Duke Snider was really hot stuff back in his day

I read yesterday that Duke Snider died. I had heard of the name of course and knew he was part of Ebbetts Field lore back in Brooklyn, and he helped the Dodgers win the World Series in 1955 and 1959. I’m sort of a stats geek, so I looked up his stats, and holy cats, he was a lot better player than I realized. He is mentioned a lot in books I’ve recently read about Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.

One thing I am really struck by in looking at the statistics of old-time ballyplayers is the off-times dramatic dropoff in their numbers in their early to mid 30s. Not 40s. 30s. Duke Snider stopped being a full-time ballplayer at the age of 32. His last decent season was at the age of 34. He retired at 37. He only had 1,200 at-bats after the age of 32. Back then, before the days of off-season conditioning and arthroscopic surgery, injuries caught up with athletes awfully young, so what happened to Snider was typical — Mickey Mantle’s last good year was at the age of 32. Still, Snider managed to hit 407 home runs and drive in 1,333 runs.

Can you imagine what kind of numbers he would have ended up with if he could have kept playing — and playing regularly — into his late 30s and early 40s? It makes you really appreciate guys like Henry Aaron, who hit 40 home runs at the age of 39, Willie Mays, who hit 52 home runs at the age of 34 and Ted Williams, who hit .388 with 38 home runs … at the age of 38.

Duke Snider had a remarkable 9-year run in which he hit .301, and averaged 34.5 home runs, 108.5 RBIs and 107 runs a year — in a 154-game schedule. This was before the days of steroids, remember. I didn’t realize he was so good.

$10 billion judgment against Phillip Morris revived!

A 2003 court case in Illinois awarded a $10 billion judgment against Phillip Morris for lying about the safety of its “low-tar” cigarettes. That decision got overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2006, but now an appeals court has breathed life back into the case by ruling that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision now changes the playing field legally.

It’s complicated, and I’m not sure I’m going to explain it 100 percent correctly, but here’s the gist of it. The Illinois Supreme Court had found that the descriptive terms for the cigarettes were permitted by the Federal Trade Commission and thus did not break state law. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to accept the plaintiffs’ appeal.

However, though in a 2008 decision regarding a lawsuit in Maine, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an “identical” Philip Morris defense, so plaintiffs’ lawyers successfully argued that the Illinois case should be looked again in light of that ruling.

RJ Reynolds, Lollilard suing the FDA over menthol? Really?

Don’t these douchebags ever get sick of being in court? Or are they in court so often they just see it as a normal way of life?

Oh, this is too rich. RJ Reynolds and Lollilard, which are usually the defendants have actually filed suit against the Federal Drug Administration over its tobacco policy advisory board.

The two tobacco giants are claiming that the advisory panel is biased against the tobacco industry and that several members have conflicts of interest.

One of the items the panel is chewing over is whether or not to recommend if menthol should be banned in cigarettes. Menthol is a continuing source of controversy in tobacco control. The FDA after it was granted regulatory authority over tobacco in 2010 quickly banned “candy-flavoured” cigarettes, but ignored menthol, well, because menthol has been around for a long time and is a huge part of the tobacco market. Lollilard’s No. 1 product, Newport, is a menthol brand. Newport brings in 90 percent of Lollilard’s revenues. It’s also the No. 1 type of cigarette for black smokers.

The suit was filed in United States District Court in Washington, D.C. According to the New York Times, the cigarette makers claim that three members of the panel — “Dr. Neal L. Benowitz, Dr. Jack E. Henningfield and Dr. Jonathan M. Samet — have received tens of thousands of dollars as expert witnesses in litigation against cigarette makers and as advisers to pharmaceutical companies that make smoking cessation products. They are all university professors, researchers and national experts in the antismoking movement.”

Phillip Morris made a similar complaint last year that was dismissed.

John Boehner once actually handed out tobacco checks on the floor of the House

Thanks to Ando for reminding me about this.

Just to remind you of the kind of douchebags Republicans have devolved into over the past 20 years. Get this, in 1995, now Speaker of the House John Boehner (and coincidentally, a unapologetic chain-smoker) actually handed out cheques from a tobacco PAC to House members on the floor of the House just before a vote regarding tobacco subsidies. I mean, this shit should have gotten him thrown in prison and now he’s the Speaker of the House.

The dude just reeks of “sleaze.”

Department of Justice urges Big Tobacco to finally tell the truth

An interesting story here. The Department of Justice is urging Big Tobacco (RJ Reynolds, Altria and Lollilard) to admit that for decades, it lied about the safety of “light” cigarettes and that it lied about how addictive nicotine is.

These “corrective statements” are part of a 2006 federal judge’s decision that Big Tobacco had engaged in racketeering (while it was an amazing ruling, that judge unfortunately did not hand down any monetary punishment). This is part of their “punishment,” so to speak. This was a civil case, not criminal, so no one is going to jail.

The DOJ wants Big Tobacco to make its admissions in major newspaper advertising and on cigarette packaging.

Here are the two statement’s the DOJ is demanding:

“We falsely marketed low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes to keep people smoking and sustain our profits. We knew that many smokers switch to low tar and light cigarettes rather than quitting because they believe low tar and lights are less harmful. They are NOT.”

“We told Congress under oath that we believed nicotine is not addictive. We told you that smoking is not an addiction and all it takes to quit is willpower. Here’s the truth: Smoking is very addictive. And it’s not easy to quit. We manipulated cigarettes to make them more addictive.”

Big Tobacco is of course resisting and will be submitting their own proposed statements to the judge. I hope the judge makes the right decision.

Danica Patrick joins COPD campaigndrive4

I don’t follow car racing (I mean, I don’t follow it with extreme prejudice), but I have of course heard of Danica Patrick — I mean you can’t hardly get away from those Go Daddy! commercials of hers.

Anyway, I saw an ad in this week’s Sports Illustrated with her in it, for a campaign called “Drive4COPD.” I thought that was pretty cool. COPD is a little understood disease that doesn’t get a great deal of publicity even though it kills nearly as many smokers as lung cancer (COPD among non-smokers is exceedingly rare. A lot of people in the mining industry also get it.). The campaign’s symbol is an orange and purple pinwheel.

COPD is a collection of lung function diseases that a few years ago got lumped together in one category — emphysema, chronic bronchitis being the main two. It kills more than 100,000 Americans a year … the No. 4 killer in America.

I went to the web site, I hadn’t heard of it before. The other celebrities involved in the campaign are Patty Loveless, Bruce Jenner and Michael Strahan. The whole point of the campaign is to educate people about COPD and identify more people who are likely suffering it but aren’t even aware of it (symptoms are constant lung and respiratory infections, constantly coughing up gunk, and a chronic cough.)


U.S. Senators getting involved in trying to ban chewing tobacco in MLB

Well, this usually not a good thing when the U.S. Senate butts (hah, pun on a tobacco site) into something, but maybe this isn’t a bad thing, either.

Dick Durbin of Illinois and Frank Lautenburg of New Jersey both wrote Major League Baseball this week urging the league and the players’ union to work together to ban chewing tobacco in baseball. I wrote a few weeks ago about the effort to ban the use of chewing tobacco in MLB stadiums. Before you all start screaming, “Fascist” one me, it’s already banned in Minor League Baseball and has been for several years now. Last I checked, the Earth is still revolving around the Sun.

They point out that use of chewing tobacco has increased among high school boys by 36 percent since 2003:

The senators wrote:

“The use of smokeless tobacco by baseball players undermines the positive image of the sport and sends a dangerous message to young fans, who may be influenced by the players they look up to as role models.”

Hey, MLBers, kids really do copy more than just your batting stances. Seriously.

As recently as 1988, 39 percent of MLB players chewed tobacco (that number has to be lower now). There is some talk that a ban on chew in stadiums will be part of baseball’s next collective bargaining agreement.

Probably, I would’ve smirked at this a few years ago, a couple of U.S. Senators butting into a baseball issue, but then I remember everyone scoffed at Congress for holding hearings on steroids in baseball, and while it seemed like pretty pathetic empty theater at the time, those hearings actually ended up drawing a hell of a lot of attention toward steroids in baseball.

Quick updates on Kentucky, New York smoking ban

Here’s something you don’t see every day. In Newport, Kentucky (a suburb of Cincinnati), a county board overturned a smoking ban that never took effect. The county board had two or three new members voted on it in the November election and they immediately vowed to overturn a decision the previous board had just approved. Weird. You don’t see many local boards overturn local smoking bans. It’s only the second or third one I can remember.

The issue was highly contentious, with six public hearings held on it to packed audiences. More than 140 people spoke.

People care about smoking bans.

New York Times comes out against city’s strict smoking ban
Oh, oh, Jackhole won’t like this! 🙂
The New York City Council extended the city’s already fairly strict smoking ban to parks and beaches, something I honestly will be pretty hard to enforce in a city of 7 million. The New York Times, surprisingly to me, took issue with the extended smoking ban, saying Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council had “overreached.”
The NYT opined:

Instead of smoking on Brighton Beach, what does a smoker do — take a boat out 12 nautical miles into international waters?

Anyway, I’m actually all for beach bans because of the mess cigarette butts make. Park bans are a tougher nut. Like I said, the biggest problem with it is good luck enforcing that ban.

Las Vegas hotel charged $20 extra per night … for a non-smoking room

OK, sorry, this was just FLAT STUPID.

A hotel in Las Vegas, the MGM Grand, was actually charging non-smokers a surcharge of $20 a night for a non-smoking room. A surcharge for non-smoking. REALLY? That’s insane.

I guess the hotel management didn’t bother looking into how much smoking costs in extra cleaning costs to their carpet, walls, air ducts, furniture, etc. If anything, the surcharge should be charged to the smokers, not the non-smokers. From an economic standpoint, MGM Grande, it makes sense to reward non-smokers, not punish them.

What’s cute is after this was publicized by a Chicago Tribune columnist, the hotel immediately stopped the practise. Ah, the power of the press.