Tobacco: A continuous problem in baseball


Baseball season is finally here. All the many traditions of baseball are all here. The main focus here will be the tradition of smokeless tobacco in the MLB.

Since the rules of baseball were made, smokeless tobacco has been allowed. It something the players used then as a way to keep the players mouths from getting dry in the dusty parks. Eventually, ball players switched to the alternative cigarettes. In the 1950s, cigarette smoking took off and chewing tobacco sort of died out. Teams like the Giants had their very own brand of cigarettes called “Chesterfields”. However, in the 1970s players went back to chewing when the dangers of smoking were brought up. Players believed chewing tobacco was safer than cigarettes.

Still in the 1970s, a different type of tobacco was brought up. “Moist snuff” was the one the most of the players switched to. It was a type of smokeless tobacco that could be put in between the lip and didn’t have to be chewed. Free samples of this snuff tobacco came into clubhouses, as Nolan Ryan described it. These free samples ended in 1988 as the dangers of smokeless tobacco were finally brought out.

Today, many players still continue to use some type of smokeless tobacco product. The MLB was unable to completely ban smokeless tobacco use in the league. However, players are not allowed to have any type of smokeless tobacco product in their pockets during games. This hasn’t stopped players from throwing in before an at bat or before taking the field. David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox says he uses it as a stimulator when he goes out to bat. The minute he comes off the field he takes it out. “It keeps me smooth and puts me in a good mood,” Ortiz said. “I don’t do it during the off season.”

In Ortiz’s case, addiction isn’t really the big problem. To throw in a few times when going out to hit and then nothing more is just baseball. Many other players are similar to Ortiz. They don’t feel the need to throw in any other time except for when hitting or in the field.

The MLB will most likely continue to ban it completely in the coming years, as it is clearly not safe. Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn was diagnosed with cancer and he connected it to his use of smokeless tobacco while playing. It is truly just a part of tradition in baseball. However, many of the players that continue to do it are putting theirs and many others lives at risk. When a young kid sees a player come up to the plate with his lip bulging out, eventually they catch on that is smokeless tobacco. Young kids out there want to be just like the players and will eventually fall into the same routines that these MLB players do.

But can the MLB Players Association come to an agreement to ban it? In my opinion, smokeless tobacco will always be around. It is a part of the game but the players themselves will have to understand the risks involved in what they are doing and have to say no to smokeless tobacco when the time comes.