Chew – Baseball’s Original PED

Photo is courtesy of Getty Images/ Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)


Ever since I was a kid, I have been fascinated by players chewing during baseball games.  In no other professional sport is the use of tobacco or any other chewable product an accepted part of the game.  But maybe that’s why I love baseball…because it’s just a little different and seeing a pitcher with a golf ball sized cud in his cheek seems just about as lovely to me as the smell of freshly cut grass in the spring.

But what do the players chew on and why do they do so?  What other things might you find a baseball player chewing on when they take the field?  What good does chewing during a baseball game serve in the first place?

According to the wonderful source that is Wiki Answers, players began chewing to prevent their mouths from drying out in the dusty infields.  Why not just drink some water?  Well, in the early days of baseball it was believed that water weighed a player down and inhibited his speed.  Since chewing on anything makes you produce saliva, chewing seemed to make the most sense.  Apparently there wasn’t a Gatorade cooler in old Honus Wagner’s dugout.

Now for baseball players, chew falls into four categories:  gum, seeds, tobacco, and the good old mystery mix.

Gum is pretty self-explanatory, but I’m pretty sure that the official rules of baseball require the particular cud in question to be bubble gum.  Anything from Big League Chew to Bubblicious will suffice and I hear that during spring training, the players’ union doles out complementary rounds of golf to players that can cram an entire can of Bubble Tape into their cheek and keep it there for nine innings.

Then there are seeds.  Seeds seem to come in two varieties: pumpkin, and the more popular sunflower.  I prefer the sunflower seeds over pumpkin seeds (in fact, this post was cooked up while enjoying some Big’s Vlassic Dill Pickle flavored sunflower seeds) as pumpkin seeds have an odd flavor in my opinion.  Sunflower seeds come in many different flavors, helping to keep one’s palette from getting bored over the course of a long season.

Now every player (from church softball to the big leagues) has their own method by which they chew sunflower seeds.  Some spit out the shells while eating the inner seed, while others chew up the whole thing and swallow it.  I myself prefer to put a generous handful in my left cheek, crack one seed open at a time with my front teeth, lick the inside of each half of the shell, put the seed back into the shell, put the shell back together, and spit out the whole thing.  Way more than you wanted to know I’m sure, but trust me…it makes an extra-inning game (long drive, etc.) fly by.  It’s like a puzzle for your mouth.  But I digress…

Then there’s good old chewing tobacco, the one that started it all.  Some players go with snuff (you know, the round can that rednecks carry around in their back pockets) while others prefer chaw (you know, the stuff in the bag that your grandpa chewed because he saw the ad painted on the side of a barn).  I myself dabbled in this stuff for a short time, but they all make me want to puke.  Somehow jaw cancer doesn’t seem too pleasant either.  However, if I really need to fit in with the good old boys, I prefer to be a poser and chew the beef jerky that comes in a can.  Laugh all you want, but that stuff is amazing!

And last but not least there’s the mystery mix.  This is by far the most bizarre chew variety that I have seen or heard of.  From what I understand, only seasoned professionals can really pull this one off.  A player will start by chewing up a big wad of bubble gum, flatten it out on their hand, add a wad of chaw, ball the whole thing up, and stick it in their cheek.  I don’t understand why this is appealing to anyone, but I suppose that’s why I never made it anywhere in baseball (my being a terrible player had absolutely nothing to do with it I’m sure).  The whole thing just sounds like a waste of perfectly good bubble gum to me.

Well that’s all for me for this evening.  What say you all?  What is your weapon of choice during a game?