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Spring Has Sprung
Frank Deford
April 10, 1978
It's Opening Day, so buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, remember to hold the label up and tell me Who's on First?
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April 10, 1978

Spring Has Sprung

It's Opening Day, so buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, remember to hold the label up and tell me Who's on First?

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Predictably, Charlie Finley marches to a different Opening Day drummer. The likes of Governor Reagan aside, Finley has often preferred to have singers throw out the first ball, because then he can entreat them to warble the Anthem on the cuff. Just imagine how Finley would have gotten the Presidents to work freebies if he had owned the Senators: notarize contracts, naturalize players, pardon the ones with paternity suits, lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

Down in front! Pass the Cracker Jack!

Perhaps the best thing about Cracker Jack is that it never goes away, but you think it does, so it is a pleasant surprise when it reappears. This is not just me talking off the top of my head. Ask, say, an unmarried man, age 26 or so, would he like some Cracker Jack, and he will stare at you as if you had just inquired if he would like to watch The Donna Reed Show on a Muntz TV. People are bonkers about Cracker Jack as kids, and then they forget about it until they have kids of their own.

It also works this way: after a lousy week, during which no visions of Cracker Jack danced through your aching head, you finally get to a circus or a game, and Cracker Jack pops right into your mind. It would probably do it at the ball park even if a fellow named Jack Norworth had not, in 1908, been fishing around for some confection that rhymes with "back," hence: "Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,/I don't care if I never get back." Next question.

Who invented Cracker Jack?

The Rueckheim Bros., F.W. and Louis, German immigrants. When F.W. came to the Windy City from down on the farm in 1872 with $200 in capital, he and a partner set up a sidewalk popper.

Popcorn was not invented in a movie theater by Thomas Edison. It is the oldest corn going. One ear was found in the Bat Caves of New Mexico. It was 5,600 years old. But nobody had ever done a whole lot with popcorn. Then at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, F.W. and his brother (who had bought out F.W.'s former partner) wowed the innocents with a popcorn-peanuts-molasses snack.

Unfortunately, Cracker Jack is a sticky business. It was blob-sized until Louis figured out how to break up the gooey mess—by banging it against baffles in a rotating barrel. Then F.W. gave the new, improved bite-sized confection to a salesman. "Whaddya think of that?" F.W. asked.

The salesman replied, "That's a crackerjack of an idea."

That's a true story. Now do you want to go on with the history or get right into the prizes, the same way everybody does when they buy Cracker Jack?

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