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KUSA - I'm hoping Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn can hit .300 one more time. Perhaps Gwynn's death will inspire at least 30 percent of baseball players to quit chewing smokeless tobacco.

I'm not talking about major leaguers. The number of prep and college players who chew is staggering. Although tobacco is banned by high-school athletic associations in every state and also by the NCAA, it's remarkable how many players still dip. The rule is only casually enforced. In fact, I've seen a high school umpire reach for a tin between innings.

I think most ball players who chew do it because they think it looks cool. It doesn't. That disgusting juice dripping down your chin doesn't look cool. Gwynn's deformed mouth following surgery to remove a malignant tumor didn't look cool at all. And neither will Tony's casket when he's laid to rest later this week.

Gwynn died at the age of 54 on Monday, following a long battle with salivary gland cancer. He frequently attributed his disease to tobacco use throughout his career and tried to educate kids about the dangers of dipping.

Nobody was listening. Maybe some will now.

An eight-time batting champion and one of the greatest teammates of all-time just died at an early age as a direct result of chewing tobacco on a baseball field. If that doesn't scare the dip out of you, nothing will.

Gwynn batted .300 or better in 19 of his 20 big league seasons. He threatened .400 a couple of times, but never quite made it. Maybe this time he will.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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