It was Saturday, September 28, 1935. The Cubs had swept a doubleheader from the Cardinals on Friday giving Chicago twenty-one straight wins and clinching the National League pennant.
Excited Cub fans were no doubt anxious to open their morning papers and read all about their heroes. And if they turned to page 15 of that morning’s Chicago Tribune they learned one of the keys to being a champion involves filling your lungs with smoke.
Back then, the true dangers of smoking were unknown to a primitive public who thought being seen with burning leaves hanging out of their mouths would get them laid. But for today’s well-informed humans who know booze is the only answer to an active sex life, the above ad provides two shocking bits of information that could only be part of a bygone era: “CUBS ARE CHAMPS!” and “Camels don’t get your Wind.”
According to the ad, no less than twenty members of the team smoke Camels cigarettes. That’s quite an endorsement from a group of men who need to be able to breathe to make a living. And leading the way is Manager Charlie Grimm who says his players “can smoke as many as [they] like,” because “they don’t get their wind.”
To prove their manager is no liar, let’s let the players weigh in on the advantages of smoking Camels.
Here’s undisturbed outfielder, Augie Galan: “Camels don’t disturb my wind.”
Another outfielder, unaffected Frank Demaree, agrees: “I smoke all I want. Camels don’t affect my wind.”
What does hustling Fred Lindstrom say about Camels? “They don’t get my wind.” And he should know; hustling requires lots of wind.
Third baseman and human chimney, Stan Hack, concurs: “I smoke a lot. Camels are so mild they don’t get my wind.”
But surprisingly wind isn’t the only requirement for playing our national pastime at a high level. Here’s normally nervous catcher Gabby Hartnett: “Prime physical condition is all-important to me. No short wind, no jumpy nerves for me!”
Another fitness freak, second baseman Billy Herman, also likes a nice dose of settled nerves to go with his smoky wind: “You’ve got to know how to take good care of yourself to play ball in the big leagues. That’s why I’m a Camel smoker. Camels don’t get my wind or throw my nerves off key.”
More wind and nerve talk from Herman’s equally windy and nervous double play partner, shortstop Billy Jurges: “One reason I smoke Camels is that I know I can smoke all I want. Camels won’t get my wind or give me jangled nerves.”
But the right amount of wind and jangle-free nerves is just as necessary on the mound as it is around the bases. Star right-hander Lon Warnecke: “They don’t get my wind or give me jumpy nerves.”
Another hurler however, Bill Lee, doesn’t seem to give a shit about his wind or his nerves; he’s just all about fitness: “I can recommend Camels to anyone who wishes to smoke and keep in training.”
Even 18-year-old rookie first baseman Phil Cavarretta fires up a Camel whenever he can get one of the guys to buy a pack for him: “[They] never get my wind or upset my nerves.”
Yes fans, Camel cigarettes played an important role in baseball success way back when we didn’t know they could kill you. And even if they’d known then what we know now, would anyone have cared? The Cubs had just won the pennant of a sport that apparently requires its participants to have plenty of wind and unjangled nerves. So what if the players eventually develop big, black tumors on their lungs?
And considering it’s been more than seven decades since the Cubs last appeared in a World Series, I say screw the surgeon general and his stupid warnings. So come on boys, light up those Camels, get your wind and settle your nerves. And see you at the World Series!
Or the cemetery. Whichever comes first.