The Story Behind Big League Chew, the Shredded Gum That Benched Tobacco in a Minor League Dugout

The novelty spoke to guys 40 years ago, and it still does

Rob Nelson still remembers one particular afternoon 40 years ago as though it were yesterday. It was 1977, and Nelson was a wannabe sports star whose left-handed pitching had only been good enough to land him on a Portland, Ore., minor league team called the Mavericks. Warming the bench beside him in the Civic Stadium dugout was Jim Bouton. Bouton had once been a famous New York Yankee, but Ball Four, his tell-all book about the drinking and skirt-chasing in the Major Leagues, had made him persona non grata with the ball clubs—all of them, that is, except the lowly Mavericks. So the two men sat in the dugout, watching the players out on the diamond—many of whom had wads of chewing tobacco stuffed into their mouths.

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This story first appeared in the Sept. 18, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.