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Brett Butler sides with Surgeon General, cuts out tobacco

BY ED GODFREY, Staff Writer, Published: August 17, 2011

Reno Aces' manager Brett Butler quit using tobacco partly because he didn't want to get throat cancer. Fifteen years later, it happened anyway.

In the winter of 1995, Butler developed a sore throat. In May of 1996, the former Southeastern Oklahoma State University star was diagnosed with cancer of the tonsils.

Butler said he dipped snuff almost daily while playing minor league baseball.

“I started in A ball,” said Butler, whose team is in Oklahoma City for a four-game series with the RedHawks. “I got two or three hits and dipped for about 2½ years.”

Butler said he quit not long after he arrived in the big leagues when a 10-year-old boy told him that he dipped snuff because Butler did.

“I relished being a positive role model, so I told that little boy that if he promised me that he would quit, I would quit,” Butler said Wednesday before the Aces' game with the RedHawks.

“I haven't had a dip since. I also quit because I didn't want to get throat cancer, ironically enough.”

Butler played 17 seasons in the major leagues with five different clubs. He is a former All-Star and finished his career with .290 batting average and 2,375 hits.

Butler was diagnosed with cancer near the end of his major league career while he was playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After surgery and intensive treatment to combat the disease, Butler returned to finish the '96 season for the Dodgers and played one more year before retiring.

Doctors told Butler that his tobacco use might have caused the throat cancer but it's uncertain.

“I tend to think it probably was, and that is what I preach,” he said.

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