Cautionary tale for ballplayers

We read an interesting story on CNN’s website that detailed a very real threat for baseball players.

Hitting magician Tony Gwynn died Monday and his cause of death was cancer that began in his salivary glands.

Tony Gwynn used chewing tobacco throughout his career, and he blamed that habit for his cancer when he was first diagnosed in 2010.

While usage of chewing tobacco in the major leagues has declined and new restrictions have been put on its usage, it has not been banned. And, according to the CNN story, Gwynn is not the only star who has suffered because of an addiction to the nicotine in a “chaw.”

Babe Ruth died from oral cancer.

All of us who played baseball as youngsters and dreamed of a career in the big leagues remember images of our idols spitting out tobacco juice. Nellie Fox, longtime second baseman for the Chicago White Sox, always had a chaw so big that the whole side of his face seemed deformed.

Films from “The Babe Ruth Story” to “A League of Their Own” featured the use of chewing tobacco prominently.

Like cigarette smoking decades ago, the dangers of smokeless tobacco have been largely unreported. CNN noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites 28 known carcinogens that are found in chewing tobacco and snuff. The CDC says smokeless tobacco is a known cause of oral cancer.

We’d like to see the major leagues ban usage of these smokeless products. Whether it is fair or not, youngsters idolize these stars and try to emulate them.

Developing a possibly lethal addiction to chewing tobacco is a high price to pay for hero worship.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.