“You’re in the big leagues when you’re into Big League Chew!”
For many a decade, young fans of America’s favorite pastime watched their heroes stuff enormous wads of chewing tobacco into their cheek, a particularly dangerous habit that most parents didn’t want their kids to emulate. Then, in 1977, a veteran ballplayer named Jim Bouton was sitting in the dugout, watching the younger players follow in the footsteps of their chewing predecessors, when it occurred to him that someone ought to make a gum that looked like chewing tobacco, in the hopes that it might serve as a healthier substitute for this nasty habit. The result was Big League Chew.
Bouton and his teammate, Rob Nelson, reportedly cooked up a batch of gum and sliced it into very thin strips, giving it the appearance of being shredded, and packaged it into an aluminum pouch. They pitched their idea to numerous chewing gum companies but none of the heavy hitters were interested. Finally, a small company called Amurol Products ran with the idea, and in the first 12 months, sold $18 million dollars worth of the gum. Now the big guys were interested. Noting the overwhelming sales, Wrigley eventually bought the rights to Big League Chew, replaced the traditional looking packaging with a more humorous caricature of a bulging cheeked ballplayer, and the result was a grand slam in the gum industry.
Originally sold in the traditional pink bubble gum variety, Big League Chew has expanded its flavor roster over the years to include grape, watermelon, strawberry, sour cherry, sour apple and cotton candy. And with the banning of chewing tobacco use in (at least) the minor leagues, a number of professional players have become devotees to the fun and flavorful substitute. This has managed to diminish some of the reservations of parents, who originally feared the product might lead their kids astray into a world filled with spittoons and brown teeth. Today, Big League Chew boasts sales of over 450 million pouches of the shredded sugary substitute and shows no signs of entering the final stretch anytime soon.
If you are fan of Big League Chew, and would like to share your memories of this unique chewing gum, we welcome your thoughts in our comments sections, as we tip our hats to this wonderful substitute for a dangerous habit.