Big League Chew – Retrospective of an American Original
February 6, 2012 1:58 PM   Subscribe

The new weblog Collecting Candy hits it out of the park with their first post Big League Chew – Retrospective of an American Original.
posted by MegoSteve (40 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, nice find and great post.

I was sitting here at a cold desk typing away on my keyboard, now I'm at Highland Park back home, in my Little League outfit, standing in the outfield smacking away on a wad of BLC on a hot summer evening.
posted by DakotaPaul at 2:07 PM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Glad they covered Big League Plug. Kinda like a giant Tootsie Roll. I loved it and was sad when it disappeared.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:13 PM on February 6, 2012

Awesome story. I didn't realize that Big League Chew dawned on my consciousness probably right when it came out. I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, and was 5 when it debuted.
posted by me3dia at 2:16 PM on February 6, 2012

This includes candy i've never even heard of! Great blog, keep it coming!
posted by draytond at 2:16 PM on February 6, 2012

TIL Jim Bouton was one of the creators of Big League Chew. I loved his autobiography, Ball Four.
posted by Splunge at 2:21 PM on February 6, 2012

Wow, that was insane. I was expecting a little blog with not much info, then bam! It just kept going with more and more info. I remember loving this as a kid, not much specifically, but better than most of that time.

Now if i could just remember this one candy that no one ever seems to also remember. Sort of a licorice type thing made to seem like chalk or something... vague memories plus vague descriptions, not helpful. ;) Hoping i stumble across it again though, remember it being one of my favorites ever.
posted by usagizero at 2:22 PM on February 6, 2012

Nicely done.

But as good as the write-up, I am still chuckling over the header image, with "Swami Balls", and then looking at the Big League pouch, and seeing the words "man sized wads."
posted by timsteil at 2:23 PM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't know what they put in Big League Chew that just goes straight to the pleasure part of your brain, but damn if it's isn't powerful. The way the taste is just there as soon as it hits your tongue, you don't even have to chew. There's a light coating on the surface, cornstarch?, that keeps it from globbing together in the pack. The mouthfeel. It's supple at first, without a hint of stiffness or incompressibility. It's really easy to go for too much. It's better to start off with a slightly smaller "pinch" and add a few strands at a time to get to the perfect amount. The bubbles are pretty silky. The stuff is orders of magnitude gooier than a chewing gum. There's not much body to them, however, so if you go too large too fast you're going to end up with a sticky face. Small, dignified bubbles are best. Bubbles you blow unconsciously, as you're focused completely on the task at hand. It's a great pastime gum. I wish the flavor lasted longer.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:25 PM on February 6, 2012 [6 favorites]

Great post!

Amurol had a program where they would invite kids to test candy for market research. My siblings and I were part of that program in the mid-90's. At the time, my parents didn't buy candy for us so most of our reviews went something like "DELICIOUS...though I need another sample to be sure." I remember the cookies and cream cookie "dough" fondly, as disgusting as it probably is.

At the end of the taste testing they'd give us an enormous bag of candy, which often included Big League Chew and that syrupy red stuff in mini water bottles. Although it was the same gum they used in other gum products like Bubble Tape and gum bandages, it was always fresher in BLC, perhaps because of the packaging.
posted by mlo at 2:25 PM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

@mlo: My family tested Quaker Oats granola bars when I was in elementary school. I recall most of the flavors were pretty much the same; there might have been some subtle variation going, but I don't recall noticing. It was nice to get free lunch snacks.
posted by me3dia at 2:29 PM on February 6, 2012

Another high concept bubble gum I loved,Gold Rocks Gum.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:35 PM on February 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

The first summer I went to month-long summer camp in eastern North Carolina, early 1980s, we stopped halfway on the drive and picked up a few 'last candy for a month' type things at a quik-e-mart. One of them was BLC.

I had never seen it before and thought - like many young boys at the time undoubtedly did - that it was cool as shit. I didn't open it on the drive because I wanted to look cool in front of the other campers and build up some cred on opening day. Fast forward 2 hours after my folks left: I realize I left the BLC in the backseat of the station wagon. Damn!

My parents mention it in their first letter a couple days later and for the next 11 years it was a 'drive to camp' ritual: we would stop and get some BLC that I would somehow 'forget' and leave on the back seat. To this day it is something we still laugh about and I still get sent BLC from time to time by my sister. There is some on my kitchen counter right now.

Great post, MegoSteve.
posted by jmccw at 2:39 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

mmm, man-sized wads.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:55 PM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Great site. Odd bit of trivia in the story: "He baked those first batches of bubble gum in the kitchen of the Maverick’s bat boy, Todd Field. [Trivia: Todd is now a renowned Hollywood film director.] "

Todd Field is the director of Little Children and In the Bedroom and was Nick Nightingale in Eyes Wide Shut.
posted by octothorpe at 2:56 PM on February 6, 2012

Haven't seen (noticed?) Big League Chew in so long but I so clearly remember being 10 and carrying a pack or two of grape around the rink all winter long... even had a gang... we were that cool....
posted by Cosine at 3:03 PM on February 6, 2012

Good post, but I think this blog is in fact not new, I seem to remember visiting here before. I think it might just be a new Wordpress installation?
posted by JHarris at 3:06 PM on February 6, 2012

Wow, what a nostalgic hit I got from
Screaming Yellow Zonkers. I have not
thought of them since they first came out.
posted by quazichimp at 3:21 PM on February 6, 2012

Jason Liebig's Flickr account is not to be missed. Be prepared to spend far more time than you expected looking at scans of old packages, and other assorted ephemera.
posted by helicomatic at 3:23 PM on February 6, 2012

@Ad hominem, ZOMG!!! I hadn't thought about Gold Rock Gum in ages...I think the last time I even had some was back in kindergarden.
posted by GavinR at 3:24 PM on February 6, 2012

here is another candy blog i like: Botan Rice Candy sticker collection
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:50 PM on February 6, 2012

actually nix/delete on that other one, here's a tumblr: Printed In Japan
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:53 PM on February 6, 2012

posted by DoctorFedora at 3:59 PM on February 6, 2012

I can taste this so vividly that it actually gives me shivers.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:01 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I was very happy to see the cameo appearance of Screaming Yellow Zonkers, which I loved. And they had great commercials, too. "I tried everything... mudflaps..."
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 4:14 PM on February 6, 2012

It wasn't until I was almost 30 when I realized that ballplayers aren't spitting out purple bubblegum spit... BLC has probably saved more people from oral cancer than it's killed with morbid obesity issues later in life. Probably.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:26 PM on February 6, 2012

Speaking of old school candy variants, I seem to recall a version of some kind of SweeTarts that I used to get during the 70's which were small and had an imprint of an animal face on each one. I think they came in a box but I can't be sure.
posted by GavinR at 4:44 PM on February 6, 2012

Hi, everyone... was excited to see my first piece get picked up here (thanks, MegoSteve!). The many comments I've been reading are fantastic. I'm brand new to metafilter, so my apologies if I don't follow protocol.

Quick answers to a couple inquiries:

JHarris: The site IS brand new - I've had it in an unreleased form the last month, so someone could have stumbled onto it, but I don't think so. I do use some of my own content, previously posted on my Flickr pages, so you might have seen one or two of the images, in other forms, but most of it is brand new:

usagizero: Would love to help you ID the licorice, chalk-like candy you're trying to recall. Any more info? Years?

Thanks to all of you for checking it out, and for commenting here. It's encouraging.

I'm going to post daily, but the dailies won't be the level of detail or amount of imagery found in this launch piece - still, they should be fun. I hope to do one of these big features, like the Big League Chew retrospective, about once a month. But everyday, I hope to add at least one image, and some meaningful text.
posted by CollectingCandy at 5:06 PM on February 6, 2012 [6 favorites]

I have vivid memories of choking on gum/saliva due to trying to chew a whole pouch at the same time. Now I find being choked sexually arousing. Go figure, huh?
posted by Fister Roboto at 5:47 PM on February 6, 2012

California, 1983. 10 years old. I chewed so much Big League Chew one Saturday that when I took a crap, it was pink and smelled like bubble gum.

That is all.
posted by subpixel at 5:48 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I never knew that the guys that created BLC were actual ball players. Cool. It's nice to know that (even a small) part of my childhood wasn't just targeted marketing.
posted by gnutron at 6:16 PM on February 6, 2012

Also: Man, are those modern package redesigns terrible or what?
posted by gnutron at 6:19 PM on February 6, 2012

Excellent article. I hadn't thought about Screaming Yellow Zonkers in years, my parents used to pick them up.

My (British) mom's two big treats were Black Magic chocolates (which are probably not as good as they were purported to be) and Toblerone, which I've never really thought of as great. For everyday eating, it was Kit Kats for her.

Me? Has anything ever matched the taste and texture of a Cadbury Flake? Messy but great.

I think I only ever had a couple of bags of Big League Chew as a kid, mainly because we were only allowed to chew sugarless gum, and by the time I was old enough to buy my own, Bubblicious was the in-thing.
posted by maxwelton at 6:36 PM on February 6, 2012

I remember that BLC was looked down upon in my town, as it was seen as being too close to chewing tobacco - kind of like those cigarettes that were really just bubble gum. You could only buy BLC in certain shady corner stores.

Which ultimately added to its appeal, or course.
posted by alex_skazat at 6:48 PM on February 6, 2012

I never made a perfect slide, kept the team alive, or blocked one shot much less two, but I once had a pack of Big League Chew so I know I was and I am now and forever IN THE BIG LEAGUES.

Hell yes.
posted by Spatch at 7:59 PM on February 6, 2012

Seconding Liebig's Flickr stream. He's posted thousands of unwatermarked 300+dpi scans of product packaging and related ephemera dating back to the '40s and beyond. It's an incredible resource.
posted by Lazlo at 9:00 PM on February 6, 2012

Thanks for seconding my Flickr, Lazlo.

Yeah, it's thousands of unwatermarked images. Just please don't make magnets and crap out of what I post, to sell on Ebay.

Those people bum me out, and make me want to start slapping big ugly old watermarks over everything I share. But I won't...
posted by CollectingCandy at 10:04 PM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Based on the other wrappers in the banner I'm really looking forward to future posts: Bit O Honey! Sugar Babies! Bottlecaps! Jujubees! (although I can't see Double Dip. I hope he writes about Double Dip).
posted by like_neon at 3:34 AM on February 7, 2012

I got this Hometown Favorites 80s Candy as an X-mas present. The Big League Chew sits unopened, mostly because I remember how much I liked it as a kid.

THIS is what I always think about when I think of the internet. Super blog, and great MeFi post.
posted by DigDoug at 6:08 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

@mlo: Growing up, I lived a few blocks from the Amurol plant. I never got to try the taste testing, but I remember waiting for the school bus in the morning and smelling gum in the air. Some mornings would be grape, and some would smell like bubble gum.

Now the factory's gone, and they erected a bunch of expensive townhouses on the land. Argh. It was cool while it lasted!
posted by mkreger at 8:33 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ooooh, did I love Big League Chew back in the day. My grandparents carried it in their store, and I'd always pick up a pack when I visited.

The second entry is about Bubblicious! I chewed a lot of this back in the day too. Grape was my favorite flavor...though Grape Bubble Yum was slightly better. Apparently they now have a Sour Citrus flavor. WHERE CAN I FIND THIS? I must try it!
posted by SisterHavana at 12:52 AM on February 8, 2012

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