Big Nate chew sweeping Motor City

Big Nate chew sweeping Motor City

It began innocently enough, when Nate Robertson stuffed the entire contents of a pack of original-flavored Big League Chew into his mouth while the Tigers were down by five runs in a game against the Yankees.

Now, the Tigers' left-hander looks at the comments that fans already have left on his new MLBlog, Nate Robertson's Gum Time, and he sees yet another example of just how far one juicy wad of rally chew has gone since that night.

"If you hop on this blog, it's funny, because Little League, softball teams, they're logging in and saying they put in Big League Chew last night, they were down two and won, 4-3, or whatever," he said. "It's unbelievable. It worked. There's interaction with the fans and players. It's good. It was innocent how it began. It's actually kind of united people a little bit. It's going to be as big as the fans want it to be. I was just having fun one night, just having fun with it."

Robertson was talking about the Gum Time phenomenon and his MLBlog during an appearance by phone on the MLB Radio show "Stayin' Hot" with host Seth Everett of MLB.com. It was just the latest of many such appearances, because Gum Time is now almost all the time, though it is designed for only a special time.

Robertson's blog explains how it all began, but here is what he had to say on Thursday about the increasingly popular subject:

"This whole gum thing is really out of my control now. It's not about chewing gum, it was about a moment. Sometimes the network will mic up a player, and they just happened to mic me up. It was something I used to do in Little League -- throw a bunch of gum in my mouth, have a little rally chew. That night we were down, 5-0, Pudge [Rodriguez] is up, and I told the guys on my mic, if you want to get something here, I'm throwing you a bone.

"I threw a whole pack of gum in, and it was just a moment. Pudge hit the home run. We end up rallying in that game and tying it in the ninth. I happened to do it two or three more times that game. The next time I pitched, fans had signs, asked where the gum was -- it just took off. Unbelievable.

"That night, we rallied back, we ended up tying the game that we were down five runs. The first week or so, it was just me doing it. The cameras caught it a few more times, and every time they captured it on film, we rallied. So now fans are coming down, having me sign Big League Chew packs, bringing their gum to the park. ... It's just crazy. You've got the man in the T-shirt. ... It's just something the fans are having fun with. We're winning, we're having fun."

So are the fans. One fan on the blog even wrote a poem about it:

Hey hey big Nate
I think you're great
I am a fan it's true.

"Gum Time" is boss
saves Tigers from loss
Long live the great big pink chew!

One fan in Milwaukee commented that he follows the Tigers from afar and is "stuffing my face" every rally. "I was at the first game in Milwaukee, behind the home dugout, stuffing a wad into my mouth and passing chew to everyone in Tiger gear," he wrote on the blog. "My jaws were so sore, my girlfriend asked me what was wrong. ... She just doesn't understand baseball."

Robertson can relate to that comment as well. He was asked by MLB Radio what his favorite flavor of gum is, and his answer revealed that stuffing one's mouth with entire contents of a bag of that shredded chew is fun only in a manner of speaking.

"Try putting a whole pack of Big League Chew in your mouth," Robertson said. "It's really not a fun thing to do. It's silly, but it's not fun. If you get the flavor, it's great -- the sour cherry and sour apple ... good luck. There's so much sugar and syrup coming out of that. I go with the original. That's the kind I can stand when I have a full pack in my mouth. When I go to the big amount, it's original. Fans are coming up with their own flavor. Big Nate Chew. I don't what kind of flavor that's gonna be.

"It's not that it's gross, it's hard to handle. Too much gum. It's a little overbearing. Small amounts, I like it."

But special times require special measures. And these are special times for the Tigers. Robertson repeatedly credited new manager Jim Leyland.

"We're having a lot of fun with everything right now, how we handle ourselves, it's just something to enjoy right now," Robertson said of the Tigers' season in general. "Our main focus is on the field. ... I think it's an attitude really. Most of this game is won and loss in the mental aspect of it. With the talent level in the big leagues, you're there because you have talent. But it's the little things you do and how you approach the game that separates you from everyone else. It's like night and day between this and previous years. That has a lot to do with how the team is run. Jim Leyland came in here with expectations and kind of laid it down in Spring Training."

"It's all coming together, really, but there has to be a strong leader [who] keeps everybody in line," he added. "There's a direction here. If you fall out of the direction, you probably won't be here very long."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.