Tar Director Todd Field Helped Invent Big League Chew

Everyone in Hollywood had to get their start somewhere, and it's always fascinating when we hear a story outside of nepotism. Actor Danny DeVito had worked as a hairstylist in a mortuary for a brief period of time, Christopher Walken was a former lion tamer, and legendary horror director Wes Craven cut his teeth in the adult film industry. Most of the eccentric rags-to-riches stories of A-list celebrities have been told time and time again, but director Todd Field, of the fantastic Cate Blanchett vehicle "TÁR," may have the coolest origin story of all. Field has been working in the industry for decades, first appearing as an actor in projects like "Radio Days," "Twister," and "Eyes Wide Shut," before pivoting to writing and directing critical darlings like "In The Bedroom" and "Little Children."

Field has been nominated for three Academy Awards for his writing, and if "TÁR," continues to bring in the positive word of mouth, that number will surely grow during the next awards season. Even before Field entered the world of acting, he was making headlines as a child. During the summer of 1977, Field worked as a batboy for the Portland Mavericks. As legend has it, pitcher Rob Nelson saw Field with a pouch full of licorice, shredded to resemble the chewing tobacco baseball players were often seen gnawing on during games. It was at that moment that Nelson had an idea for a new type of candy, a chewing gum that allowed kids to have the same stuffed cheeks as their baseball hero, and thus the idea for Big League Chew was born.

An alternative that became the standard

A few years later in 1979, Nelson reportedly read about a make-your-own-bubble-gum company out of Texas, so he purchased a kit to make the candy and some flavor extracts from the local supermarket. Nelson didn't have the proper supplies in his own kitchen, and instead requested the usage of Todd Field's family kitchen. After all, he was the inspiration. Nelson shredded the pieces with a pizza wheel to look more like tobacco and sent the batch off to his investor, former World Series player for the New York Yankees, Jim Bouton. The duo sold the idea to the Wrigley company the following year, which was at the time the owners of the Chicago Cubs baseball team. 

The combination of the great gum idea and the baseball iconography made Big League Chew a huge hit. Kids loved the ability to easily share the gum with friends, as well as avoid the fate of the kids in "The Sandlot," who ingested chewing tobacco in an attempt to look like their heroes, only to puke all over themselves. Big League Chew remains popular to this day, and has even replaced actual chewing tobacco by professional ball players as a means to keep their mouths moist enough to spit out the dirt they catch in the field. Looks like Todd Field has been knocking it out of the park in more ways than one for even longer than most have realized.

"TÁR" arrives in theaters on October 7, 2022.