Category Archives: baseball

“What is it with Boston signing all these Latino players” — Dan Le Batard is an idiot

Dan Le Batard
Dan Le Batard

I heard something on ESPN Radio last week that absolutely made my head explode.

Last week, the Boston Red Sox managed to snag both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez as free agents. Dan Le Batard, who is Cuban and has a sometimes entertaining radio show out of Miami, made some mystifying comment to the effect of “Whoa, what is it with Boston signing all these Latinos?”

pablo sandoval
Pablo Sandoval

Some other guy on the show said, “what do you mean?” Le Batard responded with something to the effect of “Well … all the racism in Boston…”

My head exploded. I couldn’t believe what an idiotic statement that was. No one called him on his B.S., so I’m doing it on the Lounge. It’s fairly well known that Le Batard likes to stir the pot and has some grudge against Boston, but this was just too much.

I mean, never mind the fact that Hanley Ramirez started off in the Red Sox system … and was traded to Florida for another Latino … Mike Lowell. Grrrr … my head is exploding from this idiocy.

Hanley Ramirez
Hanley Ramirez

First of all, Le Batard, let me throw several names out to you. By far the most beloved member of the Boston Red Sox for the past 12 or 13 years? A guy who never has to buy a drink anywhere in Boston? David Ortiz. A Dominican. When the Boston Marathon got bombed, who was chosen to speak to Boston Red Sox fans…? David Ortiz. Did Ortiz get ripped by Bostonians when he proclaimed “this is our fucking city.” No. Bostonians adored that, and adored him and will continue adoring him the rest of his life.

Kansas City Royals v Boston Red Sox
David Ortiz

Let me throw another name at you, Le Batard — Luis Tiant. Luis Tiant was a wildly popular Cuban pitcher for the Red Sox during the 70s. Other than Carl Yazstremski, he was probably the most beloved member of the Red Sox during that 70s. Did he have to face a lot of racism when he first joined the team? Perhaps. I don’t know, it was before my time. It wouldn’t shock me if he did. But, if he did, he later became one of the most popular Red Sox of all time.

Luis Tiant
Luis Tiant

Let me throw several other names at you, Le Batard — Tony Armas, Mike Torrez, Luis Aparicio, Pedro Martinez, Mike Lowell, Nomar Garciaparra and even Manny Ramirez. Latino players who played in Boston, were loved by Boston and thrived in Boston — even Ramirez. Boston fans overlooked his flakiness and lousy defence for years and loved him because he was a great hitter. “Manny being Manny” was a big joke in Boston for years. They only turned on him (and rightfully so) after he started faking injuries because $20 million a year wasn’t good enough for him. Now in Boston he is like Stalin in the 1960s Soviet Union. No one speaks of him because of his PED use. But, when he was hitting .330 with 35-40 home runs every year, they loved him in Beantown.

Pedro Martinez

I remember Lowell (a Cuban born in Puerto Rico), had one good year for Boston and Red Sox fans begged the team to pony up and keep him on the team after he became a free agent. The Red Sox listened to the fans and ended up overpaying him, but he happily retired as a Red Sox.

I can also throw a number of other names out there — Adrian Gonzalez, Adrian Beltre, Julio Lugo, Orlando Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Alex Gonzalez and a current Red Sox Xander Bogaerts, Yoenis Cespedes, Rubby de la Rosa and Christian Vazquez. All Latinos. All played (or currently play) for the Red Sox with virtually no controversy over the fact that they’re Latino.

So, it was just such a completely asinine and out of the blue comment on Le Batard’s part. I wish someone had called him on the carpet about it.

Nomar Garciaparra
Nomar Garciaparra

Yes, some knucklehead Boston fans tweeted horrible things about P.K. Subban during the NHL playoffs, but the team and organization apologized. Guess what. Wayne Simmonds also had a banana thrown at him in London, Ontario, are you going to condemn the entire city of London for that?

Here’s what is so stupid about what Le Batard said. Did Jim Rice have to put up with a lot of racist crap from the Yawkey organization and from Boston fans? Absolutely he did — 40 years ago. Does Boston have a racist history? Absolutely. Does Boston continue to this day to have issues with racism? Absolutely. Is Boston worse than a lot of other American cities, especially in the South? Is it worse than St. Louis? Doubtful. I saw all those “we support officer Wilson” t-shirts being worn by Cardinals fans during the postseason.

Yes, the Boston Red Sox used to be a really racist organization — the operative part of that sentence is “used to be.” The Phillies used to be really racist, too. But,  Tom Yawkey died in 1976, all remaining lingering vestiges of the Yawkey family ownership were removed over a decade ago and John Henry long ago addressed the racism within the organization. Yes, there were race riots in Boston over forced busing — 40 … years … ago.

Manny Ramirez

Every community has its share of racism. Let me additionally throw this at Le Batard. Would he have made a similar astonished comment if the Atlanta Braves were signing black guys onto their team? We all know Georgia has a lot of racism. We all know Georgia Republicans are doing their damnedest to stop blacks from voting. We all know the Atlanta Braves are bailing on a 20-year-old stadium in a black section of Atlanta for a stadium in the white suburbs. Why? Because white Atlanta suburbanites don’t want to go into black inner-city Atlanta to attend a baseball game. I know this because Atlanta fans have flat out admitted this to me. So, where is Le Batard’s astonishment at black guys playing for the Braves?

Or how about Phoenix, Arizona, home to the Diamondbacks? This is a city that has elected and repeatedly re-elected an openly racist sheriff into office. This is arguably the most racist state in the nation and Maricopa County might be the most racist county in the nation. Has Le Batard thrown a hissy fit over the Diamondbacks signing Latino players? I seem to remember that Luis Gonzalez is a huge hero in Phoenix. Is Boston really more racist than Phoenix?

Here’s another one. Le Batard is based in Florida, one of the most racist states in the country, a state in which a nominally white guy can blow away an unarmed black teenager and get off scot-free. A state in which another white guy thought he could get away with blowing away a black kid in his SUV because he was playing his music too loud. A state that is doing its damnedest to stop blacks from voting and forces people on Welfare (ie, in the Republican mind … blacks) to undergo drug testing. Remember when a Muslim bought the Jacksonville Jaguars? Jags fans wrote plenty of ugly, racist things on Twitter about that; it was every bit as bad as the P.K. Subban nastiness if not worse. Yes, Boston had its race riots in the 1970s, but Florida had the Liberty City race riots, the Rosewood massacre and lots and lots of lynchings back in the day.

So, Dan, everywhere has its share of racism … even your own backyard. Guess what, if you can play,  very few people in Boston care if you’re a Latino member of the Red Sox.






Justin Morneau’s amazing comeback year

Justin Morneau

Very much under the radar all season in baseball was a really great story in Colorado — the comeback of Justin Morneau, one of the best Canadian players ever in baseball history.

Morneau was putting together a solid Hall of Fame career with the Minnesota Twins when he suffered a major concussion in 2010 after he was kneed in the head in a play at second base. His post concussion symptoms were so severe there was talk about whether he would ever be able to play again. A second concussion in 2011 nearly ended his career.

Morneau was very much talked about in the past sense the last few years. He was called a shell of his former self. It was tragic. He hit more than 30 home runs three times with the Twins, drove in over 100 runs four times, hit over .300 twice, won an MVP in 2006 and finished second in the MVP vote in 2008. Really, he seemed certain for the Hall of Fame. He hit for average, he hit for power, he drove in a ton of runs (470 RBIs in four seasons). He even helped Team Canada beat Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. He wasn’t just the best Canadian in MLB, he was one of the top 5 players in the game, period.

Morneau with the Twins

Then 2010 came along. Morneau was having his best year ever — he was hitting .345 with 18 HRs and 56 RBIs in early July (literally the 81st game of the year — the midpoint of his season) when he took a knee to the head while making a hard slide at second base against the Toronto Blue Jays. He developed severe post-concussion syndrome symptoms and did not return to play the rest of the year.

Morneau tried to play in 2011, but a variety of injuries held him back, including a second concussion. For anyone who has dealt with concussions knows, when they pile up, they become more severe. Morneau had two in less than a year (plus a third concussion in 2005).

After playing only 69 games in 2011, and only hit .227 with four home runs, he managed to come back to the Twins in 2012, but he was nowhere near the same player who was dominant from 2006-2010. He hit .267 with 19 home runs and 77 RBIs. Not bad for a lot of guys, but down considerably from his glory years where Morneau was almost an automatic .300/30/100 guy.

The next year, Morneau, despite signing a huge, long-term deal with Minnesota in 2010, was traded. He had another OK year, hitting .259 with 17 HRs and 77 RBIS. Late in the year, the Twins parted ways with him and traded him to Pittsburgh, where he played 25 games and didn’t hit a single home run. The end appeared near for Morneau.

Justin Morneau’s concussion

Morneau quietly signed a two-year deal with Colorado for $14 million, well down from the 6-year, $80 million contract he signed several years earlier with Minnesota. He simply wasn’t the same player he once was and couldn’t demand a huge contract any longer.

Well, amazingly, without hardly anyone outside of Colorado noticing, Morneau went out and had a great year. He didn’t hit a huge number of home runs (17), but he did bat .319, his highest average since 2010 and the highest in a full season since 2006, which was good enough to win the National League batting title. So, on top of his MVP award, Morneau is now also a batting champion in a different league. Not very many people have ever done that. He also had 82 RBIs, the most he’s had since 2009.

So, is Morneau all the way back? 2015 will tell. He didn’t show the same power he had between 2006-2010, but the .319 average showed he is finally all the way back from his concussions and post-concussion syndrome. A guy who essentially lost four years of his career and who was counted out repeatedly the past four years won the batting title.

At this point, I don’t know if Morneau is headed to the Hall of Fame. He’d have to have four or five really good years to make his case. He is still only 33 and could have several more years left.


One more chance for Gil Hodges to make the Hall of Fame

gil hodges
Gil Hodges

Later this month, a special committee will be voting on baseball’s “Golden Age” Hall of Fame nominees. These are players primarily from the 1960s and earlier (though a few played into the 70s). At the top of that list is yet again Gil Hodges.

I’m part of a Facebook group of very dedicated people working hard behind the scenes to help get Hodges finally into the Hall of Fame (I mostly just read and learn). Why he isn’t is in the Hall of Fame is beyond me, there are a few flaws in his overall statistics, but honestly, they’re minor, and his numbers stack up pretty well with a LOT of players who are in the Hall of Fame. Frankly, his numbers are pretty comparable to his teammate Duke Snider’s, who made the Hall of Fame 34 years ago.

The only reason I can think of is Hodges died quite a while ago, in 1972, a relatively young man at 47. At the time, he was a fairly successful manager. I believe if he had lived longer and had been in the public spotlight longer, he might have been in the Hall of Fame by now. Unfortunately, “out of sight, out of mind,” likely hurt him with a lot of voters over the years. It’s such a huge oversight that he isn’t in the HofF.

One thing hurting Hodges in the Golden Age Committee vote is there are some extremely strong candidates in the 2014 nominees (the committee now only votes every three years, so if Hodges doesn’t make it, his family will have to wait until 2017.). The vote is taking place later this year.

(As an aside, I noticed there seem to be a LOT of Chicago White Sox on this list. I think White Sox players tend to get overlooked because the Cubs get more attention.)

Here’s some of the biggest names being considered, including a couple of Steve Lardy’s Minnesota Twins boys! I use sort of a guide as “HofF worthy years,” “Good years, but not HofF,” and “Injured/bench player/poor years”. One thing most of these players had in common was relatively short careers that ended in their mid-30s, which is why they have trouble getting in the Hall of Fame.  It’s totally subjective, but I just use it as a point of discussion, nothing more:

Gilbert Raymond Hodges, Brooklyn Dodgers Gil Hodges

HofF worthy years: 7

Good years, not HofF: 4 (tough one, because of a couple of these years were actually pretty good — .254, 32, 102 and .265, 32, 87 — and could easily go in the HofF category, but I’m trying to be tough)

Injured/bench player/poor years: 7


  • 8-time All-Star
  • 370 HRs, 10th all-time at the time of his retirement
  • 370 HRs, No. 1 for right-handed home runs all-time at the time of his retirement. Yup, No. 1.
  • 30 or more HRs, 6 times
  • 100 or more RBIs, 7 straight years
  • 80 or more RBIs, 10 times
  • 20 or more HRs, 11 times
  • Was a big part of a team that won 7 pennants and two World Series titles
  • 3 Gold Gloves
  • And this helps, too … managed a World Series winning team in 1969 with the New York Mets.
  • Hodges even walked a lot (he had seven seasons of 70 or more walks, I see him as a prototype of the high walk/high strikeout power hitters that are the rage today), to make up for an OK batting average. His career OPS was .846 (higher than HofF’ers Carl Yazstremski, Reggie Jackson, Kirby Puckett, Roberto Clemente, Eddie Murray and several others.)


  • Never won an MVP, never even in the top 6
  • The only other weakness I can find is his career batting average was just .273, and he only ever hit over .300 twice. However, he did hit over .280 six times and his career OBP was a solid .359 — hey, that’s the same as Ichiro’s OBP! Keep in mind Harmon Killebrew is in the HofF with a batting average of .256 and Reggie Jackson with .262, Cal Ripken Jr. with .276 and Andre Dawson with .279.

Other very good candidates

Tony Oliva (A Steve Lardy boy!)

Tony Oliva

HofF worthy years: 6

Good, not HofF worthy: 4

Poor years/bench/injured: 4


  • Won three batting titles
  • 8-time All-Star
  • Hit over .300 6 times
  • .304 career average
  • Twice finished second in MVP vote
  • Rookie of the Year winner
  • Led AL in hits five times
  • Led AL in doubles four times
  • 20 or more HRs five times
  • 80 or more RBIs eight times


  • Only two seasons with over 100 RBIs
  • Only one Gold Glove award
  • Only seven seasons with more than 500 at-bats

Oliva had a very short career, only had 6,300 at-bats (the equivalent of 11 full seasons), and he played in fewer than 1,700 games. He didn’t become a full-time player until he was 25 and was done by the time he was 36. This has likely kept him out of the Hall of Fame; he simply didn’t compile a lot of numbers. Oliva got hurt a lot — he only had seven seasons in which he played more than 132 games. You can see why Tony Oliva is in a grey area for the Hall of Fame. A brilliant, yet short, career. Playing in Minnesota likely didn’t help him, either with the lack of publicity.

Jim Kaat

 Jim Kaat (Another Lardy boy)

Jim Kaat actually got the most votes during the Golden Era Committee’s last vote in 2011 for someone who didn’t make the Hall of Fame. Only Ron Santo garnered enough votes to get in.

HofF worthy years: 6

Good, but not HofF-worthy: 6

Poor years/injured: 13


  • 15 Gold Gloves
  • Won 283 games
  • Won 20 games three times
  • 14 or more wins 11 times
  • 25th all-time in innings pitched (4,500, the equivalent of 250 innings a year for 18 years)
  • Led the AL in wins in 1966 (25)


  • Had 13 bad and/or injured seasons or was coming out of the bullpen
  • Only made 3 All-Star teams
  • Never won a Cy Young (his best year, there was only one award, and that went to Koufax, other than that, never seriously a Cy Young candidate)
  • Career ERA of 3.45 in pitching-heavy era is just OK.

Jim Kaat, another of Steve Lardy’s boys from Minnesota, is what’s known as a “compiler,” the opposite of Tony Oliva, guys that aren’t necessarily considered elite players of their era, but they avoided a lot of injuries and played a long time. Kaat was a horse who started 625 games and completed 180. Kaat pitched into his early 40s, though his last really good year was at the age of 36. He had some poor seasons (9-17, 13-14, 12-14 and 6-11).

My feeling is many of Kaat’s statistics are comparable to Burt Blyleven’s (other than strikeouts). Blyleven only was an All-Star twice, only won more than 17 games twice, but made the HofF with 287 wins by sticking around forever, pitching a ton of games and innings and compiling a lot of stats in the process. Blyleven’s election to the HofF will make it easier for guys like Kaat, Tommy John and Jack Morris to get in. Guys who were good for a long time without necessarily being elite. Kaat’s amazing 15 Gold Gloves helps him, too.

Minnie Minoso
Minnie Miñoso

Minnie Miñoso

HofF-worthy years: 8

Good, not HofF-worthy: 3

Poor years/injured/bench: 4


  • .298 career hitter
  • Hit over .300 8 times
  • 7-time All-Star
  • Led league in stolen bases three times
  • Four times in the top 4 in MVP vote
  • Finished second as Rookie of the Year
  • Won three Gold Gloves
  • Good power/speed combo numbers: 10 times 10 or more HRs, 9 times 10 or more steals, 7 times 80 or more RBIs, 11 times 89 or more runs scored
  • Led AL in triples three times


  • Like Oliva, a very short career, only 6,579 ABs in his career. Wasn’t a full-time player until he was 25 and was done as a full-time player at 35.
  • For a speed guy, actually had a poor percentage of successful steals — barely 60 percent

I have to be honest. I never heard of Minnie Miñoso until recently, but in looking up his stats, they were very solid. Very similar to Oliva’s. (And they are both Cuban, too) More speed numbers, not quite as much power, but close.

Miñoso is definitely a solid candidate. A guy with decent power, drove in runs, scored runs and hit for average. He simply didn’t have a long enough career to compile numbers, which is why he has waited so long to get in the HofF. That and he played a lot of his career in Cleveland and for the White Sox.

Luis Tiant
Luis Tiant

Luis Tiant (A Pepe guy)

Pepe’s favourite player when he was a kid.

HofF-worthy years: 6

Good, not HofF-worthy: 5

Poor years/injured/bullpen: 8


  • Won 20 games four times
  • Twice led the AL in ERA, including an incredible 1.60 one season
  • 3.30 career ERA is solid
  • 187 complete games and 49 shutouts (21st all-time)


  • Only made 3 All-Star teams
  • Only won 15 or more games 6 times in 19-year career
  • Had some bad seasons (9-20, 1-7, 8-9, 11-11)
  • Never won a Cy Young, never finished higher than fourth in voting

Tiant is another borderline guy. He had a few really brilliant seasons, but had a number of mediocre or bad years, too, which is why he is a fringe Hall-of-Famer. His career reminds me a bit of Curt Schilling’s, only Schilling has a postseason resume Tiant wasn’t able to compile.

Dick Allen

Dick Allen

HofF-worthy years: 8

Good, not HofF-worthy: 3

Poor years/bench/injured: 4


  • Solid .292 batting average
  • Hit over .300 7 times
  • Career OPS of .912 (Still 53rd all time despite all the inflated OPS’s of the Steroid Era, ahead of Mike Schmidt, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell, Harmon Killebrew and many other Hall of Fame sluggers)
  • MVP award
  • Rookie of the Year award
  • 7-time All-Star
  • 1 HR title; 1RBI title
  • 30 or more home runs 6 times
  • 20 or more home runs 10 times
  • 351 HRs; 25th all-time at the time of his retirement


  • Only 6,330 ABs, only played in 1,750 games. His last full-time season was at the age of 30 and he was out of baseball by the time he was 35. He only had 1,597 ABs after the age of 31.
  • Only had five seasons in which he played more than 128 games
  • Played for five teams

Very much like Oliva and Miñoso, one of the reasons Dick Allen isn’t in the Hall is his relatively short career (and the fact that he was controversial and was embroiled in a lot of conflicts with teams he played for). He had some astonishing power numbers in the middle of his career (40 HRs in 524 ABs in 1966, 32 HRs in 438 ABs in 1969, 34 HRs in 459 ABs in 1970, , 37 HRs in 506 ABs in 1972, 32 HRs in 462 ABs in 1974). Those are some amazing numbers.







Kevin Millar on chewing tobacco: “Enough is enough”


Last week, Kevin Millar, former “Cowboy Up” Red Sox and one of the more entertaining voices on the MLB Network, appeared on Dan Patrick’s radio show on ESPN Radio, and Dan Patrick specifically asked him a number of questions about chewing tobacco in light of Tony Gwynn’s recent death from cancer.

To recap, Tony Gwynn died of salivary gland cancer, which appeared in the same cheek as where he always chewed. Baseball is being pressured to ban chewing tobacco on the field. The MLB actually wants to do it, but the players’ union is resisting. Chewing tobacco is already banned on the field at the minor league level and by the NCAA. For some bizarre reason, chew is deeply ingrained in the culture of baseball. A culture that is proving difficult to break.

Millar gave a really honest, articulate and poignant interview, not mincing words about how stupid chewing tobacco is and how he badly wants to quit. Here are a few snippets from the interview.

In case fascist YouTube pulls the video:

Dan Patrick interview

Miller on how he always chewed when he went out on the baseball field, and now still has the habit of chewing when he goes out to golf.

“This whole thing (with Tony Gwynn) has really opened my eyes. I know it’s a bad habit. I always did it on the field and now on the golf couse … I’m wired that way. Tuesday, I didn’t grab my can on my way to the golf course because of the whole Tony Gwynn situation. I want to quit. There’s got to be a time when you say ‘enough is enough.'”


Millar said he didn’t start chewing until 1996 when he was given his first can of Copenhagen by former big league pitcher Pascual Perez.

“For some reason … only on the baseball field. I never was a guy who needed it in hotel rooms or on the bus. I don’t know if I thought it was a cool thing to do because you’re a ballplayer or what.”

Patrick brought up the point that some people have claimed that chewing tobacco is a Performance Enhancement Drug (apparently because you get a charge of energy from the nicotine?). Patrick pointed out that perhaps baseball could ban chew on these grounds. Millar disagreed.

” It’s an addiction. It’s a choice. It’s a bad choice. I don’t that it’s a performance enhance. It’s just a bad choice,” he said.

Patrick made his own poignant comment of why did it take Tony Gwynn’s death to get so many ballplayers thinking about chew?

“I hate the fact that it took the death of a hall of famer to realize what it can do to you,” Patrick said. “Why did it take that?”

“We know it’s stupid every time you stick your finger in there and grab a pinch,” Millar responded. He suggested one reason more players don’t think about it is because they think that what happened to Gwynn could never happen to them.

Millar also talked his father, who required a quadruple bypass after just 12 years of smoking. He acknowledged that not everyone who smokes who chews get cancer because there is a genetic component to cancer, but boy, I loved his next statement, because he hits it dead-on. The fact is, not every chewer dies of oral cancer and not every smoker dies of lung cancer, but boy, you sure increase your risk:

“You think ‘it’s not going to happen to me, right. It’s not going to happen to me’ I used to watch Johnny Pesky at 83 years old with a full chew in …. he passed away at 92, 94, he did it for 60 years. At the end of the day, you’re playing Russian roulette,” he said.

“But when it hits home, it makes you think. I have four little kids. I want to be around,” Millar concluded.

Good luck to Kevin Millar in quitting chew.


Keith Olbermann’s absolutely EPIC rant against chewing tobacco in baseball — “Get it off the field, for Tony Gwynn”


I was pleasantly surprised to watch this 5-minute, emotional rant from Keith Olbermann on his ESPN show calling for an end to chewing tobacco on the field of baseball. I was surprised that this was something Olbermann felt so strongly about (and it really made me miss him from his MSNBC days — this is what Keith should be doing, not sports highlights).

Olbermann, who broke down crying talking about Tony Gwynn earlier in the week, takes on the MLB Players’ Association for refusing to budge on chewing tobacco (“they are completely, utterly, indefensibly wrong,” Olbermann said.) BTW, MLB actually wants to ban it. He also takes on denialists who claim that Gwynn’s cancer had nothing to do with his chewing. (I saw one of these denialists ranting online last week myself, quoting some sketchy medical group that turns out is consistently pro-industry and pro-corporation.)



And this earlier piece by Olbermann, remembering Tony Gwynn. Hopefully, YouTube doesn’t take these videos down, but they might:



Anyway, it’s a pretty devastating coincidence that the salivary gland cancer formed in the cheek where Gwynn always put in his chew for 30 years). Like Olbermann points out, doctors 50 years ago insisted there was no link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer.

OK, this is a struggle to transcribe this, but here is the best part of his rant, taking on the denialists:

“So one of the holier-than-thou medical groups can’t whine that we’re using scare tactics, let’s just assume that Tony Gwynn did not die by using chewing tobacco on the right side of his mouth and that the cancer of the salivary glands  … on the right side of his mouth … was just a coincidence, and the cancer was caused by one of the ‘recognized’ risk factors like exposure to extreme radiation or working in asbestos mining, because we all remember those seasons Tony Gwynn skipped baseball to go work mining asbestos … with the right side of his mouth.”

Applause, Keith.

Olbermann details the sordid history of tobacco advertising and sports, including baseball, and the more recent history of chewing tobacco advertising and sports. He also talks about how 40 years ago, baseball banned cigarette smoking on the field, but continues to lag on chew.

Part of the reason Olbermann feels so strongly about chew is years ago, he used to smoke pipes and cigars, believing that he it was safer than smoking cigarettes — that was until doctors found a growth in the roof of his mouth that had to be removed by a laser.

“I get it, I’ve been ‘it,’ ” Olbermann said, in response to people struggling to quit tobacco.

Olbermann concludes:

“Get it off the field. Cheat if you must in the clubhouses. Get it off the field. Get it off the field now. Get it off the field tomorrow. Get it off the field for Tony Gwynn.”

Diamondbacks’ Addison Reed quits chew in light of Tony Gwynn’s death

Addison Reed
Addison Reed

After the news that Tony Gwynn died of salivary gland cancer, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Addison Reed announced he is quitting chewing tobacco.

Reed, who played for Gwynn at San Diego State, said he threw away seven cans of chew out of his locked and two more out of his car after he learned of Gwynn’s death.

“It’s one of those things where I’ve done it for so long it’s just become a habit, a really bad habit,” Reed said Saturday. “It was something I always told myself I would quit, like next month, and the next thing you know it’s been six or seven years.”

Reed said he began chewing as a junior in high school. But, he started chewing in earnest when he became a professional ballplayer.

“It started to get bad my first year in pro ball and it’s one of those things where I’ve always done it,” Reed said. “I’d come to the field and throw one in and have multiple ones. I’d have one on the ride home, one on the way to the field and it was one of those things where I always had one with me.”

Let’s hope a bunch more ballplayers follow Reed’s lead. Chew is a bizarre habit that for some mysterious reason has somehow become deeply ingrained in the culture of baseball and it’s time to break that culture. Chew is already banned on the field in college baseball and minor league baseball, but the Player’s Association is resisting calls to ban it on the field in MLB.

ESPN, Chicago Sun-Times call for MLB ban on chewing tobacco in wake of Tony Gwynn’s death


Jim Caple, writer for ESPN and the Chicago Tony-GwynnSun-Times both published editorials this week calling for baseball to ban chew in the wake of Tony Gwynn’s death from cancer. Gwynn, a lifelong chewer, died this week of salivary gland cancer (which originated in the cheek in which he always chewed and he blamed chewing for his cancer.). Gwynn was very outspoken in warning about the dangers of chew in the last couple years of his life.

Jim Caple writes:

Like smoking, chewing tobacco is a revolting, addictive and harmful habit. We are repeatedly warned against both; and yet, people still use both. I do not understand why somebody starts smoking — the warnings are so explicit and the cost of cigarettes is so high – but maybe it’s because his or her friends are doing it. That’s definitely the case with ballplayers and chewing. Players have been chewing in baseball since before there was organ music.

The only way to stop them from doing so is to ban it from the game.

Baseball already has banned chewing tobacco at the minor league level. There are restrictions on it at the major league level as well, but the players union has stubbornly resisted banning its use on the field. And as long as they can use it on the field, they will never stop chewing and spitting and risking their health.

Yes, ballplayers are adults with the same rights as everyone else, but they also are role models who already accept various limitations in exchange for the considerable financial rewards they receive. The use of tobacco in all forms on the field or anywhere in the stadium should be one of these limitations. Tobacco might be a legal substance for adults, but that shouldn’t stop baseball from banning it. Marijuana, for example, has been legalized in Washington and Colorado, but MLB does not allow players to use it when in Seattle or Denver — or anywhere else for that matter.

If amphetamines are banned, then why does MLB allow a substance with known carcinogens that provides players with a “buzz?” If we are so caught up with eliminating performance enhancing drugs from the game, we should be equally passionate about banning health-diminishing products as well.

Gwynn was a wonderful man. The best way to honor him is to eliminate the very thing that killed him. Let’s get rid of chewing tobacco so that no other player suffers and dies as Tony did.

 The Chicago Sun-Times writes:

The tobacco tin may be carefully stowed away, but when Major League Baseball players head out to the field there’s no mistaking a cheek bulging with chaw.

In honor of Tony Gwynn, it’s time to end the charade.

MLB players can honor Gwynn — a Hall-of-Fame baseball player and long-time snuff user who died Monday at age 54 after battling salivary gland cancer — by agreeing to ban all smokeless tobacco products on the field.

MLB currently requires players only to keep the tins out of sight during play and prohibits dipping or chewing during interviews.

What a joke.

To make a real impact — to set an example for the millions of kids and young adults who watch professional baseball and idolize ball players — the league should do everything it can to rid itself of this filthy and deadly habit.

 But setting the tone from the top that chewing tobacco isn’t welcome on major league ball fields can send a powerful message.

Gwynn got the ball rolling by speaking honestly about what he believed caused his illness.

“Gwynn did something very important; he said early on in his diagnosis that he’d used chewing tobacco and was 99 percent sure that’s how he got it,” said Brian Hill, founder of the Oral Cancer Foundation and an oral cancer survivor. “He was very open about it.

“When our heroes show us they’re vulnerable,” Hill predicted, “they change the world.”

In Gwynn’s honor, we can only hope.

In addition, Dan Shaughnessy with the Boston Globe wrote a column about chew and Tony Gwynn’s death and get this “whistling past the graveyard” quote from Clay Buchholz:

“Cancer runs in my family,’’ said Buchholz, as he sat in front of his locker with a wad of smokeless tobacco wedged between his lower lip and gums. “There’s been people that have never smoked a cigarette or had a dip or chew and they’ve died of lung cancer.

Clay — 85 percent of the people who get lung cancer smoke or smoked. 75 percent of the people who get oral cancer either chew or smoke. So, keep whistling by that graveyard.

At least Dustin Pedroia was a little more contrite:

“I’m trying to stop,’’ said Pedroia. “It’s not a good habit. It’s one of those things, you try like heck. I wish I had never started.

“Everyone crushes me about it. You don’t want any kid to start doing it. Obviously, it’s addicting. It’s not good for you and can cause a lot of problems.

“You try the best you can to stop or not start it. It’s like any bad habit. People do things that aren’t good for you. A lot of things can hurt yourself, whether it’s drinking or tobacco. It’s hard to stop. I’ve stopped a few times and started back up. But I’ve cut back a lot.’’

Cleveland manager Terry Francona once made a high-profile bet to stop using chew. He couldn’t do it.

Former Sox manager Terry Francona keeps several canisters of his favorite chew (Lancaster) within reach whenever he is in uniform.

“It’s the weirdest thing with that,’’ Francona said last week at Fenway. “It’s only when I’m in uniform. The whole year I was out of the dugout, I never used it. Never felt like I wanted it. Never had an urge.

“It’s the same every offseason. I take the uniform off in October and I never think about it. But as soon as I get to spring training and get in uniform, I’m asking myself, ‘Where’s the chew?’ ’’

In 2009, Francona lost a $20,000 bet with Sox CEO Larry Lucchino. The Sox boss (a two-time cancer survivor) wanted to see whether his manager could quit chewing, and Francona barely made it through the first month of the season. Sox players and coaches noted that their manager was unusually agitated.

“I couldn’t make it without the stuff,’’ said Francona. “Nobody wanted to be around me. My coaches and players were telling me to just pay up. Finally, I snapped at a NESN cameraman during a rain delay and I yelled for the clubbie to get me some [expletive] Lancaster.

“Later that day, I wrote a check for $20,000 to Children’s Hospital and I left Larry a phone message telling him that I lost.’’

Tony Gwynn dies of salivary gland cancer — he blamed his years of chewing

Former Major League star tony gwynnTony Gwynn died today of oral cancer at the age of 54. Sad, sad, sad, still a young man, an incredible, underrated hitter (underrated because he played for the San Diego Padres).

Several months ago, I wrote about Tony’s battle with cancer and how he blamed his years of chewing tobacco for his cancer. He had been fighting oral cancer off and on since 2010 after 30 years or so of chewing tobacco.

All I can do is quote this outstanding blog piece by Gabe Costa:

As a baseball player myself, I can say that I have tried chewing tobacco. While it made me sick to my stomach, for other young ball players it is as a part of the game as it was for Gwynn. Whether, it is peer pressure or the mystique that “the big leaguers do it”, I have witnessed kids all from ages 14 and up throw in a “dip” while playing baseball. Recently, organized baseball has started taking a stand against the use of chewing tobacco. Currently, chewing tobacco is banned in NCAA baseball as well as the U.S. minor leagues. At the heart of these bans lies the proven danger that tobacco creates for the body. While the biological correlations between cancer and tobacco are outside the scope of this article, one cannot deny that there is a link between repeated tobacco use and cancer and other serious health issues.


For Tony Gwynn, his repeated use of chewing tobacco during his twenty year career has caused his recent struggles with mouth cancer. Starting in 2010, Gwynn has fought multiple bouts with oral cancer. In addition to weeks and weeks of radiation therapy Gwynn had multiple tumor removing surgeries that left the right side of his face motionless. Unfortunately, his cancer has returned once again. Despite his previous successful surgeries, Gwynn will once again enter the operating room to remove another cancerous tumor from his mouth. As a lifelong Padres fan, Gwynn has always been a symbol of success for the San Diego area. As the current coach of the San Diego State Aztecs, he will once again have to place baseball aside to focus on a fight with this dreaded disease. Gwynn in recent years, even despite his physical and mental pain, has taken his experiences in baseball and his addiction to chewing tobacco and decided to push for a change in Major League Baseball. With the help of many well known ex-baseball players, the discussion is now open on whether to ban chewing tobacco or not throughout Major League Baseball. Yet, despite the new found movement to end the use of tobacco in Major League Baseball, the players union has stood firm to their position of protecting a player’s right to chew tobacco.

Tony Gwynn Tumor Surgery

I couldn’t have written it any better.

It’s a tragedy, still a young man, a legendary talent (he hit an incredible .338 for his career, hit over .350 seven times, hit an unbelievable .394 one year, won 8 batting titles and did this while playing much of his career 20 to 30 pounds overweight — he was not the world’s best athlete). After retirement, he went on to become the head coach at San Diego State University. Tony tried to get the word out about the dangers of chew; it was too late for him, but not for others. Baseball has banned chew at the minor league level, but refuses to do it at the Major League level (and yet they have banned smoking cigarettes in dugouts, go figure. That’s just how weirdly ingrained chew is in the baseball culture). You can’t stop guys from chewing if they really want to, but every chewer needs to be reminded of the story of Tony Gwynn.


Gil Hodges ad promoting cigarettes — Gil Hodges died of heart attack at 47

Gil Hodges

My old Oregon friend Bill posted this on a Gil Hodges should be in the Hall of Fame page.

As I posted a few weeks ago, a lot of baseball players endorsed cigarettes. I found literally dozens of ads of baseball players endorsing either chew or cigarettes — and a hell of lot of them died young of cancer.

Gil Hodges was only 47 when he died in 1972. He literally keeled over dead from a massive heart attack while golfing. He was also a chain smoker. I’ve often wondered if he would have long ago been in the Hall of Fame had he lived and continued to manage and had his face and profile out there. He was 10th all time in home runs when he retired, an integral part of a number of Dodger champion teams, and arguably the best first baseman in the National League during the 1950s. On top of that, he managed a World Series-winning team with the Mets in 1969. But, he was quickly forgotten when he died. He was good, but wasn’t quite as good as Duke Snider, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Henry Aaron and a few others. Still, when you see guys like Tony Perez, Ron Santo and Orlando Cepeda in the Hall of Fame, it’s really hard to believe Hodges can’t get in. (And my point stands that one of the reasons Santo got in was he had a high-profile job for many years as an announcer.).

Hopefully, that will be cured soon. Gil Hodges is on a short list of serious contenders for the Hall of Fame from the Veterans Committee. He is such an obvious oversight.

Anyway, I always cringe at the irony of stars endorsing cigarette products — stars who later died  of cancer such as Humphrey Bogart or John Wayne. Or in the case of Gil Hodges, heart disease.

Baseball stars who endorsed tobacco products — a lot of them died young

Roger Maris
Roger Maris died of cancer at 50

Again, another idea from Haruko.

She showed me an ad with Stan Musial, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams advertising cigarettes and I got the bright idea to see how many ads there had been with baseball stars hawking tobacco products.

And when I looked, I said, “WHOA!”

I found dozens upon dozens upon dozens of ads going all the way back to the early 1900s. I was really shocked. I had never seen these ads before. I knew full well that tobacco companies had used many, many movie stars over the years to sell cigarettes, but I wasn’t aware of all the baseball ads.

The first ad that popped up hit me like a ton of bricks — Roger Maris. Roger Maris, as we all know, smoked five packs a day to deal with the stress of going after Babe Ruth’s home run record. He also died at the age of 50 from cancer. (Strangely enough, his family has always been fiercely private about what exactly Maris died of. There’s been varying reports that he died either of head and neck cancer, lung cancer, lymph gland cancer or lymphoma; I’ve found articles saying all four. The family has always been reticent to discuss it and the story seems to have changed at times about what exact kind of cancer he had. All I can think of is they don’t want people saying, “Well, Maris did it to himself.” Anyway, I digress. He died of cancer. At the age of 50.)

Maris also had a fairly short career. He was basically done at 30 and completely out of baseball at 33. I’ve always wondered if his heavy smoking habit helped break his body down so quickly. It definitely couldn’t have helped.

Babe Ruth died of throat cancer at 53
Babe Ruth died of throat cancer at 53

Another ad that jumped out of me was Babe Ruth endorsing Old Gold. He was a smoker and chewer who died of throat cancer at 53. There’s more. DiMaggio was in a ton of cigarette ads. And while he lived into his 80s, he died of lung disease (likely COPD). Another one that jumped out at me — Jackie Robinson, who died at 52 of diabetes (and it’s known today, not then, that smoking is a risk factor for diabetes).

Another tobacco ad featured Harry Heilmann, a very good hitter in the 1920s. He died of lung cancer at the age of 56. Another chew ad featured Nellie Fox, a Hall of Famer who died at 47 of melanoma.

Anyway, here is a slideshow of these old baseball tobacco ads:

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