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Former American League Pitcher Dick Bosman recalls good chewing times when he was with the old Senators: "We had two kinds of contests, flies and peanut shells. I held the club record for flies. Shot down 10 of them one day. On rainy days we would sit on the bench and shoot at peanut shells running down the gutter in the dugout."
Gum contests are more highly organized. The Topps company, manufacturer of Bazooka gum, held a bubble-blowing tournament in 1975 with the finals on television. Pitcher Mickey Scott had won the American League West title by shaving, putting Vaseline on his face to reduce abrasion, wrapping a towel around his neck, putting his cap on backward to protect his permanent while keeping the bill out of play, holding a windbreaker up against the elements and producing a gonfalon bubble whose diameter, measured by official cardboard calipers, was 20 inches.
The bubble-blowing champion of all baseball that year was Infielder Kurt Bevacqua, now in the minors, who swears he keeps his gum in a little metal safe, "like you buy at the five-and-ten." with an air freshener inside. "It keeps just right," he says.
Gum can also enter less innocently into baseball's give-and-take. Andy Seminick, the old catcher, used to stick a wad of gum onto his thumb, shake hands with someone and rub it forcibly into the hairs on the back of the hand, from which it could be removed only with some pain. Pepper Martin used to do the same thing. It is tobacco, however, that is most often used aggressively, especially against white shoes.
"Rocky is very good on accuracy," says Tom Morgan of Bridges. "He's one of the best on shoes. He has what we call a soft wad. You don't feel it when he spits on your shoes."
"Aw, no," says Rocky modestly. "Some guys can drown a dime. I'm just sloppy big. I'm not an accuracy star. And I've got the shirts to prove it. Tattletale brown. Thank God for the new polyesters."
Johnny Mize used to put chaws he was finished with into other people's pockets. Then he would let them dig them out as best they could.
"Peanuts Lowrey was always a great chewer," says former Catcher Clay Dalrymple. "When I was with the Phillies we were giving hotfoots one night, and I think he kind of set me up. He had his foot up on one of the dugout steps and he was kind of leaning forward with his elbow on one knee. I snuck up behind him to give him a hotfoot. As I reached in between his legs to light him, he had a big load of tobacco ready for me and he really caught me on the hand. Man. he laughed like hell."
"It's an unwritten law," says Pitcher Steve Renko, "that you are permitted to spit on the shoes but not on the uniform. More often you pick out a target such as ants and spiders."
What happens when insects are hit?