WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.
February 16, 2019
On baseball diamonds across America, there are few icons as recognizable as the round imprint of a can of smokeless tobacco in players’ back pockets.
Since the game’s origins in the late 1800s, smokeless tobacco has helped mold America’s pastime with every pitch and every dip. Though regulations of the past few years have curbed the influence of tobacco on the game and its players, the legacy continues with tobacco-free alternatives such as Black Buffalo.
With the same taste, texture and nicotine you love, we’re aiming to help baseball ditch the tobacco and keep the ritual that’s been rooted in the sport for all these years.
If you’ve grown up on the diamonds like one of our founders, JD (pictured below, may or may not be dipping), you know what it’s like to throw in a lip as you run out onto the field — it’s more than just falling in line with your teammates and the greats, it’s a part of the game, and it has been since the late 1800s.
When the infield dust dehydrated them, early players packed some chew to spur saliva production. When outfielders first began wearing gloves in the 1870s and ‘80s, they kept the leather taut with tobacco spit. When pitchers wanted to spice up their game in the early 1900s, they hocked a glob to hurl the infamous spitball.
Though many players chased pop-flies with a cigarette between their lips, most thought smoking would interfere too much with their stamina — and Big Tobacco leapt at the opportunity to partner with America’s new rising legends.
It didn’t take long for Big Tobacco to become synonymous with the country’s beloved sport. From the umpires to the coaches to the players and the announcers, tobacco emerged as baseball’s favorite vice, so much so that fans recognized teams by their tobacco sponsors.
First baseman Lou Gehrig endorsed Camel cigarettes, power hitter Babe Ruth partnered with White Owl cigars, and free samples of smokeless from every brand flooded the bullpens and clubhouses. In every picture of the greats, their cheeks burst with a recognizable wad of tobacco.
In 1909, the American Tobacco Company began production of its famous tobacco cards, which featured over 500 Major Leaguers and were highly coveted by fans of all ages. When they thought “baseball,” the country couldn’t help but taste the reputed tobacco in their own lips, and soon players in the minors, high schools, and local sandlots chewed like the majors whenever they stormed the field.
As great as baseball was for helping market Big Tobacco’s products, it created a dynamic that ultimately needed to be dealt with. After decades of unofficial alignment with Major League Baseball, the carcinogens in traditional smokeless tobacco were cited in many high profile cases. Power users of smokeless tobacco such as Babe Ruth, Brett Butler, and Bill Tuttle were all diagnosed with some form of oral cancer. Most notably, legendary hitter Tony Gwynn passed away from the disease in 2014. His family reacted with a lawsuit against Big Tobacco, which contributed to an ongoing debate about the appropriateness of smokeless tobacco use in Major League Baseball.
Beginning in 2016, Major League Baseball placed a ban on tobacco use in the minors and for new Major Leaguers, and also prohibited all players from appearing on camera, during interviews, or in front of fans with any sort of tobacco visible — including a lip of dip.
"I'm into personal freedoms," said Chicago Cubs Manager Joe Maddon on the ban. "I'm not into over-legislating the human race. Educate the masses and let everybody make their own decision."
To respect the ban and maintain a semblance of the ritual its players knew and loved, the MLB hired a specialist to help players quit tobacco, including the use of nicotine patches and gums, as well as inferior smokeless tobacco substitutes (which shall remain nameless). Given a choice, we know our Minor and Major League buddies would rather be dipping something as close to the real thing as possible.
Black Buffalo’s journey began in part on the baseball diamonds and led us all the way here to you. As a first step toward building awareness of our products among professional ballplayers, we’re proud to be partnered with and sponsoring the Midland Rockhounds for the 2018 season. Baseball America’s 2017 Minor League Team of the Year and 4-time Texas League Champions, the Rockhounds are a force to be reckoned with, just like Black Buffalo.
Dipping and baseball go hand in hand like whiskey and (anything). As much as we respect and honor the legacy that existed for decades before us, we agree with the MLB that it was time for change. We created Black Buffalo so our badass consumers and Major League baseball players alike don’t have to compromise when it comes to dip. It’s Opening Day for the MLB — ditch the tobacco and keep the ritual with Black Buffalo.