07/17/14 by Rennie Detore
The story on July 15 at the Major League Baseball All Star game was the swan song of Yankees shortstop and first ballot Hall of Fame superstar Derek Jeter, who is retiring at the end of the 2014 season.
Jeter had two hits, and the crowd showed him remarkable respect and admiration with one standing ovation after another, making his transition from active player to retiree that much easier to swallow.
The images of Jeter waiving goodbye to a sea of fans in his last All Star game was surreal.
The following day, Major League Baseball and its players turned to another, very real story: tobacco use.
Legendary San Diego Padres player Tony Gywnn passed away June 16 after battling oral cancer, which Gwynn himself attributed to using chewing tobacco as a player for years. Major League Baseball and its players, perhaps moved by the emotional goodbye the game said to Gwynn, one of the most prolific hitters and likeable men to ever play the game, are not only kicking the habit of using tobacco but also kicking around the idea of banning chewing tobacco from the game in 2016.
Truthfully, chewing tobacco not only is unhealthy and unsafe for players, not to mention the general public who partakes in this habit, but incredibly passe and wreaks of decades gone by when perhaps the information on what tobacco did to your body weren't truly understood.
Watching players in the 70s and 80s, and even the 90s to some degree, spit chew out of their mouths while they're taking a few practice swings was commonplace, along with seeing that protruding, wad of tobacco in just about everyone's bottom lip in Major League Baseball.
As more awareness started to come to the forefront about the negative effects of tobacco use,, oral cancer and gum disease players gradually started turning in their tobacco for gum or sunflower seeds, and not many baseball stars can be spotted these days with chewing tobacco in their mouths.
Of course, the slate isn't completely clean when it comes to tobacco use in baseball, but it appears the governing body of the sport and the players are banding together to rid this from the game altogether, a movement that is long overdue.
Unfortunately, it took the death of one of the more marquee athletes within the sport to get everyone's attention, which typically is the type of "hitting close to home" moment that spurs these types of radical changes.
Gwynn always will be remembered for his uncanny knack for clutch hits, uncanny hand, eye coordination and being one of the lone bright spots in an otherwise mediocre Padres' era when he was in his prime.
But his legacy may very well be defined as part of a much bigger, more dramatic picture: as the face of baseball and the league turning the corner in the right direction when it comes to tobacco use among its players.
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