MLB notebook: Taking on tradition, baseball seeks tobacco ban
BY Associated Press
Friday, September 23, 2011
9/23/11 at 3:14 AM
Always a hidebound sport, baseball has accepted interleague play, the wild card and even video replay in the last 20 years.
Now a campaign backed by members of Congress and Commissioner Bud Selig is taking on something that's been a part of the game's culture for well over 150 years - chewing tobacco on the field.
Public health groups have gained traction with a classic argument: When ballplayers are seen chewing a wad of tobacco or using dip - products collectively known as smokeless tobacco - they set a bad health example for kids who look up to the athletes as role models.
The Centers for Disease Control says that smokeless tobacco can cause cancer, oral health problems and nicotine addiction, and stresses it is not a safe alternative to smoking. Despite the risks, the CDC's most recent survey found that in 2009, 15 percent of high school boys used smokeless tobacco - a more than one-third increase over 2003, when 11 percent did.
The sport's current collective bargaining agreement expires in December, and Selig, who endorsed the ban in March, has said he will propose it in the new contract. Union head Michael Weiner said in June that "a sincere effort" will be made to address the issue.
Major League Baseball is so keen on scrubbing tobacco from the sport that it asked Sony Pictures to remove scenes depicting its use in the movie "Moneyball," though the studio declined to do so. In the new film, Brad Pitt plays Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane, and incorporates several habits, including dipping.
"That came pretty easily," Pitt told reporters this week. "I grew up with a little dip."
Cardinals agree to $12M deal with Berkman: Lance Berkman has agreed to a $12 million contract with St. Louis, giving the Cardinals a valuable bat for 2012.
The 35-year-old Berkman is completing a big comeback season with 31 home runs, 91 RBIs and a .300 average. The switch-hitter made his sixth All-Star team this summer, his first such honor since 2008.
Marlins place Nunez on restricted list: The Florida Marlins say they've placed closer Leo Nunez on Major League Baseball's restricted list and he has returned to his native Dominican Republic to attend to personal matters.
The move came as the Marlins traveled Thursday to Milwaukee for their final road series of the season.
Nunez has 36 saves and a 4.06 ERA in 68 games this season. He pitched a scoreless ninth inning in Wednesday's victory over Atlanta.
The players' association had not immediately determined whether to challenge the team's action, a person familiar with the union's deliberations said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the union had not made any public statements.
MLB All-Stars to play 5 games in Taiwan: A major league all-star team will travel to Taiwan in November for five exhibition games.
The big league all-stars will play Taiwan's national team from Nov. 2-6, the commissioner's office and players' association said Thursday. Games will take place in Taipei (Nov. 2), Taichung (Nov. 3-4) and Kaohsiung (Nov. 5-6).
MLB and the union are discussing the possibility of having Oakland and Seattle play regular-season games in Japan next season. A March 2003 series between Seattle and Oakland at the Tokyo Dome was scrapped because of the threat of war in Iraq.