Curt Schilling was diagnosed with oral cancer in February. He went through numerous rounds of treatment over the last six months, and was happy to announce in June that his cancer was in remission.
Schilling never opened up much about his cancer after his diagnosis. But now, with his treatments behind him, he gave an in-depth interview to Boston.com about his fight with the disease.
Among the most noteworthy parts of the interview is Schilling saying he believes his cancer was “unquestionably” caused by his smokeless tobacco use.
“I do believe without a doubt, unquestionably that chewing is what gave me cancer and I’m not going to sit up here from the pedestal and preach about chewing,” Schilling said. “I will say this: I did for about 30 years. It was an addictive habit. I can think of so many times in my life when it was so relaxing to just sit back and have a dip and do whatever, and I lost my sense of smell, my taste buds for the most part. I had gum issues, they bled, all this other stuff. None of it was enough to ever make me quit. The pain that I was in going through this treatment, the second or third day it was the only thing in my life that had that I wish I could go back and never have dipped. Not once. It was so painful.”
Schilling’s confession comes on the heels of Tony Gwynn’s death from oral cancer. Like Schilling, Gwynn believed his cancer was caused by smokeless tobacco.
It’s no secret that smokeless tobacco use runs rampant in baseball. There’s a fair chance that when you envision your favorite player on the field, there’s a big wad of dip in his mouth. You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think younger baseball players across the nation emulate the use they see in the pros. Even the MLB knows that much is true.
In recent years, the league enacted a number of new rules to curb public tobacco use by players. Players are not allowed to carry tobacco tins in their pockets and are forbidden from using it during televised interviews.
As Boston.com reports, nine major health organizations wrote to the MLB in June urging them to ban all use of tobacco products by players and coaches. MLB commissioner Bud Selig responded to the letter and said complete prohibition is not an option.
"Both the Players Association, and the players who attended the bargaining sessions, were firm in their view that the players would not agree to a ban on the use of smokeless tobacco because, as adults, they have the right to make their own choices," Selig said.