"It makes their eyes bright," says the Reds' Woodie Fryman.
Eccentric Catcher Vic Correll's eyes are always bright, especially when he is making up baseball wisdom. He maintains that a switch hitter must be a switch chewer. "Say you're going up to bat left-handed. You've got to chew on the right side so the pitcher can see it and think you're tough. And then when you're batting right-handed, you've got to chew on the left. All that switching is hard on the front teeth."
Third Baseman Doug Rader is known as a "defensive chewer." He takes his tobacco out of his mouth after each inning in the field, puts the chew in his glove and his glove on the bench. When he retakes the field he retakes his chew.
Catchers Carlton Fisk, Gene Tenace and Ed Herrmann tip their masks back to spit. Johnny Bench and Milt May spit through the bars. So did Roy Campanula. "Nobody else would ever wear his mask," recalls Rex Barney, a devout non-chewer who confesses that seeing "my catcher spitting out at me always bothered me.
"Roy was a great chewer of tobacco," remembers Barney, "but at home or on the road he kept toothpaste in his locker at all times. The second a game was over, about the only thing that came off was the glove and the mask before he'd go spit the tobacco out and brush his teeth. Roy only chewed during games."
Catfish Hunter is a serious tobacco chewer; in fact, he got into trouble with the Yankees last year for filming a Red Man commercial at the park the morning of the day he pitched. But on the mound he often chews gum, starting with one stick and adding another each inning. A complete game, then, means a nine-stick wad. Juan Marichal would go through a dozen sticks a game. He was once clocked at 72 chews per minute on the mound. "Maybe it helped my rhythm," he says.
Chewers all agree that chewing helps something. Randy Jones of San Diego has been savoring tobacco off the mound for eight years but didn't begin to chew while pitching until 1975. That was the year he became a star, winning 20 games. "I don't know why," he says, "but it seemed to help."
"I'd feel naked if I went to the mound without my chew," says Minnesota's Don Carrithers. "And I have to have a pack in my back pocket. I just like the feel of it back there."
"The dentist tells me that even though it stains your teeth, chewing has hygienic value," says Astro Shortstop Roger Metzger. "Your mouth contains certain acids and tobacco counteracts them."
Says Houston Pitcher Ken Forsch, "I have a routine I go through every day. I had to start the routine because when I was switched from starting to relief I was going crazy sitting in the bullpen. I chew Red Man until about the fifth inning. Then I go into my program.