Everyone likes candy. When you are a kid, candy is religion. The fat-cats at candy companies know this. They make tons of weird creations all trying to hook your rotten sweet tooth. And they’ll try anything. Perfect example is Big League Chew. This product is a gum that is shredded and comes in a pouch to act like a kiddie version of chewing tobacco. Why would children want to dip, you ask? Well, because pro-ballplayers do it. And that’s enough of a reason. Let’s cruise the aisles for some throwback snacks in this chapter of SBS Remembers.
Big League Chew first arrived in stores back in May of 1980 with the classic pink colored gum. This was Outta’ Here Original. Later, other flavors were added like Ground Ball Grape, Swingin’ Sour Apple, Slammin’ Strawberry, Curveball Cotton Candy and Wild Pitch Watermelon. The packages also featured some great comic illustrations which was a big selling point. And generally, one of the few sports themed items in the candy section, so it stood out.
The story behind the chew is pretty interesting. The idea came from baseball player Rob Nelson of the Portland Mavericks. His Portland teammate and New York Yankee All Star, Jim Bouton, helped pitch the product to the Wrigley Company as an option instead of chewing tobacco. Which was super popular in the MLB at the time. The rest is history. And let’s be honest, dip is really gross and no one wants to see their favorite ballplayers spit all over the field.
It’s hard to overlook that it’s just tobacco for kids. That’s pretty messed up. I remember having candy cigarettes way before Big League Chew. And I never smoked, but that’s still shady. The origin seems like it came from good intentions, trying to give players a dip substitute but the makers of the machine gun also thought they would end war with a weapon that fires so fast that no one would be crazy enough to face it.
Marketing poison to kids aside, I loved Big League Chew. It was unlike any other gum and it really was a solid rebrand of the grown-up tobacco variety. You could get a big wad of it and keep it in your lip and you’d look just like your baseball hero. All the flavors came in super bright colors and just seeing the package and the lettering transports me back to the days of my youth. Anyone want to play home run derby right now?
Big League Chew tastes just like any other gum. Hell, it may even loose its flavor faster than most, but it was about the image. You got to play make believe. Wear your dad’s shoes and pretend you’re bigger than you were. That’s what a pack got you. And that’s magic.