Dippers In The Infield: The Story Of Baseball And Tobacco

July 13, 2021

On baseball diamonds across America, there are few icons as recognizable as the round imprint of a can of smokeless tobacco dip in players’ back pockets.

Since the game’s origins in the late 1800s, smokeless tobacco dip 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 smokeless tobacco alternatives such as Black Buffalo.

With the same taste, texture and nicotine you love, we’re aiming to help baseball keep the ritual that’s been rooted in the sport for all these years with our best chewing tobacco alternative.

Batter Up, Heater In

If you grew up on the diamonds, field, or ice, you know what it’s like to throw in a lip of tobacco dip as you get in the zone. It’s more than just falling in line with your teammates and the greats, it’s a part of the game.

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 spit from tobacco dip. When pitchers wanted to spice up their game in the early 1900s, they hocked a glob to hurl the 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. 

A Home Run for Big Tobacco

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 dip 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 tobacco 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, colleges, and local sandlots chewed like the majors whenever they hit the field.

Black Buffalo Tobacco-Free Smokeless Alternative

Controversy Strikes

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.

Black Buffalo Tobacco-Free Smokeless Alternative Baseball

Black Buffalo’s Up to Bat

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 proudly partnered with and sponsored 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.

Black Buffalo Tobacco-Free Smokeless Alternative

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 herd and Major/Minor League baseball players alike don’t have to compromise when it comes to dip. Stay tuned for a BIG baseball related sponsorship coming very soon.


Buy Dip