It would seem that sunflower seeds and baseball are synonymous, almost like peanut butter and jelly or Steinbrenner and the Yankees. However, after the SMACKIN’ team dug into it, we learned that hasn’t always been the case and sunflower seeds didn’t become mainstream in baseball until decades after the sport became America’s pastime.
Almost feels like we’re pulling your leg, huh? Well, let’s hop into the DeLorean with Doc Brown and take a trip back in time.
Our first stop with the DeLorean will take us back to the early 1950s at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, MO. At Sportsman we are able to catch a glimpse of Hall of Fame teammates, Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter patrolling the outfield and throwing sunflower seeds into their mouth between pitches to pass the time. Among countless other feats like MVPs, countless All-Star appearances and World Series titles, I guess it would only make sense that two of the best players to ever play the game would be the ones to start a trend that would last way past their lifetimes.
Even though two of the biggest leaders of the game in the 50s were sunflower seed fanatics, the trend didn’t really catch the mainstream until another fellow Hall of Famer started spitting sunflower seeds as an alternative to spitting tobacco.
Time to hop back into the DeLorean, where Doc Brown takes us to Oakland, CA at the Coliseum in 1968 to watch a young Reggie Jackson munching down some sunflower seeds in the dugout. Reggie is proclaimed to be the spark that lit the flame in the sunflower seed and baseball love affair. According to Terry Forster, Reggie was “the master [at spitting sunflower seeds]. He can put a handful in his mouth, pop them, spit out the shucks and go right on playing.” Sounds like any Little Leaguer today, but back in the late 60s and early 70s, eating sunflower seeds was more of an artform among baseball players.
At one point, during an interview with Sports Illustrated, Reggie was talking about his passion for chewing sunflower seeds during baseball games and said, “The nutritional value is meaningful. Sunflower seeds have protein, thiamine, niacin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus. We have to take phosphorus pills to keep from pulling muscles.” Reggie saw the deep nutritional and health value to eating sunflower seeds as an athlete and paved way for generations to come.
Taking the DeLorean back to modern day, we can be at any Little League or MLB field and find baseball or softball players chewing on sunflower seeds and sharing bags with their teammates. It’s a tradition that has become ingrained in the game that will live on for as long as the sport. Who knows, maybe we could hop back in the DeLorean for one more joyride 100 years into the future and see the face of the game chompin’ down on the newest limited edition SMACKIN’ flavor!