There's really nothing better than hanging out in the stands at a baseball game on a warm summer evening. You've got hot dogs and beer, a great crowd, and America's favorite pastime. Doesn't matter if it's Little League, Minor League, or the majors, any day at the ballpark is a good day. But do you know everything there is to know about the game? Let us share some baseball secrets with you, starting with why sunflower seeds and baseball games go hand in hand.
From the beginning of organized baseball in the United States (the mid-1800s, though the first professional baseball club wasn't formed until 1869) right up until smokeless tobacco was banned from many Major League Baseball ballparks starting in 2016, baseball players had a habit of chewing tobacco. But some players didn't care for tobacco and looked for something else to chew on during a game.
The history of sunflower seeds and baseball
No one is quite sure exactly when sunflower seeds first showed up in the dugout. Although sunflower plants have been around for about 2000 years, it wasn't until the 1860s that sunflower seeds became a food product. In 1926, a grocery store in Fresno, California, started roasting and selling sunflower seeds, eventually becoming DAVID Seeds.
Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial, both Hall of Famers, chewed on the seeds in the 1950s, but it wasn't until baseball legend Reggie Jackson started chewing them in 1968 that sunflower seeds took hold in the minds and mouths of baseball players. Lots of players started to do the same thing and the habit has stuck ever since.
Why do baseball players eat sunflower seeds?
A 1980 Sports Illustrated article (aptly titled "The Seeds of Content") quoted Dave Rosema, of the Detroit Tigers, saying that sunflower seeds provided "something to spot for those guys who didn't chew." It seems the habit of chewing something has been part of the game since the beginning.
Anyone who loves baseball knows that downtime is part of the game. You can imagine the stress in the dugout while players wait for their turn at bat or for the coach to talk with the pitcher. Just as with stress eating helps calm us down, being able to chew on something allows players to burn off that nervous energy.
So players chew bubble gum or eat sunflower seeds. In fact, there's such a strong connection between the snack food and the game that DAVID Seeds is the official seed of baseball and softball. "Because baseball and spittin' go hand in hand," the company says on their website.
Here's a fun fact: Baseball is the only game where players snack throughout the game. Football players may suck down sports drinks and basketball players stay hydrated, but baseball teams are the only ones that get snacks like chewing gum and sunflower seeds while they're working.
Which probably makes the other sports' janitors a lot happier, since cleaning up the shells of sunflower seeds has got to be a pain.