Jackie Robinson Cigarette Ad

Pitchmen: When Baseball Players Touted Tobacco

Back in the day, baseball legends often played chew and smoke spokesmen.

When Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died of salivary-gland cancer in 2014, at just 54 years old — a cancer Gwynn believed was caused by the smokeless tobacco he used for decades — baseball noticed. Scores of players addicted to “dip" vowed to quit. But back in the day, countless pro athletes not only regularly smoked and chewed tobacco, they also starred in ads extolling tobacco’s virtues. (Above, Jackie Robinson goes to bat for Chesterfield cigarettes.)

STAN THE MAN Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images STAN THE MAN “Always Buy Chesterfield” was the message in the late 1940s from legends like Jackie Robinson and Stan Musial (pictured). Today, of course, a pro athlete endorsing any form of tobacco — the only legal drug that kills millions of people a year when used exactly as intended — would be downright blasphemous. But for much of the 20th century, all sorts of athletes relied on tobacco sponsors to supplement what were often less-than-star-powered salaries. STRIKE THREE Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images STRIKE THREE Yankee star Tony Lazzeri plugs Lucky Strikes in 1928. CHAW OF CHOICE Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images CHAW OF CHOICE Future Hall-of-Famer Nellie Fox recommended “Favorite” as his chewing tobacco in 1955.

Other Stories For You

LOCKED AND LOADED Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images LOCKED AND LOADED Slugger Mel Ott played for and managed the New York Giants from 1942 to 1948. He also made sure to wish smokers a Merry Christmas while cleaning his rifle in an ad for Velvet tobacco. UP IN SMOKE Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images UP IN SMOKE A dominant right-handed pitcher for the Washington Senators, Walter Johnson wanted folks to know that Tuxedo tobacco "is the one tobacco that contains every desired element." (Fun fact: The Senators were so bad, for so long, that the team was the butt of one of baseball's all-time greatest gibes: "Washington — first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.") THE ABCs OF SMOKING Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images THE ABCs OF SMOKING "The Baseball Man's Cigarette"? Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, and other greats thought so.



For more FOTO stories directly in your inbox, sign up for our free weekly newsletter.