-year-old Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn in June to a similar cancer, received a chilling reminder that, incredibly, tobacco still has a place in baseball.

Silverman further writes:

Schilling didn’t need an ashtray at Fenway when he played since smoking tobacco had long been banned.

But chewing tobacco?

Oh no, you must understand: That’s totally different. Smoking tobacco’s bad. Chewing the stuff? Well, players in Schilling’s era and players in today’s game can chew all they want. Just don’t let anyone see the telltale circular bulge of a can of snuff in your back pocket, try not to pause in the middle of an interview to spit out the juice and by all means, don’t ask a clubbie to head down to the local convenience store to stock up.

No, MLB forbids and frowns on all of that.

But otherwise, go right ahead: Kill yourself if you want to.

That’s your right.

And finally, Silverman concludes:

Baseball survived when smoking was banned from the clubhouse.

Banning smokeless tobacco won’t kill it, either.


Curt Schilling reveals he has oral cancer, blames chewing tobacco

Hey, back for an update after a long break.schilling

Another baseball, chewing tobacco bombshell: Former Red Sox, Diamondback and Phillies pitcher Curt Schilling revealed yesterday that he is battling oral cancer, and he directly blames his years of chewing tobacco while playing baseball.

“I do believe, without a doubt, unquestionably that chewing was what gave me cancer,” he said [on NESN]. “I’m not going to sit up here from the pedestal and preach about chewing.”

Schilling, of the legendary bloody sock in the ALCS, is the second high-profile baseball player who has been in the news this summer over chewing tobacco and cancer. Several weeks ago, Tony Gwynn died of salivary gland cancer several weeks ago after years of chewing tobacco.

Tony Gwynn

The Schilling case is just the latest reason to ban chewing tobacco in baseball. Currently, minor league players are not allowed to chew tobacco on the field, while in MLB, players are not allowed to smoke cigarettes. However, the players’ union insists on protecting players’ right to continue chewing tobacco on the field. I’ve posted about this repeatedly over the past year, for some mystifying reason, chewing tobacco is deeply, deeply ingrained in the culture of baseball. Why? No one seems to know. No one seems to have any answers for that. Baseball players simply chew. A lot. And a lot of baseball players have gotten oral or mouth cancer — Babe Ruth died of oral cancer and Roger Maris died of some kind of head/neck/oral cancer.


Schilling described the seven weeks of painful radiation therapy he underwent. The therapy caused him to lose 75 pounds because he has trouble eating solid food. He also has trouble generating saliva due to the treatment.

“Recovery is a challenge,” Schilling said. “There are so many things that are damaged during the process. I don’t have any salivary glands, I can’t taste anything and I can’t smell anything right now. And there’s no guarantee they’ll come back.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell talked about Schilling and the culture of chewing tobacco in baseball.

“I don’t want to call it a tradition, because it’s not,” Farrell said Wednesday afternoon. “But it’s a norm in baseball culture.”

“MLB has taken steps to dissuade players from using it through educational programs that are administered to every team,” Farrell said. “It’s even got to the point [in the minor leagues] now where players can be fined if smokeless tobacco is in view of the general public. There have been some of those warnings and penalties levied on some of our players.

“I think we all recognize that it’s addictive and causes cancer. That’s proven. [But] at this time, it’s upon the player to make the conscious decision for himself to use it or not. All we can do is continue educate guys what the ramifications are. … On the heels of the unfortunate passing of Tony Gwynn and what Curt is going through, you would think this would be a current beacon for guys to take note that there’s a price to be paid, if you’re one of the unfortunate ones stricken by cancer.”

Schilling apparently was diagnosed with a “lesion” on his lip 10 or 15 years ago and had the lesion removed. He quit chew for a year-and-a-half, but then got back in the habit. So, even after wising up, even after a lesion was found, the power of nicotine won out.