As is being mentioned in most obituaries of Tony Gwynn, he blamed his longtime use of smokeless tobacco for the mouth and salivary gland cancer which eventually took his life. Which makes it a really good time to tell anyone you know who uses the stuff to stop immediately and to tell any kids you know — especially ones who play baseball, where so many develop the habit — not to start.
It’s also a good time to look back to the story Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe wrote back in March about baseball players’ use of chewing tobacco and snuff. In it he notes that, even though Major League Baseball has tried to discourage its use for the last few years, a lot of ballplayers still use it. In Abraham’s own survey of the 58 Red Sox players invited to spring training, he found 21 who admitted to using it.
Like so many things in baseball, use of tobacco is done out of habit and tradition and the sport’s particular culture. But unlike everything else which follows that pattern, tobacco kills. It may very well have killed Tony Gwynn.