August 1995 - Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

The Marlboro Man has hit the trail, and it was the U.S. Justice Department that finally rode the cigarette billboard out of the bleachers. Now it's Dead Dog beer, as Philip Morris swaps pushing one drug for another.

The Red Sox publicly claimed they never liked the sign, but were contractually bound to keep it. Curious how they managed to scrape up a few million bucks to eat the Jack Clark and Matt Young deals, but couldn't buy out the Marlboro Man. Sounds like a smoke screen to me.

Your Olde Towne Team's public relations department may be relieved that the billboard is gone, but don't kid yourself into thinking the Sox have seen the light. That other rag, the Red Sox Official Scorebook Magazine, usually sports the same cigarette cowboy on the back cover -- the most expensive advertising page in the book. Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

The Red Sox should be ashamed of promoting a family atmosphere on one hand and exposing children to glamorous images of smoking on the other. But a larger and even more obnoxious menace is still at hand. Fenway Park is one of a dying breed of MLB venues to still allow smoking in the seats. All California parks are smokefree, and the Dodger Stadium crowd cheers loudly and appreciatively when the ordinance is announced over the P.A.

No need to belabor the facts here: Secondhand smoke may be responsible for the deaths of up to 50,000 nonsmokers every year. Pennant Fever is highly infectious, but it shouldn't be fatal.

Countless times, I've left the ballpark with my head stuffed up and my hair and clothes reeking of tobacco. Smokers, who are rapidly becoming pariahs, have told me that since they're outdoors, they feel completely free to light it up like there's no tomorrow. No matter that they could be sitting mere inches from someone who finds their habit annoying, disgusting, or worse. We shouldn't have to put up with these airborne toxins at a baseball game. The only thing smoking in Fenway Park should be the Red Sox bats.

Then there's the goober who thinks the only way to watch a ball game is with a beer (or seven) and a cheap, smelly cigar. My guess is it's the only time he torches one up. Freud had us believe that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Then again, sometimes it isn't. Until recently, those low-brow stogies were sold at the concession stands at Fenway. Not only did the Red Sox condone this air pollution, they encouraged it and made a profit.

I always figured that the Sox would outlaw smoking as soon a Jean Yawkey was out of the picture. A skyward glance to her owner's box always seemed to reveal her puffing away like the proverbial chimney. While she lived a long life, she died of a stroke. Any connection to a tobacco addiction? Mrs. Yawkey is long gone, but we still can't breath fresh air in the grandstand. Current Sox brass have stated they will forbid smoking someday, but they don't want to rush, fearing a smoker's revolt. Only a token few of sections in the cheap seats are now officially smokefree.

The Sox reached a new height of hypocrisy recently by passing out posters with Roger Clemens bleating "Let's make smoking history." C'mon, Red Sox. Do the right thing and ban smoking. Let's make smoking in Fenway Park history. Now.

NB: Shortly before this column went to press, the Boston Red Sox announced a policy of no smoking in the seating areas, starting with the 1996 season.

©1995 - 2007 Douglas T. Dinsmoor


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