Amid the fanfare of the MLB All Star Game press event on Monday in downtown San Diego, Chicago White Sox pitcher Chris Sale quietly told the crowd that Tony Gwynn saved his life.
Sale, who was announced as the starting pitcher for the American League in Tuesday’s All Star Game, said he stopped chewing tobacco the day that Gwynn passed away.
He said he starting using smokeless tobacco in 2007.
"I quit that day and haven’t touched it since," Sale said. "In a sense, I owe him a huge thank you.”
Gwynn, a Hall-of-Fame hitter and the Padres’ most notable and beloved player, died on June 16, 2014, at the age of 54. He battled salivary gland cancer, which he developed after years of using chewing tobacco.
Sale, who has been named to the All Star Game five times and last year led the American League in strikeouts, said, in a sense, Gwynn saved his life.
"Hopefully I can sway someone in the right direction like he did for me,” he said.
Gwynn’s use of smokeless tobacco has been much publicized, and in May, his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the tobacco industry, alleging the industry turned him into a “walking billboard” for the product.
The Padres icon admitted an addiction to the substance and when he tried to stop using he reportedly needed prescription drugs to fight the anxiety and cravings he felt in its absence.