Can baseball survive as the American pastime if grown men aren’t allowed to stand around in a giant, manicured grass field grabbing their crotches and delighting in giant, brown, cancerous wads of tobacco in their mouths?
The crotch-grabbing remains legal (for now) but, if California Democratic Assemblyman Tony Thurmond has his way, all tobacco use will be flatly prohibited at all baseball stadiums throughout the Golden State.
All baseball fans, stadium employees and baseball players for five Major League teams (as well as all the players on visiting teams) would be affected, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Anyone using tobacco at any time and for any reason at a California stadium could be cited under the law — including professional players.
The proposed penalty for breaking the proposed anti-tobacco law is hazy.
Thurmond has focused on tobacco at baseball stadiums as an exciting, new thing to ban for that tried and true reasons: saving the children.
“I’m an advocate to youth, and this is just another way to help young people,” Thurmond said, according to the Bee. “If this effort can help young athletes and prevent them from having cancer or other illnesses, then I think it’s worth it.”
“We have a great opportunity to protect our players and stand up for kids by getting tobacco out of the game,” he also said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Thurmond brought out some baseball-playing kids as props as he promoted his bill at a baseball diamond in midtown Sacramento. The kids spoke alternately about how “it’s really cool to be like the pros and have a big wad in their mouth” and how bad and evil tobacco is.
The Bay Area Democrat also trotted out the June 16, 2014 death of Tony Gwynn, “Mr. Padre,” a persistent smokeless tobacco user for decades who died from salivary gland cancer. Gwynn was 54 years old.
Enjoyers of tobacco oppose Thurmond’s bill and question how it can possibly be enforced in any consistent way.
“What are they going to do, send the cops into the dugouts for raids in the ninth inning?” asked Robert Best, head of the California chapter of the Smokers Club, asked, according to the Times. “This is just more vilifying of tobacco use.”
In a statement, Major League Baseball immediately threw tobacco-using players under the rhetorical bus.
“We ardently believe that children should not use or be exposed to smokeless tobacco, and we support the spirit of this initiative in California and any others that would help achieve this important goal,” the statement obtained by the Times said.
Minor league baseball players around the country are already banned from using smokeless tobacco during games.