Big League Chew has been a staple in little league dugouts for decades. The gum’s distinctive pouch and presentation – shredded up, and eaten by the handful – make it stand apart from its competitors. So how did it come to be? The gum’s co-founder and inventor, Rob Nelson, explained last week on MLB Network Radio.

“It was in the bullpen in the summer of 1977, the last year of the Portland Mavericks” with teammate Jim Bouton, Nelson recalled. “The whole idea was to come up with a fun alternative to chewing tobacco. … If we could shred bubble gum, we could look as cool as these guys, but we wouldn’t get ill, and that was the genesis of it.”

The name – “Big League Chew” – came just a moment after the idea for the concept.

“It was a preposterous notion to have the idea and the name within 60 seconds, but that’s what happened,” Nelson told Jeff Joyce and Steve Sax.

When it came time for production, Nelson borrowed his ideas from magazine articles.

“It was only dumb luck that I read an article in People Magazine on how to make your own bubble gum, and I remember telling my dad when we signed the first deal, that I won’t have to paint houses in the summers anymore,” Nelson said. “A company in Arlington, Texas was selling a kit where you could make bubble gum. So I bought a bunch of it, [got some supplies,] and we made bubble gum. We baked it. Almost looked like brownies when it came out. And we did shred it up with a rolled pizza knife.”

Nelson conceded the gum tasted terrible at first, but now, nearly 40 years later, it’s arguably the most recognizable gum brand in baseball.

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