The On Deck Circle

The unofficial home of Real Talk

America’s Favorite Tag Team - Baseball and Tobacco

Posted by Blake Murphy on April 17, 2008

This article has been submiteed by Michael Cascone.

America’s favorite pastime has always held a certain level of intrigue. There are a number of nuances in the game that you won’t find in any other professional sport that has been heavily commercialized, anything from the lack of video replay to ridiculous bench-clearing brawls.

However, I’m talking about a different type of intrigue. The kind of intrigue that fathers won’t explain to their sons while watching a game; the kind of intrigue that makes every game that much more enjoyable. That’s right: dip.

Tobacco consumption during games is considered completely taboo in most, if not all, major sports across the world. Except for baseball. It is so engrained in baseball culture that it would be rare to not see a massive first baseman struggling with a chew, and weird to not see a starting pitcher with a lipper packed. How did this seemingly familial bond first emerge, you ask?

When organized baseball started up around 1847, chewing tobacco was much more popular than cigarettes, due to the difficultly of machine-rolling. However, when it was learned that spitting caused the spread of tuberculosis, cigarettes became much more popular, and even up until the 1950’s cigarettes were a major part of the sport. The New York Giants even had their own team brand, ‘Chesterfields.’ Once the dangers of smoking became well-known, dipping once again replaced cigarettes as the tobacco of choice in professional baseball. Nolan Ryan can be quoted as saying, “When I first broke into the big leagues, 30-40% of the Mets smoked, and only three of the remaining players on the 25 man roster chewed. No one dipped. Chewing peaked in the 1970’s, and dipping took over. The switch began with free samples of dip coming into the clubhouse.”

Dip was here to stay. The use of dip by boys aged 17-19 increased fifteenfold, and ruthless tobacco companies would even provide free samples for college and youth teams. The phenomenon is very widespread in baseball, yet extremely misunderstood in circles outside of the game. So hopefully this article can provide a little insight into one of the game’s favorite activities.

“So why have tobacco in baseball at all?” you ask. “Michael Jordan was a superb athlete without the use of any tobacco-related products”.

Well, yes, Michael Jordan was a fantastic athlete, however, was he a good baseball player? No. He was fucking terrible. Now I’m not going to make the allegation that dip makes you a better baseball player; however, it does help you relax. Baseball is a traditionally slow moving game, and throwing in a lipper keeps you preoccupied while your pitcher is walking guys, or even if you’re stuck on the bench for a game. There are times when you may not want to have one in, especially during fast-moving points in a game. For example, while running the bases (Zaun choked on a dip and passed out after sliding into second a few years ago), or playing shortstop (no time for dip, gotta move quickly). Some people even find it awkward to do while hitting.

Given this, it does add a delicious element to the game for any pitcher, outfielder, or first-baseman looking for that something more. It also helps you relax and play naturally in pressure-packed situations that require a calm head. Standing out on the field doing nothing but thinking about how you shouldn’t screw up doesn’t help anyone, so why not toss in a dip?

Dip vs. Chew
Many amateurs often confuse the two. This is ill-mannered, and voicing this ignorance can make you the proverbial whipping-boy of any baseball team. So I’ll clear the air on this issue to prevent any future embarrassment.

Dip is chopped smokeless tobacco. You pack the finely cut tobacco, which comes in a variety of fantastic flavors, and toss it in between your gum and lip. Make sure you pack it tight, and going top shelf is not recommended. In Canada, pretty much the only brand you can get is Skoal, which is pretty much the premier all around brand name anyways.

In the States, the tins are much bigger due to less regulation. There are also a million more brands. Its extremely cheap there as well, but you have to be careful not to pick a shitty one, or you’ll get a dirty case of the sweats/shits. From experience, some decent sleeper picks:

• Grizzly Long Cut – Straight
• Timber Wolf – Ice
• Red Seal – Mint

In comparison, chew is the massive wads that players chew on and store like chipmunks above their molars. It spurs an obscene amount of salvia production, so it can get pretty messy. Chewing tobacco, unlike smokeless tobacco, is uncut tobacco leaves without any flavor. Its adhesion is aided by chewing it with a piece or two of gum, like Hubba-Bubba or Bubbalicious. While delicious, chewing often makes you look like a horse trying to eat peanut butter: just a chewy, sloppy mess.

There isn’t much, I mean, you’re spitting on the ground for chrissakes. However, I can think of a few unwritten conduct rules:

1. Always hook a bro up with a dip on the ballfield, unless its your last one.
2. If he’s having a bad game, don’t bitch if he takes a huge one from you.
3. Dip games/discussion are encouraged while riding the bench: don’t join them unless you have the knowledge.
4. Packing tins extra loud in the face of a rookie, also encouraged.
5. Spitting in the direction of an opposing pitcher? Intimidating, but be prepared to get a fastball in the back.

In the case of dip, the flavor defines the man. Everyone has their go-tos and reviled flavors. A standard go-to is mint, everyone likes it, but its nothing special. Straight is another classic choice. A solid idea is to start games with your standby, then mix it up with something different at the end. Citrus is unreal, and I personally don’t mind cherry. Dipping apple or peach every once and a while is alright, but doing it repeatedly is not only disgusting but labels you as ‘that guy’ who can’t handle any real flavors. Dip selectively.

Here’s a tip: Buy a tin of vanilla and put it in the freezer for half an hour before tossing a lipper in. The result? A delicious summer afternoon treat.

Well, the fields are starting to dry up, especially for this Saturday’s GMIL baseball game, so toss in those lippers and enjoy yourselves fellas.

This article has been submiteed by Michael Cascone.

4 Responses to “America’s Favorite Tag Team - Baseball and Tobacco”

  1. Blake Murphy Says:

    That honestly made me want to start dipping. As a guy who is pretty much eternally glued to the bench and is a little hyperactive, it seems like a perfect fit. Except for my perfect teeth, but there has to be a way around that…

  2. AJ Says:

    Little known fact, despite the widespread acceptance of smoking in Europe, different types of smokeless tobacco(dips/chews/snus) is actually illegal.

    The big thing is for Swedes to sneak Snus in. It’s much “classier,” no spitting required.

  3. Principal Dondelinger Says:

    This article is fantastic. I especially like the food networkesque ‘afternoon summer treat’ plug.

  4. Cha Cha Says:


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