Boston has joined San Francisco in banning chewing tobacco in all ballparks, including Major League Ballparks like Fenway.
The move is, I believe, part of a push to force the Major League Baseball Players’ Association to accept a league-wide ban on chewing tobacco. Chewing tobacco is already banned by the NCAA and in Minor League Baseball. MLB can’t ban chewing tobacco on the field or in the dugouts without the cooperation of the MLB Players’ Association. The issue of chew is set to be negotiated between the Players’ Association and MLB during the next contract discussions this off-season.
This legislation, which will take effect in April 2016, won’t really affect fans, because tobacco use is already banned within the stadium, according to the Boston Globe. It is a somewhat symbolic measure directed at the players and coaches on the field and in the dugouts.
In addition to San Francisco and Boston, the city of L.A. is considering a similar ban, which would affect players and coaches chewing at Dodger Stadium. There is also a bill in the California State Assembly to ban it all ballparks in the entire state.
From the Boston Globe article:
“These great baseball cities have set a powerful example that should be quickly followed by all of Major League Baseball,” said a statement from Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Chewing tobacco is deeply entrenched in the culture of baseball. One recent survey showed that about 30 percent of baseball players chew tobacco, while only about 7 percent of men overall chew.
Red Sox owner John Henry supports the ban. It will be interesting to see if David Ortiz will drop the chew once the ban takes effect next year. Ortiz is beloved in Boston for not putting up with authority and he is a known chewer.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.