William Robert Tuttle (July 4, 1929 – July 27, 1998) was a center fielder for three teams during his Major League Baseball career; the Detroit Tigers from 1952 to 1957, the Kansas City Athletics from 1958 to 1961, and the Minnesota Twins from 1961 to 1963. He batted and threw right-handed and also played third base for a brief period in 1961.
On practically every baseball card issued for Tuttle, a large bulge of chewing tobacco is evident in his cheek. Tuttle died in Anoka, Minnesota at the age of 69, and oral cancer was in all likelihood the cause of his death. Bill was diagnosed with oral cancer five years before his death, and he put the last half-decade of his life to use in raising awareness, as an active volunteer for the National Spit Tobacco Education Program (NSTEP) of Oral Health America.
During the last years of his life, Tuttle was facially disfigured due to extensive surgery for oral cancer. He traveled widely as a public speaker, warning major league players of the dangers of chewing tobacco. "It's going to be pretty hard to tell someone making $4 million a year not to chew," he admitted. "So what we're trying to do is get it off TV." What Tuttle was trying to do was to stop baseball players from chewing tobacco, and thus setting a bad example for the young people who watch baseball. He died in July 1998 at age 69.
Tuttle was born and grew up in Cramer, Illinois, an small farming town located three miles southeast of Farmington, Illinois, where his parents operated a General Store. After attending Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, he played in his first major league game on September 10, 1952. In his 11-year career, Tuttle had a .259 batting average, with 67 home runs and 443 RBIs. He had 1,105 career hits before retiring on May 11, 1963. Throughout his career, Tuttle was considered one of the most reliable outfielders in the game, leading the league in putouts in 1955 and 1960 and outfield assists in 1959 and 1960.
By Dean Hanley
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