Inside an iconic American bubble gum brand

If you play baseball at any level, whether it's T-ball and little league or high school and college, you can get a genuine taste of what it's like in the major leagues by buying a pouch of Big League Chew. CBS News' David Begnaud reports from inside the factory where it is made.

Thirty-five years ago, Big League Chew stepped up to the plate, and since that time it's become the bubble gum of almost every person's childhood.

You can't talk about baseball without chewing on a conversation about bubble gum.

"Who goes to work and gets to chew copious amounts of gum during the day, except baseball players?" inventor of Big League Chew Rob Nelson asked.

"From the littlest leagues up to the big leagues, everybody becomes a kid when they start chewing Big League Chew," Nelson said.

The story of how it started is on the back of every pouch. Sitting in a bullpen on a summer night long ago, Portland Mavericks left-hander Rob Nelson came up with a fun new bubble gum idea, shredded gum in a pouch. Nelson bought a cheap gum kit and made his first batch.

"I just followed the instructions; it was like making brownies," Nelson said. "We had a sheet of it, and we baked it, and then it came out, and we use the round pizza knife to make them into shreds."

Nelson's minor league teammate, Jim Bouton, a former all-star for the Yankees, funded the project. They pitched the gum to Armurol, a subsidiary of Wrigley who sold the first pouch in 1980. Almost instantly, the brand was a home run, bringing in $18 million the first year.

Wrigley sold Big League Chew in 2010 to an American gum company, shifting the operation from Mexico to upstate New York.

"If you go to Akron, New York, it looks like they could've filmed 'It's A Wonderful Life' there," Nelson said.

The sweet scent of gum lathers the neighborhood around Ford Gum and Machine Company, which started in 1913. You've probably paid a quarter for one of their gumballs. Now, Big League Chew is their best-known brand and biggest seller.

"Well typically you have a thousand pounds of gum here, and unfortunately we can't sell a thousand-pound blob of gum, so we have to put it into a form that people are going to buy," the company's CEO, George Stege, said.

It takes two days for a batch of Big League Chew to go from mixing to packaging.

"It's difficult to make because you have to get the consistency absolutely right, otherwise it won't shred," Stege said. "Shredding is the signature of the brand."

A sheeter starts pulling the gum into thinner and thinner sheets.

"Big League Chew, we think, is the best gum in terms of blowing a bubble, and that deals with the components of the gum base that comprise Big League Chew," Stege said.

Believe it or not, things do get gummed up in a gum factory, so a light dusting of corn starch is used as a lubricant. Then the gum cures and is fed into the shredder that does the actual shredding of the sheets of gum.

Every day, about 100,000 pouches of Big League Chew is packaged in the factory, and they are proud to say it's made in America.

"I am a bubble blower, but it'll take a while because actually to blow a good bubble you have to dissolve all the sugar first," Stege said.

The demographic for Big League Chew has grown.

"People ages 9 to 20, many adults we find, are coming back in because it reminds them of their childhood and they like to share it with their children," Stege said.

From families looking to have fun to teammates wanting to look cool, Big League Chew is in a league of its own, and there is no chance of bursting that bubble.

Images of Big League Chew pouches were provided by CollectingCandy.com