There were three things that defined my little league experiences.
1. Wearing a uniform of whatever random local business was willing to sponsor the team. I donned a jersey plastered with a logo of whoever was willing to sponsor the team. We promoted everything from a regional gas station, to insurance agencies, to spending one summer as one of Barb’s Boys. Apparently, Barb was a rich old lady in town who was willing to support local youth sports as long as the team was named after her.
2. Batting helmets that were way too big and rattled around my little noggin every time I ran the bases. I’m not sure it did any good when it fell off before I even made it to first base.
3. A pouch of Big League Chew before every game.
The 80s were a facinating period where all the good little boys and girls were training on the proper use of tobacco products through an assortment of branded gum and candy. I proudly rolled by box of Lucky Strike candy cigarettes in my shirt and did the same with the cigarette gum that had a little puff of smoke the first time you blew on it. If cigarettes were too dainty for your, cigar gum was there to provide a larger alternative.
For the student athletes, Big League Chew was there to teach us how to take shredded gum and stuff a wad in our mouth just like the big leaguers did with their chew! Fortunately, despite all the training, I never picked up a real tobacco habit, but when my sister bought me a few pouches of Big League Chew for my birthday last week, all the memories of those days on the little league fields came back.
Since it’s creation in by Jim Bouton and Rob Nelson in the early 80’s, over 800 million pouches have been sold and it claims to be the #1 selling shredded bubble gum brand in the world. I did a quick Google search and it was the only shredded gum brand I could find, so there’s that.
The original pouch design featured art by Bill Mayer, and prominently advertised that its “Man Sized Wads” came in a Stay Fresh Pouch and equaled 26 sticks of regular gum. Wrigley bought and produced the gum through 2010 when it was sold to the current manufacturer Ford Gum & Machine. The gum is now on display in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Surprisingly, Big League Chew only contained baseball cards a couple times. 1986 was the first with a special set dedicated to Home Run Legends.
They can be found pretty reasonably on EBay, Sportlots, or COMC. Ten years later a three card Alumni Series was released in which autographed cards could be obtained from Billy WIlliams, Brooks Robinson, and Juan Marichal. I don’t remember those at all.
My girls had never heard of the gum and so I thought I’d get their first BLC experience on camera.
As you can see, they weren’t sure what to do with shredded gum!
Do you have any memories from your childhood that involve food? A special item from the ball park vendor? Something from the local pool concession stand?
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