Curt Schilling stuck poison into his mouth for 30 years. He destroyed his taste buds and salivary glands. Chewing tobacco did it, the retired pitcher is sure of that. Now, he can’t dip anymore even if he wants to. And, he still really wants to.
Schilling, who played 20 seasons with the Red Sox and other teams, spoke to ESPN about his battle with squamous cell carcinoma. He opened up about the chemo and the radiation that beat him silly and the staph infection that nearly killed him. Most of his meals now consist of some chopped-up mush; that makes dinner easier. It takes him nearly 30 minutes to eat a piece of pizza.
Getting cancer wasn’t a surprise. The big right-hander put a finger to the side of his neck in February, felt the bulge and knew right away what it was. He had ignored all the warning signs and all the people who had pleaded with him through the years to quit dipping.
Schilling fought through the cancer even as his business collapsed. He lost about $50 million when his gaming company 38 Studios went bankrupt. The article and accompanying video touch on Schillings’s confessions to his family and a painful struggle with self-forgiveness.
Warning: The story includes some graphic details. It really is a tale of terror.
Tony Gywnn, one of the greatest hitters ever, died earlier this year following a long bout with oral cancer. Mr. Padre, the most beloved athlete in the history of San Diego sports, won eight batting titles and lifted teammates with his constant, high-pitched laugh. He batted .338 lifetime, collected 3,141 base hits and did a 1 ½ cans of Skoal every day. He’d go to sleep at night with a dip inside his mouth. “I hate to say it,” Gwynn admitted in an ESPN article published shortly before his death, “but, yeah, I’m a tobacco junkie.”
Following a few initial scares that doctors said were benign tumors, Gwynn began treatment for a malignant growth. He endured the chemotherapy and radiation treatments that Schilling would later undergo.
Cancer slugged one side of the Hall of Famer’s face. Nerve damage from the tumor cut into him from his forehead to his mouth. Gwynn couldn’t shut his right eye. Tony Gwynn–Tony Gwynn!–couldn’t even laugh.
He kept going in for treatments, agonizing over the pain, and doctors pronounced him cancer-free in March of this year. Tony Gwynn, 54, died June 16. Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times was among the many who wrote a tribute column.