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Here's why chewing tobacco used to seem cool

Philadelphia Phillies centerfielder Lenny Dykstra enjoys a mouthful

Philadelphia Phillies centerfielder Lenny Dykstra enjoys a mouthful of chewing tobacco during a team workout at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia on Oct. 4, 1993. Credit: USA / Amy Sancetta

Spitting and chewing and spitting some more while playing ball with a lump of tobacco in your cheek may not seem very glamorous in this day and age, but Madison Avenue made it seem cool in years gone by.

In the 1950s and '60s, parents often had to explain to their baseball-card buying kids that Nellie Fox, Bill Tuttle and Don Zimmer did not have the mumps, but were instead chewing tobacco.

Fox, the White Sox second baseman and future Hall of Famer, was rarely seen without a chaw in his left cheek. In fact, he was the chief spokesman for the Favorite Chewing Tobacco Co., which nicknamed him "Mr. Chewing Tobacco." The company also had endorsements from his teammate, Luis Aparicio, ("There's a reason why we big-leaguers chew Favorite. It tastes best, lasts longer") along with other sports celebrities ranging from Los Angeles Rams quarterback Norm Van Brocklin to Yankees manager Ralph Houk, whose baseball cards also suggested a case of the mumps. "I chew a lot of tobacco," Houk's endorsement in a Favorite brand memo book read, "and Favorite is definitely my chew."

One brand of chewing tobacco, Red Man, even issued its own baseball trading cards and offered incentives such as baseball caps to keep kids pestering their dads to buy that product instead of Beech Nut or some other brand.

Remember the stories about the rare, valuable Honus Wagner tobacco cards that were recalled in 1910 because he was opposed to tobacco? In later years, Wagner was often photographed with a chaw in his mouth. In fact, a 1948 Leaf brand baseball card -- depicting him as an aging coach for the Pirates -- shows him dipping into a bag of snuff.

The ads and cards always will be cool, but the death of Tony Gwynn, who attributed his salivary gland cancer to smokeless tobacco, casts a somber shadow on them. And Gwynn wasn't the first player to come out against the habit.

Tuttle, who played for the Tigers, Athletics and Twins, died in 1998 after a five-year battle with oral cancer.

Tuttle who had numerous surgeries and lost much of his face, including his jaw, teeth, and right cheek, spent the last five years of his life as an advocate for the National Spit Tobacco Education Program, speaking as living proof before minor- and major-league players about the dangers of dipping.

New York Sports