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Curt Schilling on D&C: Tobacco usage ‘first thing in my life in my mind that wasn’t worth it’

08.05.15 at 10:37 am ET
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ESPN analyst and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling made his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to talk about smokeless tobacco and the Red Sox. To listen to the audio from the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is expected to announce a ban on the use of smokeless tobacco at baseball and sports parks throughout the city, including Fenway Park. Schilling himself battled mouth cancer before going into remission in 2014, and he says that his use of chewing tobacco is what caused it. As a result, Schilling has subsequently become an anti-tobacco advocate and is a supporter of Walsh’s new plan.

“When I was in the middle of chemo and radiation, it was the first thing in my life in my mind that wasn’t worth it,” Schilling said.

Schilling says athletes are role models who can affect the behavior of those who look up to them, for better or worse.

“You don’t get to choose what kids get influenced by, what young adults get influenced by,” Schilling said. “And if it wasn’t something that big league players did on TV or you could see on TV athletes doing, I don’t know that kids would do it. I get that it’s legal as an activity and all the things that go with that, but I just feel like as athletes and as men we have a bigger responsibility to a lot of different people than we may want, but it exists.”

Schilling regrets the fact that he may have unknowingly and unintentionally been a poor influence.

“That’s one of the things that I’ll take to the grave is, who and how much of an impact did I have on even one kid’s life in this sense?” Schilling said. “Is there somebody out there that’s going to die from mouth cancer because they were dipping because they saw me do it? It’s kind of naive to think that ‘no’ is the answer there.”

According to Schilling, complete removal of tobacco from baseball is unrealistic given how embedded it is in the culture of the sport. The primary goal, instead, should be to limit its use and keep it off TV. Schilling also indicated that stiff financial penalties would be necessary to change players’ behavior.

“You’re not going to [eradicate it from baseball]. … I hope everybody stops, but it’s naive to think that’s going to happen,” Schilling said. “As long as it’s not on TV anymore, as long as you can’t see players doing it, I think that’s the first step in a larger message that needs to be sent from people who actually are around this stuff.

“The way to enforce it at Fenway is to either make a violation impact the outcome of the game or levy a significant financial penalty. If you’re caught, it’s a $100,000 fine or something to that effect. Because if you turn around and make this a $100 or a $500 fine, somebody’s going to write a check at the beginning of the year and not care. And that can’t happen.”

Schilling shared some harrowing details from his own fight with cancer and the difficulty of going through chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

“I thought multiple times during my treatment, I thought, ‘If this happens again, I’m not going to treat it. I can’t do this again.’ The pain was beyond anything I could even comprehend. … I always try to use this analogy: You go to the hospital if you’re sick and they’ll say, ‘OK, how do you feel from a pain point, one to 10? Ten being compound fracture and one being an itch.’ The ankle [in the 2004 playoffs] was a five, this was a 500, going through this.

“I could never compare anything to it. I like to think I have resiliency and fortitude and toughness and all that, but there were some nights where quitting and giving up was potentially a viable option for me.”

Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

On Larry Lucchino stepping down as Red Sox president/CEO: “I look at this situation, as long as someone in that trio is interfering in baseball operations, it’s just going to be an issue. And I don’t think [Lucchino] was the only one.”

On Henry Owens’ major league debut Tuesday night: “Henry Owens: big arm. All the things you want to see with a pitching prospect are there, the velocity, he’s got decent secondary stuff. … All the things you want to see as a baseball person were there. These kids are probably getting their debut a little sooner than they might otherwise and that’s unfortunate, but you’ve got to find out what you’re made of.”

On Deflategate: “The media completely fabricated an event [Chris Mortensen’s report that 11 of 12 footballs were 2 PSI below the minimum] and it almost got bought by everybody. … The whole thing. There’s going to be people out there who say he’s a cheater no matter what, but everything about this story, for the most part, was a lie, and look how much traction it had. That’s just terrifying.”

Read More: Curt Schilling, Deflategate, Larry Lucchino, Marty Walsh
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