When Big League Chew first hit the market in 1980 the product seemed like an odd mix of brilliance and bad idea. It’s a pretty simple concept on the surface. It’s a pouch of gum clearly designed to look like the pouches chewing tobacco comes in which were at the time very popular in Major League Baseball. The baseball tie-in was overt, with an amped up slugger appearing on the packaging (which would soon be very appropriate given the amount of players taking then not-exactly legal, but not-quite illegal performance-enhancing drugs. The tobacco tie-in was, of course, a little more subtle. The Wrigley company, which sold Big League Chew did not directly say, “hey kids, it will look like you’re chewing tobacco like your favorite ballplayers.” Instead, it went with the broader catchphrase “You’re in the big leagues when you’re into Big League Chew!” Oddly enough while candy cigarettes barely exist anymore and bubble gum cigars are more for celebrating newborns than generally marketed Big League Chew still thrives. It’s sold not just in retro shops, but also in convenience stores around the country. That’s not because it gets a pass when other products which evoke or encourage tobacco use to kids are demonized. It’s because chewing tobacco is no longer allowed in professional baseball clubhouses. If chewing was still a regular feature of baseball telecasts than marketing a lookalike product for kids would be considered tasteless. But, because the average kid no longer has a mental picture of cool baseball players with a bulging cheek stuffed with tobacco, Big League Chew remains on the shelves even if its reason for being makes less sense. Yes, it’s just a sack of gum now, and not-very-good gum at that, but it’s still fun to grab a handful and chew even if kids won’t know what the product has to do with the big league. You can grab some Big League Chew here if you want to relive a childhood treat.
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