How Gum Time Started
Let’s start it off where this thing began. We were in the Yankees series a few weeks ago, and it was the day before I started. I had been miked up for the telecast. We were down 5-0, and I was doing the pitching chart that night, so I was only actually in the dugout every half-inning. And I told the guys on the mic, I said, ‘All right, I’ll give you something here, down 5-0 (in the third inning), nothing’s going on. I’ll throw you a bone. I’m going to throw in a rally chew and see what happens.’ And I stepped back there, opened a pouch. I threw a good portion of it in, and right as I was doing it, Pudge hit the ball up in the air. And as the ball was in flight, I started putting more in, and it gets over the fence. And then we begin with this whole fad.
I did it three more times that game, which resulted in a triple, a double and a walk. We ended up tying it up and losing the game. But the next day was when I really realized it made an impression on the fans. After the thing was over with, some of the guys on the TV crew came up and said it was some of the best television, if not the best television, they ever had. They were blown away by it. Because you know, in their side of things, they have to produce the visual aspect of the media as well.
So the next day I’m walking out there to warm up before the game, there’s a sign, and it has a huge picture drawn of me with a big wad drawn in my cheek. This kid’s holding it up, and it said, ‘Big Nate Chew" on it. The Gum Time phrase apprently came from Mario Impemba. I was kind of amazed. I’m sitting out there and it’s right before my start and people are saying, ‘Where’s your gum at, man? Where’s your gum at?’ And I’m thinking, ‘Dude, I’ve got to pitch tonight. I ain’t going to throw a bunch of gum out there on the mound.’ I was kind of brushing it off and it just didn’t go away.
So the next night, we were sitting around. We’re down by one, Kyle Farnsworth is in. The only time that night we throw it in, and we win the ballgame. And of course, the cameras are just scanning for us. At the time, it was just me. But as time has gone along and this thing has morphed, the guys are getting involved and having fun with it.
And that’s the biggest thing, keeping this game as a game, as an innocent game. We used to do this in Little League and have fun. We’d throw in a bunch of gum or some seeds and call it a rally chew. It was just a game, and that’s what we’re doing here. We’re kind of keeping the kid part of it. I think it’s good to humanize the game a little bit, especially for the younger fans. It’s been fun. But the funny thing is, it’s the older ones that are acting more like kids with this whole deal. The adults are the
ones that are acting like kids, which is even better. When Jordan Field, the Detroit Tigers Foundation Manager, came up to me and told me a signed pack of gum was the most popular item on their auction, I thought, ‘Dude, call the fans what you will, but they are dedicated.’ A pack of gum goes for $90. It’s taken on a life of its own.