The new issue of SABR’s Baseball Research Journal has an incredible photo of Billy Martin on the back cover, dating back to his early-’70s stint managing the Tigers — check it out.
That pipe is just amazing, no? It may end up replacing this as my brain’s reflexive go-to image whenever Billy’s name comes up (although the go-to words will always be “Ed Whitson” and “marshmallow salesman”). It also got me thinking that the Tigers’ current manager is known to be a smoker, too. And that in turn got me thinking about images of sports figures and smoking.
Leyland and Martin are hardly the only managers and coaches who’ve been known to light up. Back in the 1970s, Earl Weaver nicknamed erratic Orioles closer Don Stanhouse “Full Pack,” because that’s how many cigs Weaver nervously went through during one of Stanhouse’s tight-wire appearances. And I know I’ve seen pics of NFL coaches smoking, although I can’t find any at the moment.
Much more interesting are shots of smoking athletes. Nowadays, of course, it would be unthinkable for an player to appear with a cigarette dangling from his lip, but that wasn’t always the case. A quick search of the blog’s archives turned up the following:
• One of the classic SI covers of all time.
• What did Don Meredith do after losing the Ice Bowl? He lit up, of course.
• Roger Maris smoked during his epic 1961 season.
• Here’s a postgame celebration from the Kansas City Chiefs’ AFL days (not sure which year). That’s Sherrill Headrick with the coffin nail.
• Not sure who this curler is, but his use of the broom was particularly apropos.
I’m sure I’ve also seen pics of Guy LaFleur and Keith Hernandez smoking, but I can’t find them at the moment.
As for today’s athletes, I know Marlins pitcher Scott Olsen smokes, as does boxer Ricardo Mayorga, but I’ve never seen either of them — or any other current athlete I can think of — photographed with a cigarette. But cigars are apparently more acceptable — so acceptable, in fact, that even Mr. Wholesome White Boy himself, David Wright, appeared with a stogie after the Mets clinched the N.L. East title in 2006.
Sports and tobacco have a long, intertwined history. Most early baseball cards were promotional giveaways to boost sales of tobacco products. History’s most famous baseball card, in fact, owes its scarcity to the fact that Honus Wagner was a non-smoker and didn’t want his likeness used to promote tobacco, so he had the card taken out of production (or at least that’s the prevailing rationale — there are some competing theories as well).
Later on, tobacco companies used sports imagery in their print ads — sometimes just generic illustrations but more often in the form of celebrity endorsements by famous baseball or football players. As for broadcast media, I’m just barely old enough to have seen televised cigarette ads before they were banned, although I don’t recall athletes appearing in the televised spots. Anyone know more about that?
It’s also worth noting that loads of athletes smoke weed, although former Mets pitcher Grant Roberts is the only one I can think of who’s been stupid enough to get photographed in the act. (Roberts shouldn’t be confused with former Mets Tony Tarasco and Mark Corey, who had to admit that they’d been smoking pot shortly after a 2002 game when Corey went into a seizure and collapsed, leaving Tarasco to face the EMTs who asked, “Did he ingest anything unusual in the past hour or so?” Since Corey was still, like, convulsing on the floor, Tarasco figured he’d better tell the truth instead of blaming it on a bad oyster or something like that.)
Of course, there’s also the issue of baseball players who chew tobacco (easily identified by the telltale round canister in their back pockets), but that’s another topic for another day.
Research Project: Yesterday I linked to a photo of Jim Kyte blow-drying his hearing aid. That led to a handful of really interesting notes — some in the comments section, some e-mailed to me directly — about deaf athletes and their specialized equipment needs, a topic I’d never thought about before.
I’d like to explore this subject in more detail. If anyone knows more about it, please get in touch.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Great article here about the guy who designed the leather football helmets for the upcoming Leatherheads flick. … Also from yesterday: Under Armour has gotten into the chest protector biz (which means they’re basically making outer armor). … First pics of the Giants’ starting pitchers wearing stirrups are here, here, and here. I’d prefer to see a lot more white showing, but it’s a good start (with thanks to Jamie Costello). … Some of the subtlest uniform branding I’ve ever seen was on Dale Ernhardt Jr.’s fire suit at the Daytona 500 on Sunday,” writes Greg Riffenburgh. “As you may know, he recently signed a contract to be outfitted by Adidas. But since so many other brands have their logos on the suit, Adidas used a triple-stiching quilt pattern.” … While researching something else, I came across a great site featuring military ribbon insignia — fun to click through. … Rutgers has unveiled new baseball uniforms. Note the distinction between the new cap logo and last year’s model (with thanks to David Berger). … The Pirates’ spring training 40th-anniversary patch is really, uh, subtle. … Lots of surprisingly interesting arena football helmet details available in item No. 18 on this list (with thanks to Neal Shaffer). … Christopher Drouin reports that Michigan State’s lacrosse team puts the players’ names on the back of the helmets. … Kenn Tomasch spent yesterday at Cubs camp, where he snapped this shot of Alfonso Soriano inspecting an unidentified teammate’s collar tag, while the teammate appears to be examining his shirttail tag. Odd. … Third question on this Q&A page features some news regarding Reds uni numbers (with thanks to David Sonny). … Interesting article here about high-tech performance gear in many different sports (as spotted by Patrick Baude).