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Curt Schilling reveals that he was diagnosed with mouth cancer, blames smokeless tobacco

Aug 20, 2014, 8:43 AM EDT


When Curt Schilling was diagnosed with cancer back in February he did not reveal the form of cancer. He and his family have kept almost everything about it to themselves, actually, as one might quite reasonably wish to do.

However, Schilling is talking about it now. He announced today during the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio Telethon that he was diagnosed with mouth cancer. Thankfully, he is currently in remission.

But this story is not going to end here. Not after this:

We have already lost one Hall of Famer this year to cancer that, he believed anyway, was attributable to smokeless tobacco. That a should-be and likely will-be Hall of Famer is now coming forward and saying that he believes smokeless tobacco threatened his life should only increase the volume on this long overdue wakeup call to baseball players who continue to use the junk.

Here’s hoping Schilling continues back on the mend and here’s hoping that his coming forward helps prevent future cases like his.

  1. ez4u2sa - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:54 AM

    Schilling is a class act. Good for him for coming forward with this news. Let’s hope that MLB will finally ban the use of smokeless tobacco during games. Watching big league players spitting with a wad of that crap in their mouths is disgusting. One can only wonder what kids are thinking when they see that.

    • silversun60 - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:00 AM

      I’m thinking not so much on the class act thing. In my mind he won’t ever outlive the screwing over of so many people with the video game thing.

      But that’s me… I love holding grudges.

    • Rich Stowe - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:00 AM

      while I do hope that MLB finally bans smokeless tobacco and it’s good that Schilling came forward with this information (hopefully others will stop using)

      calling Schilling a class act is nuts – nothing in history shows he is a class act, if anything, he is anything but a class act – just ask the good folks of the state of Rhode Island if he’s a class act or not

    • pete2112 - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:08 AM

      Schilling a class act? Perhaps you just agree with everything that he says because he seems to have an opinion about everything and has thrown a few people under the bus in his lifetime. Not to mention his shady business venture that failed.

      Having said that, I’m glad he’s coming forward about this and how dangerous smokeless tobacco can be. Although at this point if you don’t know this already you’ve been living under a rock, but the more people who can get the message out, the better it is. So good for you Curt.

      • SocraticGadfly - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:17 PM

        I’m putting this up high, so it doesn’t get hidden. It’s actually a response to COPO.

        The first official warnings on smokeless tobacco were in 1986, when Schilling was 20 years old. Even if Schiling didn’t know it was addictive, and carcinogenic, when he started using, he knew that soon afterward. And, on the addiction potential, tobacco’s tobacco, anyway. Someone who started using Skoal or whatever thinking that it was not addictive, unlike Marlboros, probably needs a mental check-up anyway.

        From the 1986 warnings:
        WARNING: This product may cause mouth cancer.
        WARNING: This product may cause gum disease and tooth loss.
        WARNING: This product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes.

      • pete2112 - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:25 PM


        It seems weird you and I are basically on the same page with this one. I totally agree. I would assume he was well into his 30’s while was using chewing tobacco, so it’s basically impossible for him not to know the dangers of this stuff as the warnings were all out there.

      • SocraticGadfly - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:39 PM

        Well, just because we disagree on the level of Jeter acclaim doesn’t mean there’s not other stuff, perhaps a lot, on which we agree!

    • krautmcharold - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:41 PM

      If he was a class act, he wouldn’t blame the cancer on the substance, fbut blame himself for using the substance.

      He’s a Republican, and I would’ve sworn they are all about being responsible for one’s own actions and not blaming others. Funny.

      Also, during his career, he’s been a real jerk to all kinds of people, especially with his blunt opinions, and his video game business went under due to very shady details.

      None of this above is classy.


  2. sportsfan18 - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    Sorry, I’m not trying to be mean and I don’t wish cancer on anyone, even tobacco users…

    But users of tobacco CAN’T blame the tobacco…

    They need to blame THEMSELVES.

    They were NOT addicted to it BEFORE they ever used it.

    They CHOSE to use it.

    In this day and age, and for quite a while really, folks KNOW the dangers of tobacco use so they can’t say they weren’t aware of its dangers…

    • pete2112 - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:14 AM

      Totally agree! If it was the 40’s or 50’s it might come as a surprise that smoking and smokeless tobacco can cause cancer, but that information has been out there for a very long time and you know very well what the consequences are when you use those products today.

      I wonder if Curt plans on suing the smokeless tobacco companies?

      • sportsfan18 - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:28 AM

        Exactly… but many say they are addicted…

        Well, they were not addicted BEFORE they began using tobacco and before they began using tobacco, they KNEW it was bad for them.

        But far too many today want to blame others or other things instead of taking accountability.

        Smokers who smoke for 25 yrs who are sick trying to sue tobacco companies…

        They want their cake and to eat it too… They CAN’T say but I didn’t know it was bad for my health…

        Guess what folks? Tobacco companies KNOW that around 70% of those who who use their products try to quit and want to quit.

        Imagine being a company that makes something and having 70% of your customers wanting to quit using your product…

        So, what do the tobacco companies do to prevent this? To prevent their customers from quitting?

        It’s well known that tobacco companies have INCREASED the nicotine levels in cigarettes to make it HARDER for smokers to quit… (for those non-believers, just look up the many articles on line about this).

        Can’t have their customers quitting on them can they?

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:42 AM

        But far too many today want to blame others or other things instead of taking accountability.

        Please stop, whether they take responsibility or not has nothing to do with whether they are addicted.

      • pete2112 - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:53 AM

        @ [citation needed] fka COPO: Leave it to you to find a way to defend his own actions.

      • renaado - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:19 AM

        Peer pressure… Mostly, they urge you on doin this… which is probably why you can blame on others. Still, you have the option to choose what’s right or wrong, however it’s a tough choice (base on experience).

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:30 AM

        @ [citation needed] fka COPO: Leave it to you to find a way to defend his own actions.

        How am I defending Schilling’s actions? You really do have a reading comprehension problem, don’t you?

      • historiophiliac - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:32 AM

        Good grief, did you never do anything as a young person that was dumb and dangerous? Young people think they are invincible. They don’t think about long term health consequences…until they are addicted or end up in an accident or with an STD or…

        Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go purge the dirty cooties that surely infected me for “defending” Schilling.

      • tigersfandan - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:49 AM

        Tobacco companies infuriate me. They exist solely to sell a product that kills many of its customers.

      • pete2112 - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:50 AM

        I do? Please go back and read what you quoted from sportsfan18 and then read your response.

      • sportsfan18 - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:09 AM

        @ citation needed

        Sir, they were NOT addicted before they began using tobacco.

        When they CHOSE to begin using tobacco, they KNEW it was addictive and that they would become addicted. They also KNEW it was bad for their health.

        One may not blame their choice to begin using on being addicted because they were NOT addicted when they chose to begin using.

        I’ve lost family members to this. I’ve watched many suffer. My mom smoked over 30 yrs, my sister still does (more than 30 yrs now), my grandparent’s and many others.

    • largebill - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:06 AM

      Exactly, I’ve made that point for years. It is understandable for people in my parents generation or earlier to smoke and use other tobacco products. In the 1930’s and 40’s people were largely unaware of the negative health affects of smoking. However, there is no reason for anyone in my generation or younger to start smoking, chewing, etc. As long back as the 60’s we have used health warnings to dissuade people from using tobacco. Obviously, that isn’t working. Stop aiming warnings towards rational adults. By time you’re an adult you’re already a smoker or non-smoker. I think that, if we really want to discourage tobacco use, we need to radically change our approach. Peer pressure to fit in and the youthful desire to be “cool” far outweighs fear of health problems when you’re old. It is especially meaningless to people who laugh at the thought of ever being old. What does influence decisions of teens? Ridicule. Use ads that mock smoking/chewing. Cute girls talking about a guy and then going “Eewww” when they see he puts a nasty wad of chew in. Another ad showing guys talking about a girl “I was going to ask her out but then I saw her smoking, what a skank.” Or show how smoking makes people age faster or get ugly which targets people’s vanity. 50 year old heavy smoker looks like a 70 year old. An ad agency could flesh out the details and come up with a series of commercials which mock smokers targeted to people in their teens. Better chance of working than ads with elderly people talking about health issues.

    • historiophiliac - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:26 AM

      No offense, but saying someone is not addicted before they used something addictive and therefore they should not become addicted kind of misses the point of things being addictive.

      • mogogo1 - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:26 PM

        It’s the Internet. Everybody has all the answers to everything. Pick anybody else’s problem and they’d either have found a way to avoid it completely or handled it far better. I used to be surprised by how judgmental people got, but now it’s as predictable as the sun coming up.

      • historiophiliac - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:33 PM

        So, you’re saying I expect too much?

    • Jack Glasscock's Cup - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:42 AM

      I believe they call the opposite of empaths sociopaths. Way to play Lucy to addiction’s Charlie Brown.

    • moogro - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:05 PM

      You rightly should be mocked for the use of CAPS. That is a bad addiction which you can CHOOSE to stop.

  3. girardisbraces - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:15 AM

    I really wish I could feel sorry for Schilling. I don’t wish cancer on anyone. But when you disregard clearly established facts on the dangers of tobacco use (in any form) you’re playing with fire.

    I wish him well in his recovery. I still think he’s a major-league assbag.

  4. 4grammarpolice - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    I’m not the biggest Schilling fan either, but to give credit where it’s due, he’s been raising money for ALS for decades; way before it was chic to dump ice water over yourself.

  5. thedudabides - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:46 AM

    There’s no need to ban smokeless tobacco in MLB. Are we just going to ban everything that’s bad for people, and blame everything and/or everyone but ourselves? I’m sure MLB players can make their own decision if they want to use it or not. And guess what, a lot of the players that use smokeless tobacco, are probably smokers too; so using the smokeless tobacco during games may help them fight off cravings.

    Yeah it’s terrible what happened to Schilling, but it’s 100% his fault. And no he is not a class act, he’s a douche.

  6. mybrunoblog - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:53 AM

    The idea of banning smokeless tobacco is wrong. Where does it end? Let’s ban sugary sports drinks that could lead to diabetes. Let’s ban fatty foods in the post game spread because they could cause heart disease. Anyone who chooses to use tobacco products is making a terrible mistake but personal freedoms should prevail. In Amercia we have the freedom to accomplish great things, but unfortunately do some stupid things too.

    • pete2112 - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:57 AM

      I don’t think the issue is banning them. It’s that you should know the dangers of them and it’s your own fault for whatever happens in the future with regard to ones health. However, the flip side of this is that the person who does take care of his or herself is now facing a larger health insurance debt because of these people who didn’t heed the warnings.

    • anotheryx - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:29 AM

      Sugary drinks and fatty foods are not bad to you, they are actually very good at bringing nutrition your body need, especially if you have vigorous activity like playing sports… They are only bad if you over do it and consume more than you can spend. Tobacco, on the other hand, is never good for you.

  7. tfbuckfutter - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    Maybe some of the toxic things coming out of his mouth have also contributed.

  8. irishdodger - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:33 AM

    So Schilling says he believes it was caused by smokeless tobacco use. I’m pretty sure he’s not a doctor so he must have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night. I’ve been told by dentists & oral surgeons that smokeless tobacco alone is not likely to cause oral cancer. The key is when a user also imbibes alcohol. That is the deadly combo. It’s not politically correct to admit publicly b/c they’d be tacitly endorsing the perceived safety of smokeless tobacco, but ask an oral surgeon or even a dentist for yourself.

    • historiophiliac - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:52 AM

      Double checked with my sister, and she says it will cause cancer on its own. Also, she approves sugarless gum and gets really angry at toothpaste commercials that falsely suggest their brand can restore tooth enamel.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:52 AM

      I’d rather ask an oncologist. You know, people who study cancer.

      • aboutamoo - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:03 AM

        Meh. I’d rather ask an anonymous Internet commenter who says he talked to his dentist. That’s where the best medical advice comes from these days.

      • tfbuckfutter - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:11 AM

        Can someone ask their dentist why one of my balls is swollen to the size of a grapefruit?

        Kinda like an answer ASAP.

      • SocraticGadfly - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:47 PM

        @TK Because you’re a Sawks fan? Because you rubbed Papi’s cream, or Manny’s estrogen treatments, in the wrong spot?

    • SocraticGadfly - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:46 PM

      Well, the CDC said nearly 30 years ago that it could cause oral cancer, as I note way up top. So, you’re talking to the wrong dentists and oral surgeons.

      Now, it’s true that alcohol exacerbates that, yes.

      It also exacerbates esophageal and stomach cancer for smokers. But, we don’t blame alcohol itself for being the starting point, which it’s not, or pointing out that smoking causes a helluva lot of cancers on its own.

      So, again, you’re talking to the wrong dentists and oral surgeons. If you’re actually talking to them, tell them to talk to the 1986 CDC, while you’re at it, m’kay?

    • raysfan1 - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:50 PM

      A little light reading for you and your dentist.

    • mogogo1 - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:30 PM

      You need a smarter dentist. And a bit of reading on your own wouldn’t hurt, either. The link between oral cancers and smokeless tobacco has been known for years. It’s rather frightening a dentist wouldn’t know about and pretty baffling you’d never heard of it on your own.

  9. historiophiliac - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    Wow, I see some of the folks on here are as judgy about getting cancer as they are about depression and suicide. Yikes.

    • unclemosesgreen - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:17 PM

      Another truly frightening thread.

    • raysfan1 - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:54 PM

      The negativity is getting to be a bit much. There’s still less than on the other NBC sports blogs, whose comment sections I rarely read anymore, but enough that it’s become more than merely noticeable.

      • historiophiliac - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:58 PM

        I’m always kind of surprised when I’m one of the more considerate persons in the room.

      • indaburg - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:27 PM

        I think it’s an internet wide problem which has unfortunately crept into this blog. Anonymity gives people’s base impulses a playground in which to roam free. I sometimes wish we all had to use our real names and identities. Would some of us say the things we do if we were held accountable for our words?

      • raysfan1 - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:43 PM

        I agree. Still, it’s disheartening. I’d hope people could actually find it in their hearts to offer a little human compassion toward someone with a potentially life threatening illness even if they don’t like that person.

  10. rugdaniels - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:03 AM

    smokeless tobacco is a nasty habit, is evidently dangerous, but it shouldn’t be banned in the majors. These are adults who are fully capable of learning and understanding what the substances they are ingesting will do to their bodies and then making a decision based on that information.

    I have less of an issue banning it in the minors where some of the lower rung leagues are made up of younger adults.

    The best scenario is for kids in high school or younger than that see what happened to Gwynn and Schilling and either stop the habit early in life or don’t pick it up at all.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      Yeah, ‘cuz teenagers are really good at thinking about consequences, especially ones 20 years down the road.

      The best scenario is to make tobacco products so unpalatable and unaffordable that fewer people use them at all.

      • historiophiliac - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:46 AM

        I’ll be honest, I made some dumb choices at 40 too. Thank dog we don’t always get what we deserve.

  11. thomas844 - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    Obviously the guy admits he made a mistake. Can’t people just show sympathy for him rather than saying, “It’s his own fault”

    • pete2112 - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:34 AM

      I’m glad he’s in remission but it sure sounds like he’s blaming the smokeless tobacco rather than himself while he fully knew the dangers of using it. I just have a hard time when people act like they just had an epiphany and now need to take action.

      And lets face it, Curt doesn’t exactly make it easy at times for people to show compassion for him.

      • 18thstreet - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:56 AM

        Your inability to find compassion is not Curt Schilling’s fault.

      • pete2112 - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:17 PM

        My inability to show Curt Schilling compassion is Curt’s fault. I have no problem finding compassion for others who haven’t been so outspoken and abrasive at times.

      • historiophiliac - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:43 PM

        Maybe it’s that you don’t understand the word “compassion,” which does not, by definition, have conditions attached. Many things in life are earned, but compassion is not.

      • pete2112 - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:48 PM

        Oh really? Where does it state that in its definition?

      • historiophiliac - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:55 PM

        Absolutely nothing in there about earning it:

      • pete2112 - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        There’s also nothing in there about compassion being mandatory.

        Do you have compassion for a serial killer who had a tough childhood or a rapist who grew up on the streets?

      • historiophiliac - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:18 PM

        It’s seriously horrifying how petty you are. Have a nice day.

      • pete2112 - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:25 PM

        I’m pretty sure you’re the one who got petty about my use of the word “compassion” and how I don’t understand the meaning of it. Oh well. You have a nice day too. Look out for that Ebola.

  12. rathipon - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    I’m sure Curt Schilling really cares whether you feel bad for him. The likelihood is that he will lose a significant chunk of his most precious commodity to this disease. It’s scary and terrible, and whether or not he did it to himself and whether or not you even like the guy, it sucks.

  13. dirtydrew - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    He probably got from the bile he spews. Mr. Fiscal conservative and his fraudulent business practice.

  14. Bob Loblaw - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    The link above didn’t have the pic of a deteriorating Schilling from this link…geeze, he looks like he has a foot in the grave. I’m probably the biggest Schilling fan on this site…this pic pretty much ruined my week. Cancer sucks.

    • pete2112 - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:45 PM

      He’s in remission.

      • Bob Loblaw - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:51 PM

        And? I read that he is in remission, but that doesn’t change the way he looks in this photo. Dude was a huge force on the mound and now he looks like he wouldn’t even be able to walk up the hill to the mound, let alone throw a pitch.

        Cancer still sucks.

      • pete2112 - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:58 PM

        Meaning being in remission is a good thing and that it’s a step in the right direction. Maybe it’s just a bad picture, but I’m sure the chemo and whatever else he’s been going through take their toll. To be honest he looked very overweight since he stopped playing and looks like he’s lost some weight, so maybe that’s a good thing.

      • karlkolchak - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:23 PM

        No such thing. “Remission” is a word some cancer “survivors” use to make themselves feel better, but the fact is the disease can come roaring back at any time.

        I’m a going on two year survivor of pancreatic cancer who is one of the very few lucky enough to have “successful” surgery to remove it before the tumor went malignant and began spreading through my system. My last scan showed that I am “cancer free.” But even that is no guarantee.

        The fact is both Schilling and I are living with a Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads. The threat does lessen as time goes by, but it never completely disappears.

      • Bob Loblaw - Aug 20, 2014 at 4:42 PM

        pete, if you look at that picture of Schilling and think “maybe that’s a good thing” then you must be frigging blind man. Geeze, some are just looking for an argument on HBT.

  15. stairwayto7 - Aug 20, 2014 at 4:29 PM

    He did this to himself! This did not come out of nowhere. How many people did he screw over in Rhode Island?

    • Jack Glasscock's Cup - Aug 20, 2014 at 5:53 PM

      Seems like a nice, pat, logical step you made there, stairway.

  16. dumbassgreg - Aug 20, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    Just like any one who starts smoking schilling is follower sheep etc. You start because you are not comfortable enough with yourself to be different as teenager.

  17. mikeevergreen - Aug 21, 2014 at 10:00 AM

    Well, let’s hope he pays all those folks back on that video game thing and quits spouting Libertarian crap, too.

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