There is a great baseball player who by all rights should be on the stage next month during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown, but he won’t be there.
We’re not referring to Pete Rose, the all-time hits leader who has been banned from the game and thus inclusion into the Hall for gambling on baseball and lying about it.
No, we mean Tony Gwynn, who was such a good player and good man that the worst thing you could say about him was that he was addicted to chewing tobacco.
It was that addiction that led to his death a week ago from salivary gland cancer at age 54.
It was a shame, and it will be an even greater shame that Gwynn will almost certainly not be the last inductee to die from the disgusting habit that led to his demise. That’s because Major League Baseball’s desire to forbid players from using smokeless tobacco on the field has been thwarted by the players union.
Gwynn was inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 29, 2007, along with another wildly popular player, Cal Ripken Jr. They broke all attendance records on that day. An estimated 75,000 people attended the induction ceremony, smashing the previous record of 25,000 from 1999.
The record figures to stand at least until the prospective entry of Yankees Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter five and six years hence. Those ceremonies will be something to see, but tragically, Gwynn won’t be there.
Gwynn underwent two surgeries to battle his cancer. He had no doubts that chewing tobacco caused the cancer.
“Of course it caused it,” he said.
“I was addicted,” he once told ESPN’s Tom Friend, confessing that he would sneak out of his house late at night “like a criminal’’ to buy his tobacco at a convenience store when his wife was unaware.