Tony Gwynn was using smokeless tobacco in his final days

17 Comments

Over at Sports Illustrated, Andrew Lawrence has a story about the late Tony Gwynn’s final days before dying from cancer.

Most of it involves Gwynn’s smokeless tobacco habit which he believed gave him the cancer which killed him. His family believes it too and, as we recently noted, filed a lawsuit against tobacco companies claiming the same. As we also noted, and as Lawrence’s article notes, there have been no observed cases of the sort of cancer which killed Gwynn linked with smokeless tobacco use, so everyone’s belief on this matter is extraordinarily challenged by available medical science.

Still, Gwynn believed it and, Lawrence notes, Gwynn continued to dip snuff until he died all the same, hiding it in cans of synthetic snuff and sneaking to convenience stores to buy it where the clerks tried to talk him out of it. Related to his cancer or not, it’s a sad tale of addiction which puts the dangers of smokeless tobacco into stark relief.

The story is not all gloom. Much of it involves detailing Gwynn’s time as a San Diego State’s baseball coach, a job he held for 12 years. It always surprised me and heartened me that Gwynn, who had no financial need to work and who could’ve spent his retirement on the banquet circuit or in lucrative media gigs like so many other Hall of Famers do, continued to work his tail off until the very end.

He was a man who followed his passions, that’s for sure.