Chris Sale explains how the late, great Tony Gwynn saved his life
SAN DIEGO — This beautiful city was Tony Gwynn’s town, and that makes the 2016 All-Star Game a celebration of not only the area but, by proxy, Mr. Padre as well.
It’s been two years since Gwynn died of salivary gland cancer, a disease he and his family believed was the result of his frequent use of smokeless tobacco throughout his Hall of Fame career.
"Chew" or "dip" is a ubiquitous part of baseball culture. It was part of White Sox pitcher Chris Sale’s life, too, until Gwynn’s death.
Sale, the American League starting pitcher in Tuesday’s All-Star Game said at his press conference Monday that when he heard the news that Gwynn died in June 2014, he quit using smokeless tobacco on the spot, cold turkey. Since that day, he said, he hasn’t touched snuff.
"I chewed tobacco from 2007 until the day he passed away," Sale said. "I remember seeing that and being so shocked. I quit that day and haven’t touched it since."
"In a sense, I owe him a huge thank you, not only for myself but for my family. Hopefully, I can sway someone in the right direction as well, like he did for me."
Sale took it a step further after the press conference was over: "To say he saved my life, I don’t think it’s an understatement."
Baseball’s owners pushed for a league-wide smokeless tobacco ban in collective bargaining in 2011, but the MLB Players Association pushed back and stopped it.
Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco have recently banned the use of smokeless tobacco in sporting venues, with the state of California looking to pass a similar ban in 2017. Toronto and Washington D.C. are eying the creation of similar laws.
Gwynn’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the tobacco industry in May. In the lawsuit, the family claimed that Gwynn used one-and-a-half to two cans of smokeless tobacco per day — the equivalent of four to five packs of cigarettes every day.