Former San Diego Padres great Tony Gwynn recently revealed that he has parotid salivary gland and that he believes it was caused by his long-term chewing tobacco use. Gwynn already had two surgeries for non-malignant tumors of the parotid salivary gland in 1997 and 2007, but he admits that he never quit chewing after those operations.
During the previous two surgeries, doctors never discovered cancer but when Gwynn went back in for another surgery in September, it was a different story. According to Gwynn:
“[T]his time they found a malignancy. They took out three lymph nodes and did all the tests and the results showed cancer in the parotid. The doctors have told me they feel they caught the cancer early and there was not much of it there.”
The parotid gland is responsible for regulating the flow of saliva to the mouth, and while Gwynn doesn’t have solid medical proof for his own case, chewing tobacco has been linked to cancers of the mouth and throat. Gwynn mentioned that he is usually against telling adult not to chew dip, but is now pressing the Major League Baseball association to include a ban against chewing in collective bargaining agreements for major league players.
Gwynn is in bad shape now at just fifty-years-old, as he walks with a cane and is suffering from cancer, but was a great athlete in his younger years. He played NCAA basketball as a point guard and once stole 56 bases for the Padres. He also hit .394 in 1994, the closest anyone has come to .400 since Ted Williams. He was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2007 and won eight batting titles and finished with 3,141 hits — 18th all-time — and has an adjusted OPS of +132. He won five Gold Gloves and is eighth all-time in outfield assists.