Brock: How Jim Bouton and his Portland Maverick teammate invented Big League Chew

From Corey Brock at The Athletic on September 10, 2019:

On a warm night in the summer of 1977, Portland Mavericks pitcher Rob Nelson was sitting in the bullpen down the right field line at the old Civic Stadium in Portland, waiting for a chance to pitch that probably wasn’t coming. Seated next to him was another pitcher, Jim Bouton, famous for his tell-all book, “Ball Four.” Bouton was 36 and sticking around because he still loved baseball, even if it didn’t always love him.

Beneath their feet was well-worn artificial turf that, in several spots, was permeated with an unsightly brown stain from tobacco spit that had settled in its fibers over the years.

“One day,” Nelson recalled, “Jim asked me in the bullpen, ‘Did you ever chew?’ I said, ‘For maybe 30 seconds.’ He said ‘Yeah, me too.’ A minute later I said to him, ‘What would you think of shredded gum in a pouch?’”

Bouton looked perplexed. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“‘We’d look like tough guys, but wouldn’t make ourselves ill.’ Jim’s eyes got as big as baseballs. He said, ‘Rob, I love that idea. I could sell that idea.’ Maybe an inning later, he said, ‘OK, what do you want to call it?’ Out of the air I said, ‘I don’t know, how about Big League Chew?’”

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This page was last updated September 10, 2019 at 8:42 pm MST.