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Joe G's anti-chew campaign

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"You're writing about chewing tobacco? That's not a good article. All those kids that look up to me are going to find out I'm chewing. Nah, man, nah. It's a disgusting habit. It's terrible. It's a disgusting habit that unfortunately, for whatever reason, has become part of baseball tradition. All that being said, I'm asking that you leave my name out of it. Just say several Diamondbacks players use." -- Eric Byrnes

Great piece in the Republic today, on Joe Garagiola Sr's campaign to stop players from using chew tobacco. You probably know about his 'No-Chew Crew' team, for the kids, but he also tries to stop players from using it, especially in public:

"There's two things I can spot from a mile away," Garagiola said. "I can spot a toupee a mile and a half away. I can also spot a dipper from 2 miles away." That's when Garagiola's campaign becomes personal. He does a mini patrol, asking players to, at the very least, take the tobacco can out of their pocket before they take the field. Please, he will ask, leave it in the dugout, out of view. "You got that can in your pocket, kids see that," Garagiola said. Most players, even the ones on opposing teams, know what's coming when they see Garagiola. "They make me feel like one of those metal detectors at the airport," he said.

This is something I respect about Mr. Garagiola - in many ways, he's a reactionary old fart, stuck in a pre-war view of baseball (though I've grown to love his commentaries). But it's insane for the team to have, as they apparently did, ban alcohol from the clubhouse, yet still allow the far more lethal chew tobacco in there. The story of Garagiola's conversion to the cause is dramatic, but certainly goes a long way to explain his devotion:

He smoked and used chewing tobacco during his playing days with the St. Louis Cardinals. He continued after he moved into the broadcast booth. He said he quit after his daughter came home from school one day with a terrified look on her face. "She said, 'Daddy are you going to die?' " Her class was studying the links between cancer and tobacco use. "You talk about getting hit between the eyes," Garagiola said, "She said, 'I don't want you to die.' I haven't touched tobacco since."

It was surprising to read who uses it, and who doesn't. Daron Sutton has, since his days as a minor-leaguer riding the bus. Doug Slaten does too, though responds, somewhat sniffily, to reporter Richard Ruelas, saying, "I happen to be in the process of quitting." On the other hand, I was watching the game last night, and they showed new reliever Bob Wickman in the 'pen, looking big, bad and chewing like a fiend. The demonic illusion was, however, pleasantly shattered as he blew a big, pink bubble which popped over his beard. Nice one, Bob.

The biggest shock, however, was probably Eric 'Face of the Franchise' Byrnes, who was embarrassed to be "outed" as a chewer, and asked Ruelas to leave his name out of the article, as above. Not a good example for the kids, Eric - and his mother agrees, saying in a comment on the article: "I want to THANK Mr. Garagiola for his Anti Tobacco Campaign!! Also Thank You for speaking to Eric about the terrible and dangerous habit. Hats off to YOU!! It is about time someone has the courage to speak up. Now we need a plan to help them quit. Many Thanks again!" There you go, Eric. Your mom wants you to quit. Joe G. wants you to quit. Mrs. SnakePit really wants you to quit - it's among her pet peeves, seeing her favorite ball-players looking like hamsters. You're a better man than that.