The Sports Archives – Why Do Baseball Players Chew Tobacco?

Chewing TobaccoWhen we think about chewing tobacco, we think about baseball. Well, baseball, mouth cancer, and bad breath. Chewing tobacco used to be the method of choice for Americans who wanted their nicotine fix, but nowadays it’s not quite as glamorous as it used to be. Cigarettes largely replaced chewing tobacco in the general public, and education on the harmful health effects of smoking has led to its recent decline in popularity.

Why, then, is baseball so associated with chewing tobacco? If there’s any group that’s most fond of the stuff, it’d be baseball players. The players of “America’s pastime” have many traditions, and one of them happens to be chewing and spitting wads of black tobacco. Why?

Long-Standing Tradition

The tradition of chewing tobacco in baseball is actually the main reason baseball players do it. They used to do it so much, that it became a tradition. Now, they continue to do it often just because it’s a tradition. Oh, the irony! Chewing tobacco helps polish off the image of the quintessential baseball player, and modern players desire to emulate the greats of the past, like Babe Ruth. Unfortunately, Babe Ruth was an amazing baseball player who also died of throat cancer.

Times of the Past

Baseball became a popular sport in the 1880’s, at the same time that chewing tobacco was popular among mainstream Americans. It was the thing to do, and that’s why many baseball players were doing it. When smoking cigarettes became popular, chewing tobacco use declined amongst baseball players. But after the 1960’s, when the harmful effects of smoking were widely publicized, chewing tobacco use once again increased among baseball players, many of whom mistakenly thought that it was a less harmful method of nicotine ingestion than smoking.


For baseball players, chewing tobacco remained popular because it was a way that they could get their nicotine fixes without smoking on the field, which wouldn’t be allowed or convenient. It was also a way to keep their mouths moist on the dusty baseball fields, and it helped them prep spitballs and buff their mitts. All those “uses” for chewing tobacco helped it remain a popular activity among baseball players, even as it became extremely unpopular in the mainstream.

Why Baseball?

Why isn’t chewing tobacco as notably popular among other athletes? Besides the time in which baseball became popular, chewing tobacco wouldn’t be convenient or appropriate for other sports. For example, football players have to wear mouth guards, and hockey players wouldn’t be able to spit on the ice. Tennis players have to run so quickly that trying to chew or hold tobacco in their mouths at the same time wouldn’t be possible.

Even though chewing tobacco is often synonymous with baseball, that association might continue to decline as many baseball players take their jobs as role models for young fans more seriously. Well, that and the fact that the minor leagues banned chewing tobacco in 1993, and the major leagues have just followed suit, banning chewing tobacco in 2012.

Carlos Garza plays baseball and is currently trying to quit with the help of smokeless e-cigs. He lives in Puerto Rico with his wife and two children who are his main inspiration for quitting.

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