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:
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.