CHICAGO -- The primary goal for Chris Sale was paying tribute to Tony Gwynn, one of the game's most talented and beloved players. But the White Sox hurler also had a personal message to deliver in San Diego in relation to the Padres' legend.In a very sincere way, Sale felt
CHICAGO -- The primary goal for Chris Sale was paying tribute to Tony Gwynn, one of the game's most talented and beloved players. But the White Sox hurler also had a personal message to deliver in San Diego in relation to the Padres' legend.
In a very sincere way, Sale felt as if Gwynn saved his life -- although he never met him.
Sale stopped chewing tobacco the day that Gwynn passed away at age 54 after a battle with salivary gland cancer on June 16, 2014. He made that point at a July 11 All-Star Game news conference to announce the lineups when a question was asked about Gwynn's impact, and the American League starting pitcher took the microphone.
Approximately one month later, with Sale going after win No. 15 on Tuesday night in Kansas City, the White Sox ace remains pleased in being able to express this sentiment.
"A lot of times when something bad happens, you always try to find the good," Sale told MLB.com during a recent interview. "And Tony Gwynn made me stop dipping: 100 percent. I've been told by numerous other people to quit, and I never did.
"He passed away and it was 100 percent because of him. And that was huge. I know what he meant to the game of baseball and I know what he meant to myself and my family. I feel much better. Food tastes better. It's almost more of a habit than it is an addiction. You get into the habit of having one in at a certain time of the day, so even if you don't want one, we are creatures of habit so you do it anyway.
"I didn't know how it was going to be received by the public or by the media or by anybody else," Sale said. "I just knew that was my only tie to him. I wanted to get that off my chest. I really did."
Sale's father smoked cigarettes when he met his mom and quit. His mom smoked cigarettes but quit almost a decade ago, and his sister quit smoking last year. So everyone in Sale's family went through the same battle he did to give up the "habit."
"My wife didn't like it, my parents didn't like it and I didn't want my son to see that, either," Sale said. "I never did that around my son. I was like, 'If I'm going to have to jump through hoops to keep doing this, what's the point?' And then that happened."
Giving up tobacco definitely wasn't easy, so Sale originally viewed it as a competition. Sale loves to compete, but competition wasn't the answer.
"How many times do people get a couple of months away and say, 'I'm going to just have one. Well, you know what, I'm going to have one a day. I'm only going to do it at the baseball field,'" Sale said. "It's the snowball effect. I knew the only way to do it was to completely get rid of it."
That action became possible in 2014 and was a message Sale delivered in '16, trying to impact people in the same way Gwynn's life and death affected him.
"If I got to one person, that's it," Sale said. "If I get to two people, three people. … Let's say five people heard what I said and they quit because of that, let's say this person has three people quit, this person has two and they keep going, keep going, keep going.
"It was something that was important to me to say. It's been two years now. I hope that it has an impact on somebody else, like it did on me."
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.