Cigars have always had their own place in the sports world. Not only are they a staple for tailgaters in parking lots, but many stadiums and arenas offer cigar-friendly bars and lounges where spectators can enjoy a smoke during intermissions or after the game. Big Biv (who does cigar reviews for us) told me about a special promotion when he lived in Cleveland – if the Indians hit a home run, you would get a free box of cigars!
It’s not only fans who smoke cigars, or the multitudes of dedicated golf enthusiasts who swear there’s no better place to light up than on the course. Professional athletes and coaches also have a history of smoking cigars.
The first thing you think of when it comes to sports and cigars is celebrating a championship or breaking a record. Athletes puff on great cigars to aid in relaxation during the off-season, after a gourmet meal, or when a bottle of wine, scotch, or bourbon demands it. They have poker parties with their teammates and have some of the best sticks money can buy for their ‘hand out’ sticks, like the Diamond Crown.
When we think of professional athletes, smoking isn’t usually one of the things that we associate with them. Do you have visions or memories of your favorite players puffing cigars after their victory? If you’re a fan of any of these four men below, then the answer to that question is obviously yes. For this select group, which I will call the Mt. Rushmore of cigar smoking athletes, I used my own formula to see who would make the cut. I wanted to represent the four major sports, so I have chosen a winner from each one. First of all, they had to be well-known for smoking cigars – DUH! Second, they had to have won a championship in their sport, and last but not least, they had to be in their sports’ Hall of Fame.
Okay enough anticipation, here is the Mt. Rushmore of cigar smoking athletes (say that fast 3 times LOL).
The Sultan of Swat, the King of the Swing, and the Great Bambino – of course I am talking about Babe Ruth! Though George Herman Ruth Jr. was born in 1895 and died in 1948, his life passed into immortality long ago. The reason is simple: for anyone who ever played the game, Babe Ruth remains the measuring stick.
Ruth’s numbers tell the whole story. The first record he established – and the one he later said he was most proud of – is the 29 2/3 consecutive scoreless World Series innings in 1916, established while he was still a Boston Red Sox hurler. He hit a record 29 home runs in 1919. Then 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921, and 60 in 1927. By 1921, his third full year as a hitter, he had already established a home-run record when he hit his 137th. When his slugging percentage reached .847 in 1920, that too was a record. But his most miraculous and rarely heard achievement is that during two seasons (1920 and 1927), Ruth hit more home runs than any entire team in the American League. Not one athlete in any sport has stood that far above his peers.
Stories of the Babe and cigars are numerous but after a while, Yankee officials gave Ruth a “sumptuous suite” in the team’s hotel and recalled his teammate, pitcher Waite Hoyt. After games, Ruth would retire to his suite and change into a red moiré dressing gown and red Moroccan slippers. “A long 60-cent cigar protruded from his lips,” said Hoyt, “[and Ruth looked] for the entire world like the Admiration Cigar trademark.” The king on his throne would receive as many as 250 visitors in a single night and I assume most of them were ladies – He was the MAN!
During his years as an NFL player and coach, ‘Iron’ Mike Ditka’s temper ran as hot as the end of his stogie. However, that intensity and drive helped propel Ditka to championships, and eventually into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
It also helped him garner success in the world of cigars after his retirement. He has owned Mike Ditka’s Restaurant since 1997, a cigar-friendly steakhouse in Chicago, and now offers his own line of signature smokes: the Dominican made Mike Ditka Champion Series. Recently, Ditka teamed up with Graycliff (a Bahamian manufacturer) to produce two lines of cigars.
Kayla (writer of Kicking Ash with Kayla) and I were out at a local cigar bar one night and I pointed out the Ditka by Camacho. She turned and looked at me with a puzzled face asking who Mike Ditka is? Now you have to know Kayla is not a sports fan at all, so I explained all of his sports accomplishments. While she could care less about athletes, she was interested in how good this cigar was. After smoking it she said, “I don’t know a thing about Mike Ditka the football player, but he sure makes a good cigar.” Although right now we don’t sell this stick, I am currently working on that with our purchasing department. Besides his own line, Ditka lists Dunhills among his favorite smokes but is quick to point out that “there are no bad cigars, unless you get one that offends you.”
I may be a little biased on this selection as I have Mr. Esposito to personally thank for bringing the great sport of hockey to Tampa Florida. For those of you that didn’t know, he single-handedly spearheaded the movement and ownership group to create the Tampa Bay Lighting. Plus, I personally met him at the ICPCR cigar show a few years ago in Orlando FL (see picture).
He retired as the second all time in goals and point scoring in NHL history. He was also third in assists, won 2 Stanley Cups and was named league MVP twice. In 1984, he was elected to the NHL Hall of fame.
Phil is well-known throughout the cigar community. His recent charity golf tournament for the local All Children’s Hospital was sponsored by Oliva cigars. From my understanding, his humidor is always stacked with Flor de Oliva. If you want to try one, we carry the entire line of Flor de Oliva cigars. If you get the rare honor of meeting him in public or on the golf course, there is a 100 percent chance you will find him smoking a cigar. At least that is what his close friends say about him. He is a true connoisseur and has endeared himself to the entire cigar world.
Michael FRIGGING JORDAN!!!
That should be all that needs to be said right? If you’re anywhere close to my age group or saw him play in his prime, didn’t you want to “be like Mike?” I’m not going to debate whether he is the greatest basketball player of all time because I know Lebron and Kobe are great players too. However, MJ was on another level and I am not sure we will ever see anyone like him again – he led the Bulls to six NBA championships, won the league MVP five times and averaged 30 points per game during his 15-year career. He ranks among the best in almost every offensive category, he changed the face of the NBA, and sports marketing as a whole.
What about Michael Jordan the cigar smoker? His Airness has been photographed on more than one occasion enjoying one of his favorite sticks. He may be the best cigar connoisseur on this list. His favorite cigar from my research is the Cohiba Limited Edition Double Corona and he’s been known to light up after winning the NBA championship, when he’s playing a round of golf, or sitting at a card table. We do not carry that specific stick but we do carry a lot of different Cohiba products, such as the Cohiba Red Dot Churchills. I read an article last year that he turned his entire South Florida home into a working humidor – THE ENTIRE HOUSE! Any way you cut it, (punch, guillotine, scissors) Jordan is a Hall of Fame athlete, and he’s also a Hall of Fame cigar smoker.
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AJ’s Smokin’ Sports Corner: Cigars and Professional Athletes
by Drew Brannen
Who is your favorite cigar smoking athlete?
Who is your favorite cigar smoking athlete?